The Hideout

According to the VA website the Indiana Veterans’ Home is operated by the State of Indiana for the care of its veteran population. The Veteran’s Administration, VA clinics, and VA hospitals are run by the Federal Government.

We were at the Veteran’s Home in W. Lafayette IN on December 13 (the VA will honor my private neurologist’s order for tests, blood work, and brain MRI; just need to set up day and time.) In the cafeteria, I noticed an old man with a WWII cap. Most of the population housed there are old. There were a few Vietnam Vets. You can tell the live-in ones from those like me who are there for an appointment with the VA. I’m in my winter coat. The old guys are in their every-day wear. In exchange for a pretty good private room, meals and on-site medical treatment they hand over their bank accounts—Social Security, military retirement pensions, and veteran’s disability payments. And then they become inmates. If they have a spouse they get a larger room. I said to my wife, “Christ they give up their freedom!”

On the way back to my car I noticed this Christmas scene, the Nativity. Real bales of Indiana hay around colorful plastic figures. I thought, “a little tacky…the fake and the real…but a peaceful old scene, nice to see it…I bet those figures light up at night.” Then it hit me: this is on government property!


Last December Obama signed an executive order forbidding discrimination against the Muslims. There were to be no “offensive religious displays” on Federal Property including nativity scenes. So how in the hell is this Nativity scene standing? My guess is that it’s the old veterans who live here that got this scene up. And I doubt that anyone is about to protest. We don’t have a big Muslim population here; Lafayette religion is majority Catholic (35.58%) to 0.58% Islam. And no Father Sante Braggiè here who would take down these veterans’ Christmas religious display “because it could offend Muslims and atheists.”

Well, as a former Catholic, I’m with a FB friend who says he’s “a 100% confident Atheist. Still not afraid to call myself a Christian. I know a lot of good ones.” And I don’t know any good Muslims. I know my Catholic friends love their contradictions and will seek a contradiction in that. For that matter, some of my atheist friends will break their heads over it too. A clue to the solution is found in Ayn Rand’s answer to the question of whether it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas. She wrote:

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976

Indiana Veterans’ Home. Growing up we called it “Soldier’s Home”. Still do. (It was built in the 19th century to care for veterans of the Civil War.) If it gives the men there pleasure to have their Nativity scene, who would erect it? VA employees are forbidden – they’re Federal. Those plastic Nativity figures have been commercially available for a long time. Looking at their Nativity, I think again: these old veterans are ingenious. And they haven’t given up their freedom at all.

Merry Christmas!

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