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Peter J. Pitts

Peter J. Pitts is a senior fellow, health care studies, at the Pacific Research Institute.

Tossed Salad For The Holidays
The warm PC holiday spirit..

[Peter J. Pitts] 12/22/04

Is it appropriate to say "Merry Christmas" to your Jewish colleagues? If you're Jewish, should you return the salutation with a joyous "Happy Hanukkah?" The answer to the first question is "yes," and to the second it's "yes" as well -- but not if it's Day Nine or thereafter. But there's more to this conundrum than this yearly question of seasonal salutations.

Up until the advent of cultural PC-ism, grade school students were taught that America was a wonderful "melting pot." And that image was regularly reinforced on our coinage's statement of E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. But as "cultural diversity" (previously referred to more negatively as "hyphenated Americanism") gained momentum, the melting pot became an outdated symbol of aggressive White Anglo-Saxon supremacy. So it was goodbye to the pot and hello to the bowl -- the salad bowl to be precise. Specifically, welcome to the "tossed salad" theory of American culture.

Rather than defining our national "culture" as a savory blend, the new wave American tossed salad celebrates our many discrete ethnic and religious traditions, including some that aren't even real and others that aren't particularly relevant. But there can be many things in a salad, some that add to the taste and others that add luster to the presentation.

So while the Happy Hanukkah versus Merry Christmas thing is important, it's really only anecdotal. What's crucial is that we not miss the bigger question of religion in America. If we properly celebrate our many lettuce leaves, shouldn't we similarly solemnize our multiple religious traditions? Where you stand, as the saying goes, depends on where you sit.

The same folks who worship at the altar of cultural diversity are the same people who loudly decry what they see as a "slippery slope" towards the erosion of the church/state barrier. For this group federally funded academic programs that promote "multiculturalism" are good -- but allowing faith-based organizations to receive tax dollars to provide social services is bad.

The dogma of tossed salad-ism preaches that it is appropriate -- indeed mandatory -- for public funds to be spent on multicultural education in public schools and "diversity training" programs for public sector employees. But heaven forbid -- or perhaps it would be more acceptable to say "after-life" forbid -- that not-for-profit organizations that feature the Cross or the Crescent or the Star of David receive government monies to help feed the poor, minister to the sick, or provide social services of any kind to those in need. That's grounds for excommunication.

In other words, while it's important to learn about and respect the ingredients of the salad, indigestion, and perhaps food poisoning, is guaranteed should the state cede authority to a non-agnostic sous-chef.

So enjoy a joyous Christmas, a Merry Kwanza, and a Happy Hanukkah. Now isn't that the real spirit of the holidays? tRO







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