Saturday, December 11, 2010
Here's a column by Gail Collins making fun of Tulsa's decision to allow a Christmas parade to proceed notwithstanding the absence of the word "Christmas." Or making fun of the attendant protest. Or making fun of Senator Inhofe. She's definitely making fun of something. "I know you've been worred," winks Collins: "We live in a time of so many terrifying, insurmountable problems. It’s comforting to return to arguing about whether the nation’s moral fiber is endangered if Tulsa downplays the religious aspects of a parade full of Santa Clauses that is currently sponsored by a popular downtown pub." Difficult to cut through the confusing combination of earnestness and mockery to understand exactly what Collins means to criticize.
Be that as it may, the column had me wondering what Collins would have to say about Establishment Clause cases dealing with government sponsored religious symbols, texts, and displays. Would she find the fights in Lynch, Stone, County of Allegheny, Pinette, Van Orden, Buono (to the extent people fought the EC fight), and the rest similarly ridiculous (or "comforting")? Does she think that the "under God" battles now, or the issue of legislative prayers, or even what I predict will be the future question about the word "God" on the coinage -- are all of these and so many others just as mock-worthy? After all, these disputes, no less than the one in Oklahoma, involve conflicts over what the government ought to be permitted to say about powerful and culturally important symbols and texts. I'll admit that I, too, sometimes find them not quite as substantial as Collins's undescribably "terrifying, insurmountable problems," but I hope they are not regarded as objects of ridicule. At least, I don't regard them that way.