Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tis' the Season...

Tis' the season of conspicuous consumption; Black Friday is just around the corner. United States shoppers will spend ten BILLION dollars in the next 32 days.

Just as the Occupy Movement has changed our conversation about the distribution of wealth, it changed my feelings about the holidays. My daughters and I have not exchanged gifts for many years. We believe our gift to one another is the time we spend together. Not that we are all that altruistic; it was a matter of finances that first led us to the decision to not give gifts. Once we did it, we realized that the holidays had less pressure and more of the good stuff we liked.

Now that we have a nearly four yr. old granddaughter whom we adore, we had to re-think our non-gift-giving tradition. That is until we saw the bounty of her first Christmas. The outpouring of love in the forms of gifts from mom, dad, auntie and grandparents was so overwhelming that gifts from Santa were lost in the pile. So we decided that the delayed gratification of a savings account in her name would be better than things that went blinkie-blinkie. I got savings bonds as a kid and did not appreciate them one bit; until I was able to use that lump of cash for the down payment of my first home. We can wait for her to feel the same.

Back to the Occupy Movement

The official unemployment rate is hanging around 9%. However, when the underemployed and the discouraged are added to the numbers, the unemployment rate rises to 16.6% according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the Labor Department. I cannot prove it, but that number probably does not include working aged adults with disabilities who say they want to work; their unemployment rate is nearly 70%.

Banks and Mortgages companies have foreclosed on two and one third million homes since 2007; and the numbers continue to grow. At the same times they amass record profits. Big money buys politicians big and small.

The Occupy Movement was born because of these inequities of wealth and poverty, of disenfranchisement and moneyed influence. Michael and I got involved with Occupy Springfield, IL. The group shook me from my lulled sense that I have done my justice work and it was someone else’s turn. We cannot change the corporate/congressional unholy marriage, unless we ALL take a stand. And that includes thinking about what you are buying, where it came from, who made it, and if it perpetuates the disparities in this country.

So, before you begin to check items off your holiday list, let me make a few suggestions:

  • If you have to buy something, think about buying “Made in America”.
  • Buy locally: Pottery or glasswork from a local art alliance; theater tickets to a local production; gift certificates at a neighborhood restaurant.
  • Make a donation in a loved-ones name to a PAC that wants to change the status quo.
  • Plant a tree in someone’s name.
  • If you are young and spry, clean a relative’s gutters, paint a room, buy seed packets and attach a note saying you will be there in the spring to plant them.
  • Make a donation to the Heifer Project. It is a wonderful program working to end hunger in third world nations, and
  • Be creative. Think of something yourself, and post it below so we can all benefit from your ideas.

Let’s not skip though this season without thinking of the environment we in which we currently find ourselves. Let’s be more socially aware and make our gifts reflect our commitment to “the least of us” rather than the corporate giants who caused this current crisis.

Lastly, I will make a shameless pitch for the occupy movement. As of Nov. 23, 2011, at least 4,180 documented arrests in 61 cities. Make a donation to a bail bond fund.

Happy Holidays!