and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
December #4

Gripes and gifts of the season
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

While the cavemen lit fires to brighten the long midwinter's night, they also used them to keep warm and maybe cook a chunk of mastodon meat. Today we use nonrenewable dinosaur sludge to create the electricity that powers the December light displays, which are good for nothing but enjoyment.

There are some who would say this is wasteful. But some among our ancestors probably complained to others about wasting time on cave drawings when there was hunting and gathering to be done. 

Art, beauty, the conquering of darkness this is what separates us from the beasts. Now let's get in our SUVs and tour the light displays! And while we are out, we can drive through communities that have outlawed Christmas displays, open the car windows, and sing carols.

Would it be considered vandalism if we glued a creche to the steps of City Hall during the night?

I do get the separation of church and state thing. But somewhere it evolved, if that is the word, from our Founding Fathers' effort to avoid the religious wars of Europe to an annoying reluctance to let us play and worship as we please for fear of offending someone.

Is there no room at the inn for tolerance of other people's public enjoyment of the happiest parts of their religion? I think that those who complain should be required to have a "Celebrate Diversity" bumper sticker on their car.

I am in backlash mode, exacerbated by the political correctness of the season. I used to say "Happy Holidays" to strangers, just in case they didn't celebrate the same December event that I did. Now I say "Merry Christmas" to everyone and want to high-five anyone who says it to me.

As a fan of Fox's "The O.C.," I also like the new greeting, "Happy Chrismukkah." For those who do not watch teenage soap operas, the phrase was coined by the son of a Jewish father and a WASP mother.

I don't really drive an SUV. When it was time to trade in my '93 Honda Civic for something my aging knees could get me in and out of, I chose a used Honda CRV, a smaller utility vehicle with decent mileage. Tell Santa.

My son and his wife, in their effort to protect their kids from commercialism, do not get network or cable TV. They do have a television set for playing videos though, so I tape children's specials and cartoons to send; sit and watch them myself, cutting out the ads. But sometimes I get distracted.

My grandchildren, age 3, had their first chance to sit on Santa's lap recently. Aidan asked for "motorcycle guys" like his friend's; Maya asked for "Lullabye Baby." Apparently, I inadvertently recorded one toy commercial. So Lance and Mary are running all over Nevada looking for one very specific baby doll.

The twins are a backlash themselves to the "raise your children unisex" fantasy. I bought them their first bikes last month: Aidan rides his "bumpy tires" at breakneck speed while Maya decorates hers with flower decals and puts her dollies in the carry seat.

One little gesture of backlash rebellion this year is to shop only at stores that allow the Salvation Army to ring its bell out front. I've found bell ringers at Filene's, Stop and Shop, and Walgreen's in Vinnin Square. Trader Joe's, across the street, had a Marines' Toys for Tots box.

Speaking of Marines, a friend sent me a moving tribute to our military overseas, which can be accessed at

I sent Christmas cards and a newsletter with photos of the grandchildren to over 50 friends scattered around the country, hoping to get newsletters back. This is how we keep in touch, some of us since childhood.

I just don't understand why it's fashionable to make fun of newsletters! I guess some people use them to brag, but if that's so annoying, why are these people on a card list in the first place?

I use mine to share good news, my favorite books, movies and TV shows of 2004 so that my friends might seek them out and enjoy them too.

Here is my sharing for you:

Books, fiction category: Tom Robbins' "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates."

Books, nonfiction category: Matt Ridley's "The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture."

Movie: "Troy" with a haunting theme sung by Josh Groban. 

TV: "West Wing" just gets better every season, and "Lost" is the best of the new shows.

Merry Chrismukkah, and a brightly lit winter solstice to all.

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