Two years ago, the Bar Harbor Town Council granted a two-year lease in a park overlooking the harbor to establish a continuously lighted Christmas tree as a veterans memorial. Last month, the council terminated the lease and required the lights and accompanying plaque to be removed, thereby incurring the Wrath of O’Reilly.
Why the heck make a veterans memorial out of a Christmas tree in the first place?
That was the brainchild of Wreaths Across America (WAA), a Maine non-profit devoted to placing its merchandise wherever veterans are buried. WAA proposed to decorate the Agamont Park balsam fir as a one-off to honor service personnel who couldn’t be home for the holidays — at the instance of a board member who missed Christmas because he was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
It’s not clear that anyone in Bar Harbor thought this was a great idea, and there were some who thought it totally wasn’t. Council president Ruth Eveland, who directs the town library, told the Bangor Daily News that she voted with the majority because “I don’t believe a Christmas tree is a universal symbol.” The tree was “too complicated a symbolism,” she said, and was “not meaningful” to some, including veterans. “I even heard it from people who said they were Christians.”
And it wasn’t as if Bar Harbor needed a veterans’ memorial, since there already was one a few blocks up Main Street on the town green.
Of course, this didn’t prevent Bill O’Reilly from sending a Fox News swat team to last week’s town council meeting. “You guys might be in a little bit of trouble,” smirked producer Jesse Watters when given his chance to speak during the open comment period. “So we’re just going to try to straighten some things out here.” [Update: the complete footage of Watters’ appearance has been taken down; here is a shorter clip and here is what the O’Reilly Factor aired.]
Doing his best Roland Hedley imitation, Watters then tweeted, “In bar harbor Maine now fighting the war on Christmas, absolutely stunning town council meeting I just crashed, wait till you see this one!” Stunning, that is, if you’re stunned by big city boy condescension.
As it happens, WAA has learned from Jewish veterans organizations not to place wreaths on the graves of Jewish vets in Arlington National Cemetery. So here’s another learning: Just because a stand-alone Christmas tree is constitutionally permissible on public land doesn’t mean that one ought to be employed to honor all veterans. Is that too complicated a concept for O’Reilly, Watters & Company Fox?