Can you feel the love during the holidays?

Despite being an outward grinchiscrooge towards everything holidays, it’s mostly a direct reaction towards the inescapable feeling that consumerism has co-opted the fuzzy feeling of being nice to people, showing your affection for those you love, that certain “spirit” of the season.  It’s all about buy, buy, buy and that perfectly expensive present.  It’s nearly impossible to convince people you don’t want anything for Christmas.  Seriously, try it.

And every now and again a story takes place that reminds me just how screwed up this month can be for some people.  It’s like we collectively lose the screws in our heads and all go batshit insane.  At some point Bill O’Reilly will blow a vessel in his brain over the “secular progressives” attempting to ruin Christmas for every good Christian folk out there.  Which is just crazy.  I’m probably one of the people O’Reilly hates, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I’ve got more Christmas spirit in my pinky than he has in his entire soul.

There was a small story in Washington about a week ago about a nativity scene put on display at the state capital and a Wisconsin-based group that put up a separation of church and state sign next to it.  The story made some traction, and at the time I thought it was pretty funny for the “atheism” group (as they’re labeled by the traditional media with as much animosity as they can muster) to do that.

And now we get the followup story and it’s wonderful.  It’s everything I love about this wacky time of year and truly encapsulates what both wrong and great about the Christmas season.  We pick up the story after the atheism sign has been stolen and dropped off to a local country-music radio station.

Meanwhile, people flocked to the Capitol to check out the crime scene, set up their own protest signs and speak to a bank of TV news cameras jamming the hallway.

Among the crowd was James Pritchard of Seattle, who wore a pointy green hat and passed out candy-striped business cards proclaiming him “J. Elfus, Special Assistant to the Claus.”

Despite his obvious preference for Christmas, Pritchard said he wants people to celebrate any holiday they like. But he was offended by the atheist message, which he felt was designed mostly to mock religion.

“I heard about what was going on down here, and we had to order a truckload of coal,” he said.

And that was just the start.

Soon, the capital steps were flocked by the elf, a preacher, nativity balloons, a Festivus pole (you know the Seinfeld-created holiday), a solstice poster and a security detail protecting the other signs being put up .  To say it became a circus is something of an understatement.

“It’s a circus and we’re the center ring,” said state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who wants the atheists’ sign moved farther from the Nativity scene and the governor to establish firmer guidelines on displays.

Things in Olympia have taken a bizarre turn since Monday, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group for atheists and agnostics, put up a sign that says, in part: “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” The sign was partly a reaction to the Nativity scene.

Tomorrow at 2 p.m. there is a planned protest against the atheist sign, but it’s nothing to do with free speech, it’s more to support religion.  All well and good.

Ultimately, this might be the best case scenario for holiday displays.  Afterall, though Bill O’Reilly and others of his ilk don’t want to think so, this time of year is also a time when other people celebrate their religions and traditions.  It’s a time that shouldn’t be consumed with hatred and frustration, it should be a celebration of our differences but also our common humanity.  There should be room for a nativity scene, a menorah, a Festivus pole, a Kwanzaa cornucopia, whatever.

“I got sick of the way these things were going, so I wanted to put some humor into it,” said carpenter Jim Buenzli, who first noticed the missing atheist sign Friday morning, and was fed up by the whole furor. That’s why he applied for permission to place the Festivus pole, which he planned to buy and install next week.  “They’re making a big mockery out of our state on the news.”

We’re not making a mockery Jim, we’re staring at the future of holiday displays and the craziness they inspire.  Olympia is ground zero.  Afterall, what’s the holidays without a little bit of craziness? My only complaint is how do we not have photos of this craziness?  I can’t find any at all.

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