The Christmas Death Machine

by Loolwa Khazzoom • December 24, 2010 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

In the past, I wrote two articles about my perspective on “the holiday season.”  That was back in the day before the blog phenomenon, when the publication of a writer’s ideas was dependent on the agreement of some editor somewhere.  Unfortunately, my thoughts did not pass through the approval of the publication gatekeepers, and today I cannot find those articles.

So I am going to start fresh:

When I was little girl, attending Orthodox Jewish day school in San Francisco, my mom, sister, and I would drive around the neighborhood during Christmas time, admiring all the pretty trees and lights, sharing which we thought were the nicest.  Then I started attending public school, where Christmas and Easter were shoved down my throat, battering-ram style.

My first political act, in fact, was when I was eight years old — writing a letter to then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, objecting to the compulsory celebration of Christian holidays in a country with a basic tenet of separation between church and state.

Every year, my classroom and the entire school were decorated with Christmas symbols and ornaments, many of which the students were instructed to make as part of our school curriculum for “the season.” So I, a little Jewish girl with a strong sense of identity and principles, was engaged in defiant acts from the age of
seven — in this case, refusing to sing Christmas carols in my choir or to draw Santa Claus images in my classroom.

As a little girl, I was challenging the thinking of teachers and administrators who were at least three times my age and who were in a position of power over me.  Some could not understand why I would not want to sing about Jesus and Mary or why I would not want to draw an innocuous tree along with the other children.  I had to figure out how to explain it to them.

Here’s the root issue: It’s not about Christmas.  It’s not about trees, Santa Claus, sleigh bells, colored lights, the nativity scene, or any of the million other symbols associated with Christmas.  It’s about this country’s vision and principal.  It’s about respect, inclusivity, and boundaries.

It’s kind of like the dynamic of sex: When you want it, it’s nourishing and uplifting.  When you don’t want it, when it’s forced upon you, its rape.  Same act. Different energy, experience, and outcome.

From a very young age, I have been fascinated by the Constitution.  It is no surprise that in college, I studied Constitutional Law as part of my undergraduate degree.  On my paternal side, I am a first generation American of Iraqi Jewish origin.  On my maternal grandfather’s side, I am 18th generation American, a descendent of Welsh Quaker colonists. On my maternal grandmother’s side, I am third-generation American of Irish Catholic and Danish Protestant origin. That blend contributed to a very passionate value for the principles of this country — one of which is the purported respect for every religion and the commitment to showing no preference of one religion over another.

But in practice, that preference is everywhere.  So one of the reasons that the Christmas industry pisses me off so much is that it is a blatant reminder, shoved in my face a million times a day for an entire month, that the values I uphold so dearly are being trampled on, right and left, without any awareness of or care about the violation of something so sacred, revolutionary, and powerful, something so fundamental to the establishment of this country.

The whole point of America was to get away from the religious dogma and imperialism of Britain. And this story of religious dominance and persecution repeats itself over and over across the globe, through every generation, in every shade and permutation. It is a universal struggle for the collective room to breathe.

When the Christmas bulldozer cranks in gear and begins steam-rolling over everyone and everything in its path, it is akin to a death machine.  To the point that, after a lifetime of passionate love for this country, I became deeply jaded by my early 20s and stopped believing in America as a nation. A cool and convenient place to live, yes. A place of tremendous opportunity and privilege, yes. A nation I can get behind, not so much.

There’s a lot more that I have to say on the subject, but I need to get to work.  So I’ll pick it up later.

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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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