Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
December 2000 #4

A Christmas fantasy on Battle Green
by Barbara Anderson

So here we are on Lexington green, singing about the baby Jesus. The song is somewhat chaotic, having two different melodies as it does; some carolers are singing "awaaay in a manger..." and others are singing "away in a-uh manger..."

Both versions clash with nearby English-Americans singing about good King Wenceslaus, while German-Americans pray to good St. Nicholas and native-Americans chant a celebration of the good old Earth.

This provides altogether appropriate audio for the visual confusion around us. Next to the manger: a giant menorah. On its other side, American-American children sit on Santa's lap to whisper their wishes, while African-American kids are draping the Minuteman statue in the bright multi-colors of Kwanzaa. So far, so merry.

Then peace-on-earthers try to stop the Hispanic-American kids from whacking a pinata with a stick, while environmentalists begin recycling a colorful plastic Santa into trash containers; some children are crying now.

Shiva is dancing. Pagans are prancing. And what is that Buddhist doing with the torch! No, stop him!..., oh, he's just lighting the yule log.

Unfortunately, the yule log is vertical and covered with lights: too late, there goes the Christmas tree. More kids crying.

Over in a corner of the Green, mathematicians are arguing with the flat earth society about when the millennium (will begin, began). Enterprising locals are selling hot cider and donuts; someone is calling the cops because the entrepreneurs don't have a permit.

The police, however, have their hands full with the ACLU, which is marching around the Green; in a nearby building, lawyers are drafting complaints on several sides of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is trying to drown out freedom of religion which is loudly threatening separation of church and state.

Are we having a happy holiday yet?

Each December, various commonwealth communities go through the annual rite of Grinchiness. This year's highlight: the board of selectmen has banned the nativity scene from Lexington Green where it has spent the holidays for the past twenty-seven years. The Knights of Columbus has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban and is hoping for an injunction in time for Christmas Eve.

Intellectually, I get the point. Government-owned property isn't supposed to be used for a religious statement. But emotionally, I think it's sad. What is the baby Jesus saying that is so offensive? "Love thy neighbor"? Whoah, there goes the neighborhood.

Maybe by the time He (my capital H, do not edit!) gets to the cross, Jesus is controversial: through absolutely no fault of His, that cross was used later in history to justify killing a lot of neighbors. But the little baby, lying there in the manger, is no threat to anyone. Look, he's smiling at the carolers: he likes both versions of the song and good King Wenceslaus too!

The menorah is beautiful, its light the only gentle glow on the Green now that the Christmas tree bulbs are just melted glass. The blazing branches of the tree, though, give parents a place to warm their hands before they lift their children from Santa's lap or gently tug them off the statue. The dancers, the prancers, the chanters, and the Buddhist are all making snowmen, while the cops enjoy some cider and donuts with the ACLU.

Then the peace-on-earthers lead everyone in a non-denominational prayer for the lawyers, who soon announce their arbitrated decision: before it was a battlefield, the Lexington Green was just the town common, and it can host anything the people want to share.

The people share a hug or hand-shake, and the environmentalists pick up the pieces of the shattered pinata and put them in the new plastic trash buckets. Everyone wishes everyone else a wonderful holiday.

And the same to you: Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Cheery Winter Solstice, or whatever makes you laugh and gives you joy. Happy New Millennium, too.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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