The Chicago Tribune - November 13, 2015
"A private in the war on Christmas"
By David Martin
It was a gray November dawn as Sarge and I found ourselves manning the downtown barricades in the war on Christmas. I won't lie; I was scared, real scared, but Sarge was a grizzled veteran of this conflict and I trusted him to get me through this alive.
"It's only November, kid," he said. "So don't worry; the real battles haven't begun."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Don't be alarmed by the lack of Christmas decorations on the streets," he said. "It's still early. Hell, I remember a time when you didn't see Christmas stuff in the stores until December."
That set my mind at ease. Just because not all the stores had elves or angels or Christmas trees didn't mean the enemy was winning. Sarge assured me that it wouldn't be long before we heard nonstop Christmas music wherever we went.
"Look, kid," Sarge said. "I'm not saying you can ever let your guard down, but I wouldn't be too worried about some secular humanist springing a 'Happy Holidays' on you quite yet."
Just then, we turned the corner and Sarge pushed me toward the wall and yelled, "Get down! Incoming!”
Without thinking, I crouched down and raised my weapon just in time to see two enemy combatants, their arms loaded with trays of red coffee cups.
"Hold your fire," Sarge said. "They're crossing the street. Don't want to hit any innocents."
"What's happening, Sarge?" I said.
"Kid, you just saw your first action in the war on Christmas. Did you see those red coffee cups? Those were heathen holiday cups stripped bare of any signs of Christmas. No holly, no tinsel, no wreaths. Be careful; that means there's gotta be a secular coffee shop nearby."
Sarge was right, of course. Just around the corner was an innocent-looking Starbucks, a place a grunt like me might easily have walked into blindly.
"Just back up," Sarge said. "I've got you covered. Sometimes you have to retreat. That doesn't mean we're giving up. It just means we'll live to fight another day."
They say war is hell, but until you're right there on the battlefield facing down a phalanx of troops bearing anti-Christmas coffee cups, you can't really understand the fear that courses through your veins.
"It's horrible, Sarge," I said. "I've never seen anything like it."
"That's OK, kid. I've seen worse."
"Like what?" I said.
"Never mind, kid. I don't want to scare you. All I'm saying is I hope you never have to listen to seasonal songs or look at a holiday tree or watch a secular festive school play."
"I sure hope not, Sarge," I said, shaking with fear. "I sure hope not."
David Martin lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He is the author of "Screams & Whispers," a humor collection.