Are you afraid to say “Merry Christmas”? For anyone over ten years old, can you remember when we weren’t? It really isn’t that long ago this debate started to heat up even though one might argue it has been this way forever. Probably right, or at least since “Christians” started celebrating “Christmas”. I am writing this blog today not to open a pandora’s box or initiate any debate. The idea for writing this is actually more from the perspective of a professional speaker than just Alvin the person, although one might argue we are the same person.
Darlene and I were in Toronto from December 5-9 for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers Annual Convention. It’s true! Can you picture a convention for speakers? I digress but the relationship with this community is a fascinating one. You might imagine we all have different takes on what is appropriate content presented from the podium and you might also imagine that the issue of “Politically Correct” is integral to this dialogue. Let’s be clear, here; I agree that we needed a shift from what was to what is, the new reality.
I believe this started with the dialog around relationships between men and women and specifically in the workplace. I clearly recall going to my Dad’s workplace, Mickelson’s Truck & Implements, an International Harvester dealership. Dad was the service manager but also a very active “hands on” mechanic. He often took me to his shop after hours to catch up on backlogs and I was free to explore the giant garage that included a paint shop. The paint shop was my favourite room and not because I liked paint but because the walls had Playboy Bunny Centerfolds on the wall. Woohoo!
Okay, I just pictured in my head how you, the reader, just reacted to the previous sentence but especially the “Woohoo”. And that is exactly my point. If you don’t know me, you might be offended by a reference to the objectification of women posing naked for the entertainment of men. But if you do know me, you would know I would never objecftify women as I am married to a remarkable woman and my Mom was one of the greatest women ever born. Did my Dad objecftify her? I DON’T THINK SO!!! Heck, my Mom knew the posters were there and knew I had seen them. It was the early 1970’s. It was a different time.
Should we mourn that time? You know, I just love it when I hear an older person say, “I miss the good old days!”. Were they really that good? I have personally been extremely fascinated with how the attitudes towards disabled people have shifted. Even the terminology has changed. In the 60’s I was “crippled”, then I was “handicapped”, then I was “disabled”, and now, apparently, I am “physically challenged”! So should we have just kept the word crippled. Obviously not, but you could call me a “Mango” and it wouldn’t change the fact that having no arms gives me a label and no matter how “politically correct” we have come to be, people’s reaction to me is completely based on how enlightened, aware and open-minded they might be. I can’t even count the number of times I have been offended by people in my life and our human culture needed an update but what is the proper measurement or gauge of what is appropriate and what isn’t?
I could probably write a book about this and there are many out there but it seems this time of year puts a spotlight on this issue of politically correct more than any time nof year and it seems to have its foundation on whether or not its okay to say…”Merry Christmas”. That expression has been replaced by “Happy Holidays”, which is clearly a safe expression and less open to litigation. Isn’t it hard to fathom someone who doesn’t celebrate Chrsitmas the be offended by those who do? Yet it happens all the time and we have all heard of them right?.
One example, and there are millions; a non-Christian in Saskatchewan lodged a human rights complaint about the Saskatoon City Bus Service putting “Merry Christmas” on their rotating LED Signage on the front window of their busses. Seriously? Okay, so you don’t celebrate Christmas but to be so offended by a bus you lodge a human rights complaint? Am I off base here? Wouldn’t it have been easier and at no cost to the government to respond to the complaint if this person would have just “got over it”? I believe that at 54 years old, I have stayed sane by not taking every slight or perceived offence “personally”. In fact, I believe it takes a very strong person to live a life of tolerance and respect and I have gained so much in my life by pursuing these core principles.
The other day, I was speaking at a Chamber of Commerece luncheon in community just south of Edmonton, Alberta; a place called Leduc. One of the Chamber members came up to offer Grace. She was clearly a woman of faith when she began her bendiction with, “As we rapidly approach the day of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ…” and one might accept that Christian or not, Christmas is about that very thing. All of the commercialization had nothing to do with Jesus and frankly, and somewhat hypocritically, I get very angry when the Christmas shopping ads start before Halloween…and they do. Chrsitmas decorations at Cosco in September? Give me a frickin’ break! Do I buy Christmas gifts? Of course. Do I enjoy Christmas morning when we open gifts under the Christmas tree? Duh! My wife has 24 Santas she has been given by me as a tradition I started with her first one in 1991. We have a big Chrsitmas Party in or home for our Canadian Association of Professional Speakers Calgary Chapter, a tradition we started 9 years ago and of the 50 or so people who attend every year, there are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu and even a couple of disagreeable atheists and what we all have in common; professional speaking, has created friendships that have nothing to do with our individual faiths. We have a married couple who are in speaking and good friends come to our Christmas Day Dinner and happen to be Jewish and why? Because as Ken puts it, Darlene makes a great meal and I love Turkey!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just walk around in the month preceeding December 25th and without any reservation or hesitation proudly trumpet…”Merry Christmas!”
It is, after all not just the birth of “Jesus” (whether we accept the notion or not) that should bring people together this time of year, it should be about the most important thing I believe we all have in common. We are the Children of Planet Earth. Billions of faces, rainbows of skin colors, countless religions, faiths and languages and one banner…The Human Race. Could we all work a little harder to practice tolerance and respect and use this time of year as the springboard for a better world all year long? I think we can. My Mom and Dad always said “There Is No Such Word As Can’t”! I believe it, I practice it and whether on stage or not, I preach it all the time, without fear or reservation. I am not afraid to be Me! I am not afraid to wish all of you…
A Very Merry Christmas And A Blessed and Bountiful 2015!