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Editorial cartoon (12/20/2017)

One of my wife Sandy's favorite Christmas stores is a place called Tannenbaum Holiday Shop just outside of Sister Bay in Door County.

On a trip there a few weeks ago she was blown away by the store's huge display of lavishly decorated "upside down" artificial Christmas trees. She found them an intriguing way to show off all those fancy ornaments, not to mention all the extra room they create to put presents under the tree.

Turns out this has been a trend that she's obviously missed the past several years. In fact, according to the Conde Nast Traveler, this year the trees have become a rage. Hotels, shopping malls and other places that erect trees at Christmastime have installed them all over the place. In addition, consumers have been buying them at major retailers like Target and paying as much as $1,000 for lighted ones.

But, wouldn't you know in these overly polarized times, Fox News would find something sinister about those upside-down trees. The network has turned the fad into yet another dissing of Christmas, a political anti-Christian statement by the horde of heathens in our midst.

It's akin, "Fox News and Friends" shouting-head hosts complain, to the awfulness of wishing people "Happy Holidays" instead of calling out "Merry Christmas" — a favorite topic of the arbitrator in chief of determining what really represents Christmas, Donald Trump. Christmas is a Christian holiday, the all-knowing polarizer says, and if Jews and Muslims or any others with a different religion don't like it, too bad.

Not to be outdone, the state Legislature's nastiest politician, Sen. Leah Vukmir, who just happens to be running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, thinks there's political hay to be made over the wishing of "Merry Christmas." She sent an op/ed around the state proclaiming how terrible it is — obviously a ploy by progressives and the "left-wing" media — that we're saying "Happy Holidays" instead. Don't know where she's coming up with that nonsense, but maybe she thinks creating a little division among the people might help her warped agenda.

Fox News' perennially outraged Pete Hegseth went to ask a Trump adviser, the notorious Corey Lewandowski, about the implication of these upside-down trees.

"It's like an upside-down world," Lewandowski pontificated. "It's like 'Seinfeld,' the bizarro world. Like you can be a U.S. senator after groping people on a picture and nobody has any accountability for it. Look, we have traditions in our country that many people respect that we should respect that we should pass on to our children. A Christmas tree is one of those traditions."

He added that the Trump family will not be turning their tree upside down.

Lewandowski, ironically, is unaware that the upside-down tree had its origins in Poland and other central and eastern European countries. According to historic accounts, the pagans who had been converted to Christianity began to view the fir tree as God's Trinity tree. By the 12th century, it was being hung upside down from ceilings at Christmastime in central and eastern Europe as a symbol of Christianity and God the son becoming a man, because it resembled the shape of Christ being crucified.

But why consider the origins when you can turn it into a divisive political controversy instead?

It was fun seeing Donald Trump, on yet another of his campaign-like speeches earlier this month, pat himself on the back for forcing the country to forgo political correctness and proclaim "Merry Christmas" again, as if people had quit doing that.

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Perhaps it's those who see something nefarious in an upside-down tree who themselves are trying to be politically correct, Donald-Trump style.

As for me, I wish all my Christian readers a very Merry Christmas and to my Jewish and Muslim and, yes, atheist friends, Happy Holidays.

But I am putting my foot down on the upside-down tree. I have trouble keeping a right-side- up tree from falling down.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.