Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Trees At Sea-Tac

If you haven't heard the news... a rabbi threatened to sue the Sea-Tac airport if they didn't add a menorah to the holiday decorations at the airport. He didn't just say, "could you please add a menorah?", no, he threatened a lawsuit. The airport, understandably concerned, reacted by removing all holiday decorations... more than a dozen plastic trees with lights and ribbons. They did so because 1) they didn't have the staff or time to add a menorah and whatever else anybody requested this year and 2) the rabbi THREATENED TO SUE THEM.

This caused a sensation. People blamed liberal Seattle. People claimed the airport officials overreacted. The lawsuit-happy rabbi and his lawsuit happy attorney said, "no, no, this isn't what we wanted!" Well, no kidding. But what do you expect when you use a sledgehammer when a thumbtack would do?

In my view, the Port Authority took the right action with the information they had. The rabbi was at fault for waiting until the last minute to make his request, then threatening the airport. You can't expect a massive bureaucracy to move with such agility, nor can you expect them to not take the easiest action when threatened.

At least the story has a happy ending. The rabbi went back, explained himself better without threats, and the Port Authority put the trees back up. Next year's holiday display at Sea-Tac will attempt to reflect the cultures of all people who live in the area. Which is what should've happened, quietly and behind the scenes, in the first place. But you just can't expect a reasonable response if you start with an unreasonable attack ("do this or I sue!").

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