WASHINGTON -- Ah, the Christmas season is about over, and soon I shall be liberated from the alarm I experience every time some benevolent authoritarians accosts me with the line "have a happy holiday." The term is used in all innocence by many, I am sure. Yet there are the forces of political correctness out there, and their meaning is clear: "Have a happy holiday or else ." These are the moralists who somehow always manage simultaneously to identify iniquity of one sort or another in conventional behavior and stamp it out good and hard. Some years ago they discovered cruelty and intolerance laden in the term "Merry Christmas," and now the term is gone or nearly gone.
It has been replaced with "happy holiday," and anyone who stands by the term "Merry Christmas" is immediately marked down as a provocateur, probably a bigot and possibly a cigarette smoker. At this time of year the use of the term "Merry Christmas" is viewed by the politically correct as a rude and aggressive act. Oddly enough it just might be by now. The politically correct have an inordinate influence over our language and manners. They have lured enough politically innocent Americans to their view that "Merry Christmas" is indeed a term of controversy and a consensus has probably formed. "Merry Christmas" is at least bad manners.
What is surprising to me is that the politically correct manage to convince themselves that they are tolerant and peace loving. Actually they are bullies of the worst sort. They never tire of shoving people around and always do it while claiming noble values. They are driven by a free-floating moralizing that alights on matters large and small -- usually small. This Christmas -- if you will pardon the word -- we saw them render controversial the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and even Frosty the Snowman. Google these terms, and you will see trees being taken down, Santa Claus suits being banned and at least one Frosty who suffered violence. These are the accomplishments of the politically correct's restless moralizing.
They have been engaged in this petty mischief for years. They brought down on us the nonsensical term "Ms." Because it is nonsensical even now, it is not in universal use, which means it is a cause for social conflict. The politically correct, working through their feminist agents, have made it dangerous for a man to offer to hold a door for a woman, even when her arms are full of packages. Merely offering a woman a seat on the subway can become a casus belli .
The endless changes demanded by the politically correct in language are also occasions for conflict. In my lifetime "Negro" has been changed to "black," and now one uses the term "African American" or is recognized as racist or provocative. "Oriental" has been changed to "Asian." Young girls are women.
What is most perplexing about the petty moral reforms of the politically correct is that there is no way to anticipate what they will fall on next. Their values have often been recognized as secular and liberal. Of late, however, they have shown a surprising sensitivity to claims made by Muslims, claims that are all very much based on fundamentalist religion and politics that can only be characterized as reactionary -- and boy, can I hear the grumbling from the politically correct about my applying that term, "reactionary," to Islam. Yet there is nothing progressive about Islam, save perhaps its alienation from capitalism. Its religion is famously unreformed. Had you told me a decade ago that the claims of Islam would in 2006 strike a sympathetic note with the politically correct, I would have taken a large bet against you. Well, today you win.
So this anxious season is about over. But have you noticed this past week that we have not heard as many greetings of "Happy New Year" as we might have heard in the past? Why might that be? Well, the bullies have settled on "have a happy holiday" as the preferred greeting, and they will tell you that not everyone celebrates the New Year at this time. The Chinese have their own new year, as do the Muslims and the Jews. So it is a good bet that in the years to come "Happy New Year" will have gone the way of "Merry Christmas." Yet as 2006 expires, and 2007 stands in the threshold, allow me to wish you all happy New Year. It might be the last time I can do so politely.