Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reindeer games, Christmas, and civil rights

According to imdb.com, the much loved Christmas cartoon "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was first shown on December 6, 1964. You will recall that the other reindeer never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games because he had a red nose. Then, when it turns out that the scarlet snouted Cervid can guide Santa's sleigh through a blizzard, the other reindeer and the elves realize that they were wrong to have discriminated against Rudolph.

Interestingly enough, on December 14, 1964, just eight days after the Rudolph cartoon was first shown, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Civil Rights Act in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States 379 U.S. 241. So the week after America's kids first got the message that a deer shouldn't be judged by the color of his nose and not allowed to play in reindeer games because of it, the High Court endorsed Congress's reminder to adults that a human shouldn't be judged by the color of his skin and not allowed to stay in a hotel because of it.

I know the decision in Heart of Atlanta must have already been written, or at least written to the point where only finishing touches needed to be added, when Rudolph first aired that day in early December. But isn't it nice to imagine that perhaps one of the Justices might have watched the premiere of this animated feature with his children or grandchildren, thought about the important message the youngsters were being taught, and mused at how similar this all was to the great statement the Court was about to make?

And so, in their own way, in the span of two weeks "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States helped spread the Christmas message that we should all be good to each other. I hope you have the merriest Christmas ever!

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