November 17, 2007 in Voices

Better watch out, you don’t want to earn a WABAHA

Sandra Babcock Correspondent

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Re: ‘Twas the season to wrangle over religion, Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Washington’s 2006 holiday season was one for the record books. It was also one that left some errant sugarplums dancing in my head, and with the approach of the 2007 holiday season those mischievous sugarplums are resurfacing with a vengeance.

Although the lists awarding the good, bad and downright ugly have been snuggled into the bottom of the recycle bin for a year, there’s one award hankering to be recognized — the 2006 Washington Bad Apple Holiday Award (affectionately known as WABAHA).

Cleverly invented by me, the WABAHA boldly goes where no rotten apple has gone before – to three distinct Washingtonians (from the gazillions vying for this award) and assorted cohorts who were the baddest of the 2006 holiday apples.

Most will recall last holiday season began with a whimper that culminated into a bang. Decorations, religion and its perceived rights were at the forefront inciting malcontented individuals to plunge into the holiday netherworld leaving their share of eggnog to merry citizens who were yanked from their lackadaisical nog state when the first grumble surfaced about Spokane.

A resident complained about the woefully depleted decorations adorning downtown. As a downtown worker for 18 years, I’ve seen my share of Christmases with nary a thought to woeful decorations. The enormous Christmas tree in Riverpark Square is testament enough to Spokane’s festivity frenzy.

Alas, the Festivities Grinch whined about the paucity of lights and decorations adorning trees and store windows. Downtown’s only saving grace, according to our Grinch, was the aging Madonna that has hung on the Macy’s building since the dawn of time.

Therefore, the third-place WABAHA goes to Spokane’s unknown Festivities Grinch. You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. May you find better decorations in another place.

Next on the agenda are pine trees. Yes, the same pine trees that whisper to us on windswept evenings, provide shade, the splendor of a quiet forest, needle cluttered yards and, when decorated with lights, turn the northwest landscape into a needed respite from the dreary days of winter, became a lump of pine pitch for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky requested SeaTac include a menorah alongside the airport’s lighted tree display. SeaTac, preferring not to “play cultural anthropologists,” removed the display. Bogomilsky stated he was “appalled” by SeaTac’s decision, but not too appalled since he hired an attorney and threatened to sue.

In stepped a group of Christians who gathered in the terminal and sang Christmas songs protesting the tree removal. Many left death threats at synagogues in an obvious quest to further the Christian ideology of peace and love.

The brouhaha over pine trees was inane particularly since they have a lengthy secular history before religion.

“The Christmas tree was not a religious article until much later in history (16th century). Prior to that, it was a pagan symbol that was adopted and adapted by Christianity,” said Jim Beebe, a history buff for most of his 64 years.

So, at one time trees were just trees and the leap into decorating their pinus branches isn’t far since humans can’t resist trimming anything that stands still for five seconds particularly during seasonal merrymaking.

“Let’s put it this way,” Beebe said, “if you can solve the problem of having beautifully decorated trees displayed peacefully in public facilities then you’ll have solved most of the world’s problems.”

Now, wouldn’t that be nice.

The second-place WABAHA goes to Rabbi Bogomilsky and those Christians who managed to spread peace and love during the fracas. In sharing this award may you also share a solution sans lawsuits and death threats.

Last but not least are Ron Wesselius and the Alliance Defense Fund who filed a lawsuit against Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Department of General Administration officials alleging constitutional rights violation because the holiday tree and menorah that graced the state Capitol rotunda lacked a nativity scene.

The melee could have been avoided if Gov. Gregoire kept to the American ideal of separation of church and state. Unfortunately she didn’t.

Mr. Wesselius could have enjoyed his own crèche in his own home. Unfortunately he didn’t.

The first-place WABAHA goes to Mr. Wesselius and the Alliance Defense Fund. In the future may they ask themselves, “what would Jesus do?” instead of, “what stupid thing can we do today?”

Congratulations to all and let the race for the 2007 Washington Bad Apple Holiday Award begin!

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