Government backs off ‘holiday tree’

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Here’s an encouraging note. The bureaucrats said “bah humbug,” the people responded with a roar of “Merry Christmas,” and the government scrooges backed down.

It all started in New Mexico. There, in the Santa Fe National Forest, a giant spruce was cut from the thicket and trucked to Washington to serve as the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

And here is where the picture turns blurry. Somewhere between the cutting and the trucking, the name of the tree was mysteriously changed from “Christmas Tree” to “Holiday Tree.”

The name change has been generally attributed to secular anti-Christian fervor running rampant through the country, and it may well be. But I’d bet my cherished rendition of “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer” that the dumb name change can more likely be traced to fuzzy bureaucratic thinking, some guy sitting in a meeting saying, “Hey, I got an idea!”

Whatever the reason, people were outraged. I can attest to that. A column here making fun of the name change drew strong response.

Wrote Jack Breckner, “…I was prompted to say ‘AMEN.’ But of course that would be politically incorrect so I will just say thanks for showing the world that there are still some people who do believe in GOD and the birth of Jesus Christ. Oops!! There I go writing something I shouldn’t have written. Please excuse me.”

Pat Daley of Denver blames the whole mess on the American Civil Liberties Union. Writes Pat: “The same people that have taken Christ of out Christmas also ask why God would let bad things happen to this country.”

One fellow who signs himself “Rev. Roy” disagrees. He considers the Christmas tree a pagan symbol that has been made into a religious symbol by the government. “…you ban crosses, nativity scenes and the ten commandments then the symbol of eternal growth and fertility should be banned from being up in Washington.”

Reader Gilbert Cherryholmes, a frequent contributor, applauded the column and wished me a Merry Xbox.

Elvis Fleming, volunteer archivist for Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico in Roswell, termed the column excellent but was most careful in extending a politically correct greeting: Says Elvis, “The present writer has an unspecified level of desire that you might experience a non-committal degree of the positive sentiment which we normally associate with our annual observance of Saturnalia.” I will be eager to see how Hallmark illustrates that warm message.

Roy Harvey, a former resident of Los Alamos now living in Camp Verde, Arizona, wrote, “Thank G** there are still responsible people like you to editorialize things like C******* trees. Keep it up!”

What happened in our little corner of the world, this outpouring of response, obviously happened all over the country. And the powers got the message. Top federal officials relented after House Speaker Dennis Hastert sent a letter to the Capitol architect protesting the name change.

So now our nation is going to have a Christmas tree after all. Some people have generously given me credit for saving the day. Vance Gargotta, director of the Socorro Foster Grandparent Program, writes: “First, my thanks for your column in the Socorro paper. I hear now the tree is going to be properly named the ‘Christmas Tree’ and am saying the credit belongs to you.”

Vance is kidding, of course, but still. The idea is fetching. Such power. As my next official act, I am declaring Little Drummer Boy the official Christmas Song of the nation. And a pa rum pum pum pum to you and yours.

Ned Cantwell welcomes response at: ncantwell@charter.net