Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Skirmish in the War on Xmas

A man's home, intoned James Oglethorpe all those centuries ago, is his castle. My neighbor Zeno invokes this dusty old saw regularly to forestall any criticisms of his taste for installing bird baths that rival a Vatican baptismal font, a pillar-mounted British "post box" along the sidewalk, a gazebo modelled after the Baths of Hadrian, as well as the annual Yuletide illumination of his own castle. He has, I have noted elsewhere, a jackdaw's taste for lighting up his house each holiday like a Polish cathedral.

Chateau Zeno

What then of a man's vehicle - if his home is his castle, shouldn't his personal means of conveyance be considered a man's own M1 Abrams tank? In that same festive spirit, a resident of Wichita, Kansas applied 856 lights to the exterior of his pickup truck and reaped the whirlwind - a $300 traffic fine - for his Christmas bonhomie and good cheer. David Hill uses his light-bespangled truck to raise awareness for several charitable programs he's founded, including a free winter coat giveaway for indigent Wichitavians (Wichitonians?)

"When you take a vehicle and you cover it with that many lights, it's an issue of safety," a Wichita police officer explained to the local news outlet. "When somebody puts colored lights on their vehicle, they're saying everybody look at me, and when people are looking at that particular vehicle, they become a hazard." (It remains grammatically unclear whether the truck, its array of lights, the person who decorated it, or the people staring at it are hazards in the eyes of this officer of the public safety.) But the law mandates only red lights in rear, white in front, and Hill's truck plainly violates the law.

Hill reasonably points out that anyone who can't tell the ass-end of a pickup when they see it probably shouldn't be driving and should be the party receiving the citation (or words to that effect). But it does raise the question whether we have here a full-fledged war on Christmas, or just another skirmish in the battle? Are the Wichita police part of an atheistic agenda, deserving the unsparing scrutiny of the Fox journalists?

Zeno naturally thinks as much. For my part, I'm against this sort of supererogation in holiday decor - until, of course the police get involved. In which case, I'm on the side of Zeno and the angels.

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