A Progressive’s Guide to Christmas

Thanksgiving Day used to be a holiday, not just another day at the mall. I’ll add that to my list of things for
which I’m not grateful. The holiday season is when one is supposed to feel cheerful, charitable, and optimistic. Bugger that! I’m ready for a mass burning of Obama “Hope” posters and I’m in full Blue State Revenge mode. Progressives need to spend their holiday time and money as if politics matter. Each year I post on ways people can opt out of a crass capitalist Christmas, but this year I want to expand my reach.

Here’s a looming national fact:  Solid blue states are way more prosperous than the scarlet red ones. Let’s keep it that way. Here are some ideas.

Have a Blue (State) Christmas

Stop economically greasing reactionaries. “Buy Local” has become a cliché, but it remains a great idea. Do it. That doesn’t mean shopping at a Walmart near you. Buy fewer things and pay a bit more for them by purchasing them from independent merchants. If you must buy from a big store—or if you’re not lucky enough to live in a place that still has a downtown—buy from a corporation with higher ethical standards. Target makes that list; Walmart doesn’t. Check to see where the corporate headquarters is located for all products under consideration. Dell is cited as an ethical company, but its HQ is in regressive Texas, so let those laptops gather dust on the shelves.

You can Google—an ethical company located in blue California—a list of ethical companies. Levis have fallen off the list, but Oshkosh is on it. So is H & M, toymaker Hasbro, and cosmetics purveyor L’Oreal. That’s a good start. You can buy developing world handicrafts from Ten Thousand Villages. Amazon is not ethical, so buy your stuff directly from the manufacturers if you must shop online. Don’t get lazy and click on Amazon because it’s convenient.

The best way to make sure your money stays blue is to buy from local artists, crafters, musicians, and restaurateurs: original art, unique handmade items, CDs (or vinyl) instead of downloads, and gift coupons.

Music that Matters:

Folks think about music during the holidays, whether it’s to purchase it as a gift, or to enjoy as a pastime. If you’d rather have giant corks surgically implanted in your cochlea than hear a single bar of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Little Town of Bethlehem,” there are alternatives. See if you can locate Nowell Sing We Clear recordings to enjoy old English carols you’ve seldom heard. Maddy Prior has similar projects. There’s a brand new release from the incomparable Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem [sic] titled Wintersong that’s holiday music with an old-timey/bluegrass flair. Generally, albums promoting themselves as midwinter offerings are less generic and offer either self-penned or rarely heard offerings.

As for gift-giving and concert-going, once again check out the politics of the performer and the location of their label. I’m swearing off Nashville and Austin music until Texas and Tennessee join the modern world, though I’ll make exceptions for known progressives like Emmylou, Patty Griffin, Sheryl Crow, and Brandy Clark. A Google search usually unveils a performer’s politics. Alas, you can generally assume any white country male not named Willie, Garth, Steve (Earle), or Tim (McGraw) is a jerk, as are nearly all metal bands.

Travel in Blue Circles:

I have relatives in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and dear friends in Texas, Florida, and Arizona. Sorry, but I will not be coming to visit. I’m not going to spend my cash in your states. I know it’s not your fault, but I’m not going to empurple your red state treasury with my blue dollars.

Progressives have to start thinking like this. Need a warm winter beach? Don’t go to Florida. Either spring for a trip to Hawaii, or jet off to a Caribbean island (preferably not a U.S. possession). If the plane lands in Atlanta for an equipment change, don’t buy anything at the airport as you wait. Does your firm want to send you to a conference in Orlando or Charleston? Beg off. It’s worth having a discussion about whether conference states are consistent with your firm’s ethical standards. Many companies already eschew North Carolina, for instance, because of its discriminatory practices toward transgender people.

Apply the same standards when traveling abroad: yes to Scotland and Ireland, but no to xenophobic England. No to India until it adopts environmental standards higher than those found in a sulfuric acid pit; and no to Muslim nations whose views of women are straight out of the 10th century.

Root for the Home Team (unless it’s staffed with Good Old Boys):

What are the holidays without wall-to-wall sports? A lot of friends tell me that sports and politics can be separated. Bullshit! Tell that to Colin Kaepernick. No, you don’t get a free pass because a horse’s patootie is wearing a blue state jersey. If you root for Tom Brady or turn the other cheek for Curt Schilling, you’re metaphorically sleeping with the enemy. If you are outraged by Kaepernick but sing the praises of Bill Belicheck, your morals are shaky. Ditto if you applaud Harvard’s suspension of its men’s soccer program but think it’s fine that Penn State still has a football program. Another blogger suggested that progressives should be on the safe side and follow hockey because it’s dominated by Canadians and Europeans. Not a bad idea.  

Be a Values Celebrator:

It boils down to what you say versus what you do. Do you care about working people? Don’t shop on Thanksgiving. Are your politics something you treasure, or do you just talk about them? If they matter, celebrate by not cheapening them in the name of expediency.

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