Want to be a peace activist? Some holiday 'How-to's'
With the holidays upon us it is easier than ever to do peace and social justice work (two sides of one coin – can't really do one without the other) in your day to day life without getting arrested.
The holidays are a great time to start your subversive acts –- your acts of conscience that take back the holidays from the rampant commercialization that has all but consumed it, reduce stress and perform works that build the kin-dom (the human community) that the Gospels promise. You can even reduce the financial stress and save your budget.
First –- if you haven't already, boycott Black Friday. Buy nothing, stay home, read a book, write, invite a friend or friends to do something interactive -- crafts, games, host a salon on a philosophical, political or spiritual topic, host a pot luck dinner of leftovers from Thanksgiving.
There is a Facebook meme that captures the irony and idiocy of this day. “Only in America do we wait in line and trample others for sale items exactly one day after giving thanks for what we already have.”
With this year's national trashing of Thanksgiving by the big box retailers my dear friend, Edge Bagg, had this to say:
"Now that some of the national retail chains have decided that they are starting "Black Friday" at 8:00 p.m.Thanksgiving day, 'exactly one day' needs to be changed to 'a few hours'. I am afraid that next year Walmart et al. will be handing out turkey sandwiches and asking us to be thankful for what we are about to buy. I know that they are thankful for everything that we think that we must buy in order for us to feel thankful for what we have."
This man is a prophet. A reading of the front page story in The Daily Gazette's edition for Black Friday will confirm his observations.
I do like to gift my friends and family at this season to thank them for being in my life and putting up with me all year. Here are a few of my tactics for a counter culture Christmas.
If you feel like you have descended into the fifth circle of Dante's Inferno when you go to the malls or big box stores you are an exceptionally perceptive person because you indeed have. Don't go. You have a wonderfully viable alternative. When you do shop, shop local, shop the small businesses in your town or neighborhood. This includes local museums -– they often have unique items and need our support. And don't overlook church and non-profit organizations' holiday sales. They offer beautiful handmade items and your purchase will enable them to continue the good works that make our community a better place to live.
Eat at your locally owned, “mom 'n pop” sandwich shop or pizza parlor.
Third, look for products made locally -– consumables (things that do not end of in the landfills) are great. Homemade jam from the local farmer's market. A gift certificate to a local bakery. Locally produced maple syrup. The list goes is almost endless. There are also local craft cooperatives where local artisans sell great varieties of fantastic handmade goods. Most farmer's markets have gift certificates for purchase. In fact I received one from a neighbor when I took care of her cats for weekends one summer. It changed my life. I try to do my shopping there. I get to support my local farmer, save precious farm land from development and have fun chatting with friends and neighbors when I go.
According to Dr. Richard Shirey, retired Siena economics professor, buying local increases the local economy four-fold. And you're not helping some overpaid CEO purchase a private yacht, you're helping your neighbor afford a vacation.
Fourth: In a spiritual exercise of remembering to respect the planet and its finite resources, bring your own bags. Use less of our natural resources. In fact, one of the favorite gifts I have given to people are reusable shopping bags, made from recycled plastic bags you do get at stores. They are made by the people in the Camphill communities in Hudson and Copake, NY; these are intentional communities where people with and without disabilities live and work side by side. My friends and I get continuous compliments on ours. Each time I use them (I have three), when I use them I save a plastic bag for each. To learn more about the communities go to: www.camphillvillage.org/ and http://triform.org/
Speaking of using less, don't forget the local thrift shops. Get great bargains, go easy on the environment and support local charities all at once. My friends and family look forward to the incredible gifts I find for them at these places.
There are 12 days of Christmas -– not one. Don't blow all those good feelings of “peace on earth good will towards all” on on day. Spread out your gift exchange and gatherings. In fact, “Occupy Christmas” recommends buying gifts after Dec. 25. You'll save a fortune while extending the life of the holiday.
Finally recognize that the season is not all about spending money -– spend TIME with your family and friends and neighbors. Create wonderful memories for folks. Host a pot luck cookie night in your neighborhood. People are so hungry for a sense of community and belonging that they will be happy to be there. You don't even need to vacuum –- people will not notice nor care.
These acts of simplicity are a way to reclaim the Advent and Christmas season and in fact have always been the way to preserve ourselves and our sense of community.