Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2002 / 18 Teves, 5763

Bill O'Reilly

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Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness | Growing up on Long Island just a few miles outside of New York City, Christmas was a major deal. The ethnic neighborhood I lived in celebrated big time with Irish, Italians and Jews all getting into the spirit of the season. Most of the small houses we lived in back in the late '50s were ablaze with Christmas lights and menorahs in the windows. Shrubs were also covered with red, blue and white bulbs. It was a regular Levittown Mardi Gras.

In the days before Christmas, carolers roamed the streets singing for charity and were welcomed in almost every house, no matter what religion the inhabitants practiced. There was a good feeling in the frosty air, and we kids were excited and actually behaved for a change.

Never can I remember a religious or racial division in my neighborhood. There were no dissenters. Christmas came just once a year, and everybody was on board for a happy ride.

So, what happened? Today, we have all kinds of agendas running during Christmastime. In this space a couple of weeks ago, I chronicled some of the insane things that are going on. Schoolchildren being denied the pleasure of watching Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." School districts striking the word "Christmas" from the school calendar, and on and on.

We have become a nation of special interests, and that is bad, very bad. Instead of enjoying a special season and putting aside sectarian differences so that Christmas can be savored, some of us are committed to finding offense with a holiday that promotes "goodwill toward men."

So what are we to think of our fellow Americans who are offended by nativity scenes, Tiny Tim and mistletoe? Well, I don't think very much of them, to tell you the truth. I am buying plenty of coal to put in their stockings.

Finding offense where none is intended is, of course, a form of selfishness. All of us are subjected to things in life with which we are not entirely comfortable. Just the fact that Anna Nicole Smith is on television and in the public arena via advertisements offends me, for example. But I am not calling my local ACLU warlord to file a lawsuit. Ms. Smith's public persona goes against every single thing I stand for: hard work, education, discipline and self-sacrifice. Yet I know there are some misguided souls who find her entertaining and relevant to their lives. So I accept the fact that Anna is using the public airwaves to enrich herself. And I go on with my life.

This live-and-let-live attitude was what we used to have in America. Why not look at it this way: If you don't believe in Jesus, just admire the fact that the man became a great philosopher and you have the day off. Why whine that his birth image is on display in a public place? WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN THAT POSSIBLY MAKE TO YOU? Give everybody a break, and don't look. Read a magazine, for cryin' out loud.

A few days ago, I had occasion to attend a Christmas party at the White House. Don't tell the ACLU, but there was a Naval choir on the premises, and Christmas carols were actually being sung! Angels were mentioned! And this was on government property!

I guess the ACLU will soon be suing the president, First Lady, the U.S. Navy and me because I was singing along. But I am ready for my deposition. I will swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And that truth is that Americans who are attacking Christmas are doing this country a grave disservice. But since it is Christmastime, I am going to forgive them.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.


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© 2001 Creators Syndicate