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
By W. KNOX RICHARDSON
“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
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
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
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
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.