In the Blog

tolerate this

December 26th, 2006     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

Okay, I waited until after ye olde merry merry to post this, but man, has anyone been following this story about Toronto judge Marian Cohen’s request to have a Christmas tree removed from the front lobby of the provincial court house? You can read a bit about it here, but the gist of it is that she felt it was an inappropriate symbol to greet non-Christians entering a public building, so she wrote a letter requesting the tree be moved out of the front lobby to a less obvious place. What has followed is a sickening backlash attempt to paint her as a “foam in the mouth radical feminist” (yes, this is an actual quote, albeit from the internet, not always the best source for fair reporting) out to yank candy canes from babies’ mouths and ruin Xmas for us all, bwah hah hah.

What makes me either want to bust out laughing or cry hysterically is that this tar-and-feathering is being done in the name of tolerance. Now, Cohen isn’t suggesting that people can’t celebrate Christmas any way they want, and she’s not trying to banish Xmas trees from all areas of public life. But having a tree in, say, a department store or your own house (i.e. private spaces) is a heck of a far cry from a public courthouse, an institution that represents the state — which, last time I checked, is supposed to be separate from the church. Cohen, as far as I can tell, is acting out of concern for immigrants and other folks who might not feel so comfortable being whacked in the face with a religious symbol while inside a courthouse. But if you challenge the hegemonic culture and religion, better watch your back. Why is it so hard for people living within a dominant discourse to understand why those on the outside might not always be so down with it? Whoa, I think I just answered my own question. But seriously, it’s like when people say to me “Oh, you’re Jewish, but you can still celebrate Christmas, right?” Well, yes, I can. But I don’t. Not because I’m a grumpy old poop who hates all forms of celebration and overeating, but because it’s not my holiday, and I don’t want it to be. I don’t observe Ramadan either, and no one’s ever suggested that that makes me a grinch. I don’t think you need a degree in sociology to figure out why.

To be honest, I don’t even really care that much about whether or not a fir tree with coloured lights and silver baubles on it belongs in a courthouse or not. Rather, I am seriously galled at the way Cohen is being treated by these media pundits who, it seems, are just looking for an excuse to point the withering finger of “politically correct beeyatch” in someone’s face. Especially if that someone happens to be a non-Christian female in a position of considerable power. If our supposedly pluralistic, multicultural society is so tolerant, why does challenging one of its dominant symbols result in such hate-mongering? Trying to turn a woman who speaks out against religious symbolism into some kind of Christian-blood-drinking family-destroying monster says way more about the actual level of tolerance in Canada than anything to do with tinsel and candy canes.

Um, happy new year?

Tags: in my opinion...

« A Couple of Great Workshops at TWB

a new take on cultural appropriation »