Ranking up there with good cheer and the smell of evergreen, one of the holiday season’s many genuine pleasures is the now-annual ritual of watching the far right wax livid on the supposed “War on Christmas.”

With all but about 4 percent of Americans celebrating Christmas, and the carols and decorations now ubiquitous even before Thanksgiving, you’d think Yuletide celebrants could rest secure in their comfortably majoritarian status.

But a vocal handful of them just can’t, because right-wing cultural politics is all about stoking a perennial victim complex. Thus, Christmas must always be under siege. Take, for instance, the killjoys from the ACLU who enjoy booting the baby Jesus from public parks! The problem the right faces in attacking liberals on this sort of issue, though, is that huge numbers of Americans — even, and sometimes with particular fervor, people of faith — do think separation of church and state is a pretty good idea.

So the more promising raw material for the “War on Christmas” lament is stores like Best Buy, Sears and Crate & Barrel (and, until recently, poor old Wal-Mart, which, constantly attacked from both left and right, has caved to the right on this particular issue) which avoid the use of the word “Christmas” in advertisements, or encourage employees to wish customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” From Bill O’Reilly to William Donohue to John Gibson to the American Family Association, the nutters are forcefully mobilized against these outrages.

What I love about the “Merry Christmas” crusade is that it’s such a waste of right-wing time and energy. (Not that the left is immune to silly political performance art, of course — what else is Jesse Jackson’s call for a boycott of the “Seinfeld” DVD?)I hope it continues every year, distracting its ringleaders from their more menacing projects. But life in a democracy is about compromise and I’m more than happy to make a deal. If these bozos would agree to stop crusading against gay marriage, reproductive rights, stem cell research and rational sex education and immigration policies, I’d be delighted to hear Best Buy clerks say “Merry Christmas.” I’d even say it back.