Editor's Note:  This commentary ran in this same space last year .  It is even more timely this year so we decided to run it again.



Is Democracy A Religion?

Should Christmas Be A Holiday?  


    “Star Trek” introduced a number of ideas into the national lexicon, words such as phasers, communicators and the Prime Directive. One episode depicted a “parallel universe” where a post-apocalyptical society of disheveled Yangs battled the stronger Kohms. The Yangs were the Yankees and the Kohms were the Communists. What was left of the Yangs’ liberty-loving culture had devolved to where concepts such as “freedom” and “democracy” were reduced to church Latin. What was left of our magnificent Constitution was just meaningless “worship” words, guttural noises that hung heavily in the dusty air of a used future.

    Is it so different now? We wonder why the non-western cultures we are attempting to help by bringing them democracy and liberties rebuff our offerings. Why don’t they understand we are only trying to give them what we value and cherish so much. What is it about democracy they don’t get?

    Perhaps it is because they see us commemorate our democracy in ways others might celebrate their national faiths. Beginning with Washington’s Birthday, we have five national holidays that glorify our past leaders and our fallen heroes as religions might honor their saints.

    We celebrate our liberties and heritage as others celebrate their gods and patron saints, with picnics, fireworks, festivals, food and drink, games and parades.

    After all, isn’t the word “holiday” actually derived from the words “holy day”? Have you noticed that you are, at times, actually afraid to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” for fear of offending his or her religious sensibilities? So we wish them “Happy Holidays” instead, not realizing we just said the same thing.

    In the United States, as far as national holidays are concerned, Jesus Christ comes in a distant second, with only Christmas and Easter, and that’s it. New Year’s Day and Labor Day are the only two truly secular holidays. Some might argue that each Sunday is a national holiday. But Sunday is simply a day of rest — with or without God’s presence.

    Without God, though, without the church, and without a moral context, our holidays are no longer really holidays. They are simply free days off from work. A celebration of our freedoms, yes, but without any real understanding of how our national congregation has already migrated from the pious pews to the patriotic parades.

    Whether or not we know or accept it, democracy has become our national state religion. And we worship it in much the same fashion as other cultures observe their own respective faiths. It’s not wrong to do so, but it is not without consequences, either. Is it really so hard to understand why so many resist our good intentions?

    Star Trek’s Prime Directive, the ultimate law of the future, demanded that advanced cultures leave others to their own natural evolution — no matter how badly they needed help even to survive as a species. We’re not quite there yet. There is no doubt that democracy and liberty are truly superior ways of life to tyranny and totalitarianism. But when repression and thought control is all you have ever known, it will take some time before you openly accept another culture simply because it is offered, especially at the end of a gun. You can’t force feed western democracy to such a culture. They must develop a taste for it themselves.

    In the meantime, we must support our troops and their cause; for they are fighting for what we all believe in and honor every so often with our special days. Democracy belongs to all of us, regardless of race, creed or national origin. And, yes, Christmas should be a holiday. Maybe the only true one. Aloha.

W. Knox Richardson is the editor and publisher of Oahu Island News. He is also a decorated wartime veteran.