Upon hearing our conversation, in which Danny and Andrew stated their full agreement, a malicious and cowardly lady on the subway came up to us, as the subway was halting to a stop, and told us condescendingly that we should watch what we say and that there are little kids in the car. Then, she left the train without waiting for a reply. Her attitude was very rude and disdainful, as though we were ignorant little Chinese kids who were too obnoxious and self-absorbed to watch what we say in public. The three of us all felt very indignant. Admittedly, we did not take note of whether there were children in the car throughout our conversation, but after she got out, we looked around and found that there were no children in the car.
But let's say there were children in the car that day and there we were spewing our mouths off about how we would never lie to our children about Santa Claus...Are we being obnoxious or religiously intolerant? Or are we enjoying the freedom of speech that we so deserve? Or maybe, to that lady, we were immigrants who have no respect for its culture.
She then proceeded to tell me that when I have children, I will know what it's like--as though I am not allowed to have an opinion on this matter unless I have children. Perhaps she felt attacked when I said that children should not be awarded for being good. Or perhaps she really believes that I have no right to have an opinion on Santa Claus unless I have children. But either way, she completely nazied the conversation. No one replied to her after her angry speech. You know, I would have loved to have continued exploring this matter with her a little deeper and hear her opinion, but the anger in her voice completely took everyone by surprise and we all shut up.
Similarly, the topic of Secret Santa is not a topic to be discussed at the table either. "WE DON'T DO PRESENTS IN THIS COMPANY" one woman stated loudly, at least twice. No ifs and buts, no discussion.
What about Christmas decorations? Apparently the decorations need to be non-denominated because a few years ago someone complained about Christmas wreaths.
I know, right?!
In both of these stories, the question of beliefs and value come into place: you have a series of people with beliefs and values that they try to enforce it on to other people and they can't tolerate otherwise.
- Santa Claus is real and should stay real for children. You can't state otherwise, even if it's on a subway or a table filled with grown adults, or someone will get very offended.
- You can't put Christmas decorations up or else people who are not Christian will get offended and feel persecuted.
- We don't do presents in this company, no matter who wants to do it.
Why is it that we can't tolerate the fact that people have their own beliefs? Someone without a belief but enforces other people to give up their beliefs in their presence, that's a belief too.
That situation on the subway should be a two-fold compromise:
- Knowing that many people around me choose to weave this fantasy tale of an old man who reward children for being good and give coals for the bad ones, I should be more careful next time I talk about the idea of Santa Claus being a bad idea so I don't make kids cry. In this case, I respect your beliefs and values on how to raise children.
- If you choose to lie to your kids about the fact that Santa Claus exists, you should be prepared that your child might have to hear that Santa Claus is not real and not go telling every person in the world to shut up as soon as the topic of "Santa is not real" comes up. In this case, you respect my beliefs and values on how the world works.
Similarly, if you don't want to exchange presents, don't participate--don't stop others from doing it. And if you don't like Christmas decorations/Hannukah Candles/Chinese New Year stickers, should you really get offended if someone puts it up? I mind my business and you mind yours. I won't enforce my beliefs on you, don't enforce yours on mine.
Sometimes, you have two beliefs that clash. Some people might feel that if I put up Christmas decorations in the office, I am enforcing my belief on them (an example of course, since I am not Christian). I get that and this is where discussions happen. If you try to discuss these beliefs or values, these people will get offended and upset.
Why can't we discuss why you really want Christmas decorations or why Christmas decorations bother you? Why can't we discuss why Santa is important or not important to you?
I don't understand why there is no room for discussion.
Is tolerance for other people's beliefs, or even the discussion of other people's beliefs that hard?