NORAD's Santa escort sparks odd controversy

The Gazette editorial Published: December 19, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Anti-American, anti-Christian aggressors would stop open celebrations of Christmas if it weren't for North American military might.

Radical members of some other cultures hate North America. They hate our tolerance of people with diverse sexual orientations. They hate North American religious and ethnic diversity. They hate liberation of women. Mostly, they hate our free-market, capitalistic proclivities that make this season a time of buying, selling, giving and receiving. The loathing of American values and traditions has led to attacks of Sept. 11, the Cuban missile crisis, Pearl Harbor and an assortment of modern terrorist assaults.

For those reasons and more, American, Canadian and Mexican children should view North American fighter jets with respect and admiration. They protect those of us fortunate enough to live in freedom and abundance.

We doubt all the above bravado had anything to do with a decision by the North American Aerospace Defense Command to feature two Canadian CF-18s alongside Santa's sleigh for this year's "NORAD Tracks Santa" trailer video. More likely, NORAD commanders just wanted to create more fun for kids.

Proving that nothing can be immune from political drama, the trailer has become the topic of bipartisan angst. The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood complains the video attaches violence and militarism to the otherwise innocent tradition of Santa delivering gifts around the glob. It's not just anti-military peace activists who are adding momentum to this concern. Denver's lead afternoon drive-time radio host Michael Brown - a conservative Republican and former member of the George W. Bush administration - spent at least one recent afternoon blasting NORAD for injecting government into Christmas. Come on, Brownie. It's not as if NORAD established a new entitlement program, with drones replacing the delivery work of Santa and his reindeer. Geesh.

All these critics should take a few deep breaths and understand that NORAD merely wants to treat Santa as government treats a head of state. Besides, Gazette military writer Tom Roeder - a man who knows a thing or two about military tactics - did a bunch of complicated math to find out how fast Santa travels to reach the world's children in one short night. He determined the sleigh travels an average of 331,439 mph, 20 times the speed of a satellite, and The Gazette's editorial board considers this estimation a bit conservative. Whatever the speed, it makes CF-18s seem like slugs. Therefore, Roeder concludes, Santa is complicit. He must slow his sleigh to a relative crawl for NORAD's escort to keep up. And no hostile fire could possibly catch him. In other words, it's all for show.

NORAD, a U.S.-Canadian operation based at Peterson Air Force Base, began tracking Santa in 1955 as the result of a mistake. A newspaper ad invited kids to call and talk to Santa, but a typo resulted in publication of NORAD's number. Children flooded the base with calls and base brass decided they probably should play a role in Christmas. The annual tracking of Santa was born.

The Santa tracking mission, which can be viewed live on the Internet each Christmas Eve, drew more than 114,000 calls last year. The program has more than 1.2 million Facebook friends and nearly 130,000 Twitter followers. We thank NORAD for keeping track of Santa, and for trying to keep him safe. Good luck keeping up.

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