Holiday tree debate unnecessarily divisive
With the waves of tolerance that have been sweeping this nation off its feet, itâs no stretch to say that times are indeed changing. Ironically, even though tolerance is associated with the crumbling of walls, it also creates conflicts that pit groups against each other, such as the debate over the annual Rhode Island Statehouse tree-lighting ceremony.
An obsession over a technicality has shifted peopleâs focus from the holiday itself to something as simple as the name of an evergreenââChristmas treeâ or âholiday treeâ?
It is almost unbelievable how this heated controversy boils down to a preference of names. Rhode Islandâs governor, Lincoln Chafee, gave only 30 minutesâ notice before lighting the tree this year in the Statehouse rotunda, a strategy to prevent protesters from crashing the party. The year before, protesters furious over Chafeeâs dubbing the tree a âholiday tree,â crowded the rotunda holding pictures of Christmas trees and interrupting choral performances with bellowed renditions of âO Christmas Tree.â
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chafee insists on âholiday treeâ because he says it reflects the stateâs religious tolerance and avoids âmaking non-Christians feel excluded from the holiday celebration.â At the helm of the opposition, Rep. Doreen Costa called Chafee a âGrinchâ for using the name and sponsored a non-binding resolution mandating the tree be called a âChristmas treeâ last year.
Though they both have valid arguments, the bickering proves that tolerance does not always mean peace. In fact, the spread of tolerance, and the efforts to adhere so strictly to this toleranceâas Chafee hasâcan divide a state, and fuel the wrath of many. The intention of inclusiveness behind the holiday tree has instead become a divisive disaster. And in the process, the main event of the seasonâgiving, sharing, joining togetherâhas been overshadowed. The most important thing about a tree that has, for so long, represented the joy of the holidays regardless of an individualâs religion is, apparently, just its name.
Times are changing, but if that means a new divisive breed of tolerance, theyâre not necessarily changing for the better.