I've said it before and I'll say it again, merry Christmas.
Yes, friends, 'tis the season once again for the great debate. No, no, not the 2008 presidential sort. Rather, it's that time of year when the back-and-forth about the political correctness over the phrase "merry Christmas" is volleyed back and forth like a tennis ball being batted mercilessly between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras -when each was in their prime, incidentally.
Just like department store checkout lines, the diatribe from the Christmas-offended set about why it should be universally unacceptable for individuals, groups, businesses - and I don't know, farm animals, I guess - to convey Christmas wishes gets louder, longer and a little uglier every year.
It never ceases to amaze me how this season of peace and hope evokes such ire. Ironic, isn't it?
You know, when I was a little girl attending Catholic grade school, I never thought twice about wishing folks a merry Christmas. It was meant as a gesture of kindness - still is, as a matter of fact.
And, as I grew into adolescence and adulthood, I realized how important it also is to offer people goodwill toward their observations of Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Samhain and any other God-based religious celebration.
God-based - that's the key, because the simple fact is that the majority of us here on the third rock from the sun believe in God.
I mean, our country is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, like it or lump it. There's no question that the very fabric of our society is based on faith.
And let's not forget about that little document governing pretty much all of our protocols and practices here in the good old U.S. called the Constitution. It protects, upholds and embraces our right to free speech.
That means that whoever wishes to do so can and should utter the words "merry Christmas." It's our privilege and our right.
Apparently, this concept doesn't sit well with the governor of the state of Washington. Christine Gregoire, according to Fox News, has supported opposition to a Nativity scene in the state's capitol building in Olympia.
Fox anchor Bill O'Reilly recently shed light on Gregoire's outspoken defense of a sign he characterized as "denigrating religion." It was erected by atheists in opposition to the Nativity scene that private citizens had bought and placed in the capitol building.
Well, she is certainly entitled to freedom of speech - and of course, to her opinion. Naturally, I will be expecting the governor to reject her pay for the 25th of December, since she is clearly so offended by the date that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
I mean, this is a national holiday, sanctioned by the government. But surely Gregoire will not be accepting the portion of her salary for that date, as atheists the nation and world over will not, I expect. In fact, she and they would seem to be the ideal choices as their respective office representatives - you know, manning things on Christmas.
No ham, chestnuts or sugar cookies for them; that'll be for all of us annoying believers to enjoy.
Locally, some people are exercising their First Amendment right in a decidedly different way than is being observed by the governor of the state of Washington.
You may recall a recent story in the Tribune Chronicle about the "merry Christmas billboard ladies," namely Joanne Brown of Poland, Linda Bennett of Niles, Judi Hanna of Boardman, Laurie Kramer of Youngstown and Pat See of Canfield.
See actually called me to make sure I was aware of their efforts to spend nearly $3,000 on four billboards in the Mahoning Valley that highlight the "merry Christmas" sentiment.
Yes, Pat, I know, and kudos to you. You go, girls.
Perhaps my pal Lisa Kelston, a Howland native, summed it up best.
"My goodness, how could Christmas, the celebration of the birthday of the most precious, perfect, peaceable baby boy ever born, insult anyone in any way?"
The bottom line is this: we all have a right to our beliefs and opinions.
Yet as we all grapple with a struggling economy, potential governmental bailouts, a war on terror, global warming and really, just the everyday challenges of life in general, I feel compelled to ask: What could be better than wishing each other well and extending to one another cheer and good will?
Seems to me, we need it now more than ever.
Yep, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Merry Christmas - and happy holidays, too.
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.