Topic: Professions & Institutions

The Mother, the School, and the Holy Reindeer

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers;” Monty Python said, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” How true, how true. But alas, the Ethics Scoreboard cannot bless the gratuitous troublemakers, who, when combined with the kinds of cowardly bureaucrats that tend to congregate in public schools, routinely diminish joy for almost everyone, including peacemakers and cheesemakers.

In Wilmington, N.C., a Jewish parent complained that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was a religious song, and got it pulled from her child's kindergarten Christmas show at Murrayville Elementary School.

She apparently thought the song was a profound theological fable about a lonely reindeer (with a glowing nose) who becomes a hero by using his uber-snout as a beacon when Christmas Eve is so foggy that Flying Reindeer Traffic Control threatens to ground Santa’s yearly flight. The song was religious “because it had the word Christmas in it,” said Rick Holliday, assistant school superintendent. (Reports that Holliday’s name was “Rick Christmas” before he changed it to avoid offense were unconfirmed.)

Of course, one may ask how one designates Christmas Day in a song without mentioning Christmas:

Then one foggy December 25th, Santa came to say… Nah. Doesn’t scan.

And is every event that happens on Christmas Day religious? Last Christmas an escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo killed a drunken idiot who had been harassing and throwing things at the big cat. Would a song about this, say, “Toby the Ticked-Off Tiger,” be too religious for the Murrayville mother?

Then one fateful Christmas Day

Toby caught a drunk.

“You’ve been on my case,” he said,

“Now I’ll eat your face and head!”

Well, it would probably be inappropriate for kindergarten for other reasons. But I digress.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was made famous by the influential 20th Century religious figure and singing cowboy, Gene Autry, whose record became the second most popular American single of all time (behind “White December 25th,” written by that ultra-Christian Jewish composer, Irving Berlin.) Children love this song and this story; it also has the advantage of being easy to sing. Seldom has it ever prompted a religious conversion. If ever. Well, once that I know of: my sister heard it and went from being a Greek-American Congregationalist to being a Laplander.

None of which mattered, apparently, to the mother, the kind of self-righteous, hyper-sensitive, ignorant and intolerant scold who knows she can bully school officials even with absurd demands, because they are commonly born without spines, like free-range boneless chickens. So rather than stand up to a woman who gets satisfaction from spoiling the fun of four and five-year olds in order to protect against imaginary violations of the First Amendment, they caved in, which is what they do best.

But then came a holiday miracle! More parents complained about the banishing of “Rudolph,” meaning that the weak and the spineless had to actually do some logical analysis. And after listening to the song (…they wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games! “Hmmmm…I wonder if that’s religious?”) with attorneys present (Ka-ching!), the school board solemnly decided—Duh!— that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" isn’t a religious song after all!

Peacemakers, cheesemakers and parents shouted out with glee. And the troublemaker who started it all looked for someone else to bully, while school administrators trembled in fear.

As Kurt Vonnegut so wisely observed, “And so it goes.”

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