Other than the introduction of the children performing in the Elementary Schools Mass Chorus, the biggest applause line of Columbia County's Christmas tree lighting on Saturday went something like this:
"While this is the holidays, we're here tonight to light a Christmas tree." With those words, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross drew raucous cheers from the hundreds of people in front of the Evans courthouse.
It was also somewhat of a salvo toward Atlanta, where spokesmen for Gov. Sonny Perdue's office on Friday had announced, for the second nonsensical year in a row, the lighting of the Governor's Mansion "Holiday Tree."
It was a repeat of the governor's press office politically correct 2004 snafu, in which the staff announced the office would light a Christmas tree and then, 14 minutes later, reversed course to say it would light a "holiday tree."
The staff got huffy with me when I questioned them about it then, and promised to get back to me to answer whose idea it was to turn the mansion's Christmas tree into a generic symbol; they never did.
So this year I was less surprised when the staff did it again, announcing on Friday the lighting of the mansion "holiday tree." This time around, though, Communications Director Dan McLagan stepped in 30 minutes later to reverse that announcement, noting that Perdue and his wife on Sunday were indeed lighting a Christmas tree.
"Due to a politically correct staff brain-freeze, the press office erroneously used the words holiday tree' to describe the coniferous flora that the governor and first lady will light," McLagan's retraction said. "It is, in fact, a Christmas tree."
Amazingly, the "holiday" announcement came just days after the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, made it a point to call the Capitol Christmas tree just what it is " reversing the P.C. "holiday" moniker the tree had received during the Clinton administration.
How, I'd wondered, could a Republican governor in Georgia go the P.C. route so soon after the GOP House speaker lamented the "holiday" lunacy?
It can only be a "brain freeze," as McLagan suggests. It's good to know Cross has no such brain freeze, and understands that the only December holiday celebrated with a lighted tree is Christmas.
Where did all this politically correct "holiday" stuff come from, anyway? Everyone seems to be worried about offending non-Christians.
What's really odd is that this effort not to give offense would even apply toward the Christmas tree, which itself is a non-religious symbol now used universally to represent Christmas.
In other words, the tree is already religiously generic; taking it a step further by changing the word "Christmas" to "holiday" is like going from calling Thanksgiving "turkey day," and then "bird day."
What a fowl idea.
Cross is right. It's the "holidays," but we're lighting Christmas trees, by God.
A final note: PC or not, some folks are predicting that Columbia County is risking a losing lawsuit " not because of Christmas trees, but because of its practice of Baptist or Methodist ministers opening Commission (and, more recently, School Board) meetings with prayer.
"I am delighted that your Commission in Columbia County continues to open meetings with prayer to seek guidance and offer thanks to God," writes Cross in the county's latest water-bill insert. "This country was founded on Christian principles, and we attempt to operate accordingly."
Get your checkbooks ready, taxpayers.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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