As a non-white*, non-Christian, I can't wait for America's white Christian majority to find themselves in the minority. Because of shit like this:
During an announcement of the signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said Thursday that freedom from religion was not included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state,” Perry said. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”
The new law states that students and school officials have the right to use religious greetings like “Merry Christmas” and display various religious holiday symbols on school grounds.
To be clear, I hardly notice nor mind the occasional "merry Christmas," and I endeavor to respond in a culturally appropriate way. It's the polite thing to do, although I'd never explicitly offer a "merry Christmas" to somebody I didn't know for a fact to celebrate the holiday, and I think merchants (and school teachers) would be advised to follow the same culturally sensitive practices if they want to avoid offending customers (and students). Hell, my own daughter celebrates Christmas. So I'm hardly a warrior against the holiday.
But I do think this whole "War on Christmas" thing Governor Perry is responding to, is not only bullshit, it is anti-Semitic bullshit. But the offense I take runs even deeper than that.
That I live in a Christian dominated culture is something I've grown to accept, but the fact that people like Perry think I neither have the freedom—nor should have the freedom—from having his bizarre savior-blood-drinking cult shoved down my throat is a constant reminder of how intolerant America's strain of religious tolerance often is.
I grew up in a suburban school district that was probably at least a third Jewish, and yet I distinctly remember singing in my elementary school choir's Christmas recital a repertoire that included a token "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" amidst a packed program of Christmas songs, some of them overtly religious. The music teacher was a nice guy and all, and I assume it wasn't intentional, but it was more than clear to the child me exactly whose cultural heritage was being celebrated, and thus whose cultural heritage was both sanctioned and valued.
That is the freedom that Perry—the governor of our nation's second most populous state—is fighting for: the freedom to force Jewish and Muslim and atheist and other non-Christian children to compliantly sing along, or risk having the shit beaten out of them by their classmates for daring to object. Or at least fear being ostracized. And what kid wants to risk that?
But for me, Perry's comments are doubly offensive, because they were not only spoken in defense of maintaining social norms that are culturally insensitive to my Jewish heritage, these words were also spoken in support of legally discriminating against my avowed atheism. Freedom "of" non-Christian religions, well that Governor Perry acknowledges the Constitution says we must tolerate. But freedom "from" religion? No such right.
As a Jew, in Governor Perry's eyes, I am a second class citizen who should passively accept the dominant religion's efforts to indoctrinate my children and devalue their heritage. But at least I am a citizen. As an atheist, not so much. When elected officials make the legalistic distinction that "freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion," they are making a legal argument for stripping atheists like me of a core part of our First Amendment rights. Whether the courts ever accept that parsing is beside the point; in Governor Perry's America, public hate speech against nonbelievers is not just acceptable, it is downright patriotic.
Racism is no longer socially acceptable in America. Neither is (overt) anti-Semitism or other forms of religious hatred (accept for the occasional anti-Islamic variety, apparently). Hell, soon it wont even be kosher to publicly bash the gays. But there is a reason why there are currently no open atheists in Congress: because in most districts, coming out of the atheist closet is tantamount to political suicide. And the closet is where Perry and his fellow Christian bullies want us to stay.
[Slog tipper Knat]
* And no, Jews aren't white. I'm not sure what we are, but race is a social construct that has nothing to do with genetics or even skin color. Indeed, one of the things that has always made Jews so scary is our ability to pass.