by Hena Hussain ’20
“Guess what, we’re saying Merry Christmas again,” said President Donald Trump to a cheering crowd at this year’s Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of conservatives. The President’s remarks brought forward another round of debate on a controversial question: should people refrain from saying “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season to avoid offending those who don’t celebrate the holiday?
On one side, people believe that saying “Merry Christmas” and other allusions to Christmas in the public sphere is offensive in that it excludes those who observe other faiths and holidays. On the other side, the common belief is that refraining from talking about Christmas is an unnecessary attempt to be politically correct, and that the holiday season is and should be Christmas oriented.
This issue has often divided people each holiday season, with various companies avoiding not only association with the Christian holiday, but imagery of the winter season altogether. An infamous example of corporations getting caught up in this debate is the 2015 Starbucks red cup: many people found the lack of winter designs offensive against Christmas. This reignited the so-called “War on Christmas,” a term used to describe the gradual removal of associations with the holiday.
As is the case with heated public debates, politicians got involved. As a presidential candidate, Trump spoke at a rally in Springfield, Illinois in 2015, negatively condemning Starbucks’ decision and even promoting a boycott of the company, taking advantage of public divisiveness to gain the support of Christian voters at that stage of the Republican primaries.
Whichever side one may agree with, there is one standard that should be made clear: the politicization of Christmas needs to stop. As elected officials, the topic of holiday greetings is irrelevant to the main job of acting as public servants. Unfortunately, since expressing polarized opinions during campaigns help politicians win elections, those seeking support from certain blocs of Americans make extensive efforts to parrot the views of that particular group.
However, at the end of the day, real issues like healthcare and tax reform still need to be addressed. The fact that politicians add unnecessary opinions to their platforms regardless of divisiveness and relevance to legitimate policy demonstrates a much larger problem than seasonal greetings. This inflamed rhetoric from high level figures causes divisive ideology to form in the American public, often splitting people into two sides. Yet politicians continue to spout harmful statements to advance political agendas at the expense of our country’s well being.
The idea of how someone chooses to address others during the holidays can seem trivial at first. However, the debate ultimately represents the larger issue of how leaders choose to address and utilize the passions of the American public.