Right at the top of the label on the 2 liter bottle, above the iconic Coca-Cola signature and the vintage picture of Santa holding a Coke glass bottle, are the words "Feliz Navidad." So has it come to the point in this country that the only politically correct way for Americans to wish each other Merry Christmas is if we say it in Spanish?
But then if you turn the bottle around and look at the same smiling Santa on the other side of the label, Coke wishes its customers a terse "Holiday 2009."
I wonder how long Coke's demographics and PR experts agonized over how to sit on the fence without offending America's Hispanic Coke drinkers, most of whom are Christian?
Google went through similar agonies of decision this year, probably after hearing howls from Christians over last year's un-Christmas greeting, which over the course of Christmas week featured a grandfatherly man making a toy for a child. This year, Google made a literal attempt to thread the camel through the needle's eye:
The first "Merry Christmas But We Can't Say It" greeting from Google's search engine was in the form of a postcard placed over the multi-color Google word. The postcard showed a painted scene that looked suspiciously as if were set in the Middle East -- palm tree in the foreground, sand in the background -- and with a few blobs on the distant horizon that might be construed by a devout Christian as three wise men on their camels.
But, unencumbered by a budget for printed labels, and clearly in response to 100 billion emails from miffed atheists, agnostics, earth worshippers, CAIR, the ACLU, and those Christian evangelicals who consider Christmas a pagan holiday, Google chickened out with a few keystrokes:
This morning's un-Christmas greeting from Google has a postcard of three snowmen placed artfully atop the Maybe in the Middle East postcard, and at such an angle as to cover up just enough of the blobs on the horizon so that imagination can no longer seize on the idea of Christmas.
Will Google's un-Christmas greetings between now and December 25 continue their theme of three? Is there a rational employee in a closet somewhere in Google's PR department?
Every Christmas season in the United States, any number of Jewish and Hindu charitable organizations cheerfully prepare holiday meals and Christmas presents for less fortunate Americans, and I'll bet there are Muslim charities that do the same.
Every Christmas season a friend of mine, an Irish-American lapsed Catholic who took up Buddhism while serving in the Vietnam War, drapes his large Buddha statue with Christmas lights. I am quite sure the Buddha, an eminently rational man, would have taken no offense.
I understand that the desire to get along and go along has prompted many Americans, particularly those who live in melting-pot cities, to substitute the generic "Happy Holiday" for the Christmas greeting. After all, one never knows whether the recipient of a Christmas greeting will snap, "I am member of the Nation of Islam."
But what is the proper response, if one is rational? "Merry Christmas anyway."
Not all America's founders considered themselves Christian -- some admitted to agnosticism and even atheism, if my memory serves. But the thinkers who hammered out America's charter documents were profoundly influenced by Enlightenment philosophers who were grounded as much in the Judeo-Christian outlook as the Hellenic one. So if Americans cannot find it in their hearts once a year to wish each other Merry Christmas, we are being more than mean-spirited; we're spurning our heritage.
Merry Christmas to one and all. May the spirit of Christmas, the idea that a divine power loved humanity so much that he sacrificed his son to save us, infuse our daily lives and arm us with courage.