The Port of Seattle has reconsidered it’s bonehead decision to remove Christmas trees at the airport. Its new decision satisfies the Christians of Seattle but insults Jews and other minorities. The trees have gone back up. But Rabbi Bogomilsky’s offer of a menorah to accompany it has been summarily rejected.
I’ve decided the Port is governed by a bunch of tin-eared nitwits. Whatever you do, remember the names of commissioners Pat Davis and Joseph Creighton and DO NOT vote for them in the next election. Why did the Port “hold the line” against accommodating Jewish airport travelers? Here’s Davis’ flat-footed response:
“I didn’t want to set a precedent, frankly, that when anyone makes a threat, we fold,” Davis said.
It makes it appear as if Bogomilsky is your average run of the mill extortionist or litigious whiner. So instead of engaging with the good rabbi’s very real constitutional issue and his very reasonable offer to provide a menorah, the Port told him: “Don’t worry rabbi, you just be patient. We can’t be seen to cave to you this time. But next year there’ll be a nice piece of candy in your Port stocking in the form of a menorah standing at the Airport.”
Reading between the lines, I believe the Jewish community stared into the mess the commissioners had created including flatly erroneous accusations that the rabbi found the trees “offensive,” and blinked. Either Bogomilsky himself became concerned about the anti-Semitic uproar this could (and already has) created; or the community’s leaders came to Bogomilsky asking that he accept a compromise. If any of the above is true, I think it’s a shame in a way that the rabbi didn’t stand firm for a Jewish expression at the Airport this year.
There’s more boneheadedness from our Port staff on this subject:
Port spokesman Bob Parker said, “we look forward to sitting down after the first of the year with not only Rabbi Bogomilsky but others as well, and finding ways to make sure there’s an appropriate winter holiday representation for all faiths. We want to find out a way to celebrate the winter holidays that is sensitive to all faiths.”
They “want to find a way to celebrate the holidays that is sensitive to all faiths,” just not this year. This year, they’re going to continue the same boorishness they’ve observed during the past 25, when they only honored a single faith in Airport displays.
Commissioner Creighton continues the oblivious Port dialogue of the hard of hearing:
Creighton said he personally would have preferred the airport also put up a menorah this year. But “there’s a fair amount of sensitivity at the airport. Whatever we do, we do after putting some thought into it.”
What he really should’ve said, were he being truthful, was there is actually no sensitivity to Jews, but much sensitivity to imagined threats and lawsuits from imagined injured parties.
I find the Christian hegemony exerted on American public life at Christmas time to be stifling. The sheer ignorance which so many display when they wish you a “Merry Christmas” is annoying at best. Why must the soundtrack of our lives in the holiday season be endless Christmas carols reminding us that while the historical events surrounding the holiday involved Jews, we’re certainly neither included nor wanted today.
Though I generally detest Chabad, I come down firmly on their side on this one. If you Christians want to ram your holiday down our throats, then you’re going to have to accept mine as well. As I wrote in my first post on this story, I’d rather not have any holiday display in public spaces. But if there is to be one, you better not leave my religion out. If you do, I’ll be there to remind you that I exist, and I’m different than you, and I demand the same respect that you so nonchalantly assume for your own religious traditions.
And I am with Rabbi Bogomilsky in this statement as well:
…He was disappointed that Port officials chose not to put up the menorah as well, pointing out that there are still several days until Hanukkah begins at sundown Friday. “I still hope that they’ll consider putting the menorah up this year. But ultimately it’s their decision.”
The rabbi, who says he never wanted the trees removed, also said he hopes the Port will apologize for mischaracterizations that led people to believe he was against having the trees displayed.
Who exactly was it who told the press that the rabbi found the trees “offensive?” If it was a Port staff member that person should be reprimanded. Some words and situations are freighted with religious tensions and conflict. And when words are misused that’s when they can do the most damage.