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Who owns Christmas? Plus two more columns

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, December 12, 2005

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“Just one column, D.G. Please. One a week is about all our readers will put up with.”

This is what my editors tell me when I have more than one column idea in mind, as I do this week.

So, thanks to my tough-minded editors, you will just get a summary of the three columns I wanted to write.

First, who owns Christmas?

Some religious and political leaders are criticizing the use of terms like “holiday” and “season’s greetings” when they are used in place of “Christmas” in advertising and greeting cards. They urge us to boycott businesses that don’t use “Christmas” in their holiday ads.

What if I owned the “Christmas” trademark, like Disney owns “Mickey Mouse” and Coca-Cola owns “Coke”? What if people had to come to me to get approval to use the term in their advertisements and greeting cards?

I would limit the use of the Christmas trademark to matters that related to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I would reject all commercial “exploitation” of the term.

If somebody asked for permission to use the term “Christmas” in an advertisement for expensive consumer goods, I would tell them, “No way!”

The second column would be on the joys of colorful language. Charlotte Observer Editor Jack Betts wrote recently that a certain political situation is “the kind of thing that makes a Duplin County hog farm in August smell sweet by comparison.”

I wondered if anyone could top that example of fresh North Carolina speech and writing.

Betts’s Observer colleague, Ed Williams, caught my attention with the following: “A friend who'd recently heard a speaker make dire predictions about the future of newspapers wondered why I wasn't abandoning this sinking ship. Why don't you get a job with a future, like teaching journalism at Chapel Hill, he asked -- jokingly, I think.”

Speaking of the university, the John Locke Foundation’s John Hood recently commented on John Edwards’ position at its law school, referring to UNC as “University for Nesting Candidates.”

Bernie Reeves, editor of Metro Magazine, called a prominent political figure “a watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside” meaning to suggest, I think, that he was a green environmentalist on the outside, but a red socialist on the inside.

Governor Mike Easley, in vetoing a law passed by the General Assembly said, “I call these lipstick-on-a-pig pieces of legislation.”

I appreciate these efforts to liven up the political dialogue, even when I disagree with the points that are made.

So, keep an eye out for more examples and share them with me at If I collect enough of them, they will make for another good column.

Finally, what do the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) and the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry (NCCBI) have in common?

Nothing, you might say. NCCBI is the state’s largest and most influential business group, while SEANC is the closest thing the law allows to a union for state employees.

But NCCBI may have taken a cue from SEANC in its approach to North Carolina government. Several years ago the membership of SEANC grew impatient with its staff’s “too soft, too friendly” relations with the governor and legislative leaders. They got a more confrontational leader, Dana Cope, who has not been afraid to try to defeat political leaders who do not support “fair treatment” for state employees.

Insiders disagree about the success of SEANC’s new approach. Some say the confrontation was necessary and is working. Others say that a quiet, non-inflammatory, insider approach would serve SEANC better.

Some insiders say that NCCBI is going to follow SEANC’s lead. Phil Kirk, the consummate quiet insider, is stepping down as NCCBI’s president. Kirk developed an open door to every government door by his “let’s work together” approach. His connections and reputation gave business interests a way to have a say in almost every governmental decision that affected them.

But some business leaders wanted more confrontational leadership on issues like lower taxes and government regulation.

Next year, we will see whether NCCBI new leadership adopts SEANC’s confrontational approach or continues Phil Kirk’s “insider” approach.

And next week, it will be just one column again.


D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week’s (December 18) guest is Randall Kenan, author of “Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century,” in which Kenan raising and tries to find an answer to the question, “What does it mean to be black in America today?”

Upcoming NC Bookwatch programs, all at 5pm, Sundays on UNC-TV:
Dec 18 Randall Kenan Walking On Water
Dec 25 Ann B. Ross Miss Julia’s School of Beauty
Jan 1 Lawrence Earley Looking for Longleaf
Jan 8 Peter Perret A Well Tempered Mind
Jan 15 Timothy Tyson Blood Done Sign My Name

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Who owns Christmas? Plus two more columns

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