It's about more than the tree

I know this may sound strange, but the so-called "tree meeting" was a big loss for Bellview parents. The district very cleverly transformed the meeting into a PC workshop, assigning each person a number and dividing them into group-think circles to discuss what they would like to see in a holiday display (I saw people writing religious symbols on poster boards). My thought: Just put the tree back and let's get back to a simple existence. You've already stressed us out enough.

We wanted democracy and got autocratic control. We got the usual mumbo-jumbo speech about diversity — I grew up in New York and taught overseas. I lived it. When I came out here 30 years ago, I realized that the only people who have to keep talking about diversity are the ones most patronizing toward minorities. So, please, spare me the lecture. Besides, this wasn't even an issue about diversity, until they fabricated one.

The giving tree: Religious symbol or an object of association? A religious symbol is a representation of an object from the history or literature of a religion. A cross is a representation of an object from the history and literature of a religion, so is a manger tableau. What does a giving tree directly represent from the history and literature of the New Testament? Nothing. It is a decorative object associated with the holiday season. I have Jewish friends who put up holiday trees with lights.

Although a decision was announced that the tree would return, there was no admission that it is just a secular holiday decoration. No one was allowed to comment or ask questions about their thinking process. Intelligent, open debate was not permitted — although a school board member (a self-described expert on democracy) reminded me that the will of the majority should govern.

"But" I asked her, "what if the will of the majority should be in violation of the Constitution?"

She: "The Constitution is designed to protect the minority."

"But," I replied, "what if the minority (as in this case) has no right under the Constitution?"

She advised me to join a group circle, no doubt to purge my mind of individual thought patterns. "We must be sensitive."

The constitutional amendments were not written to acknowledge the feelings or psychological projections of some and allow those projections to control the majority. They were written to protect specific rights.

It's really a shame that the principal and Superintendent Di Chiro opened the floodgates of group-think ideas on what school displays should look like. This has potential to create greater controversy and division.

I have no idea what type of inclusiveness they have in mind. It may lead to future submissions of anything from witchcraft objects to an atheist poster proclaiming there is no God (remember the Seattle case) — just the thing to scare the kiddies at school.

Zundel could have kept it simple and under the radar by explaining to the complaining person that the Supreme Court has ruled the tree a secular decoration. I'm sorry you feel that way; songs of all faiths are included in our holiday program. Now please, get the heck out of my office. We don't operate according to Dr. Spock at Bellview — that's some other school. It's "Be respectful. Be responsible. Be safe." End of story.

The real danger is that this irrational policy has been extended to language. Last year my daughter was forbidden to use the word "Christmas" in a song, while the teacher allowed songs about Hanukkah and Kwanza. This is overt discrimination. Gee whiz, why didn't I think of that not-feeling-welcome thing at the time?

Dropping in on one of the group-think circles, I asked a woman whether it would be OK for me to use the words "Christmas" or "holiday" in front of other children. She replied only if you are a teacher. I see, so from now on we must only say "winter" celebration. Since I am unfamiliar with Druid practices, I'm not sure what that involves.

Political correctness is no joking matter. We should be concerned about more than a little tree.

I don't feel as welcome at Bellview. I am concerned for my children and their right to be independent thinkers. "Be respectful" pretty much covers the diversity training. Please stick to academics.

Message to district: If we're not doing anything unlawful, leave us the heck alone and be thankful that those pesky Christians gave you an extra two weeks vacation.

"When the people fear government, that's tyranny; when the government fears the people, that's freedom." — Thomas Jefferson.

Bellview parent Rod Petrone has lived in Ashland for 15 years.

Share This Story