Christmas Trees Signal Celebration, Not Hate
In his opposition to a dining-hall Christmas tree (News, “Tree Kindles Leverett Debate,” Dec. 4), Leverett Resident Tutor Stuart E. Schechter ignored a vital distinction between behaviors that are hateful toward other groups (putting a swastika up) and behaviors that simply make others feel their minority status (putting a Christmas tree up). The tree, unlike the swastika, is not an anti-Jewish symbol, and the message that came from all the disgruntled Leverittes, and the opinion piece by Shira D. Kieval ’04 (“Tree for Some, Thorn for Others,” Dec. 4), was not that the tree would make them feel hated, but that it would make them feel their minority status—their situation outside a celebration.
Given this, are we now going to disallow any public celebration that makes other’s feel like outsiders? Are we going to disallow public images of heterosexual love because they make homosexuals feel their minority status? Are we going to disallow large garrulous tables in the dining hall because they makes shy people—those people who sit alone at every meal—feel their minority status?
If we are to take Kieval’s argument, this is not such an absurd proposition; she, and all the Leverett residents quoted in The Crimson, are bothered by feeling like an outsider, not feeling oppressed or hated. Sexuality, ethnic identity, physical handicaps and social nature are also identity traits that make someone an outsider at times.
I am not making the argument that everyone should enjoy Christmas trees, nor am I saying that only majority groups should be able to celebrate. Everyone should be able to celebrate in public as long as it is not hateful to another group, as displaying a swastika would be. Thankfully this is the standard our society abides by in allowing ethnic parades and cultural fairs in public spaces. All these rituals will make some people feel their outsider status. But part of life is sometimes being on the outside; let’s not allow that to push all celebrations of being human into private.
Nathaniel V. Popper ’02
Dec. 4, 2001