Friday, November 27, 2009

The Reason For The Season

'Tis the season for re-posting my annual updated anti-Black Friday post.....

Malls across the country began decking the halls 2 months ago, and had Santa's train installed just as the last back to school sales were ending. I know it's cliche at this point to feel nostalgic for the days when the holy season of giving gently revealed itself shortly after Thanksgiving. Today, a 5am scuffle in the line outside of Best Buy on Black Friday merely marks the halfway point in the season of stress and artifice.

Again, this year, I'm committing to honoring the reason for the season - the winter solstice - and celebrating this beautiful time of year by spending quality time with the people that I love, and sharing meaningful socially-conscious gifts instead of spending time fighting the crowds, so I can check people off my list with cheap plastic crap from Walmart and iPod iPhone accessories.

Of course, this year, there will most likely be less in the way of shopping hordes, thanks to the collapse of the trickle-down economy, and that only means that every dollar you spend will have more power to bring about a better world. This season, each holiday gift that you purchase, will have an impact. Amidst all of the news of frozen credit and layoffs and golden parachutes, is the opportunity to help build our communities, bring about more peace, and protect the world around us, just by putting a little thought and a little heart into where we place our dollar power. 

So, for the like minded, here are a few ideas...

World Wildlife Fund
Abundant Earth
Care2: Shop and Help the Planet
Defenders of Wildlife
The Sierra Club
The Nature Conservancy
E-House Eco-Friendly Gifts
The Jane Goodall Institute Store
Zappos Eco-Friendly and Vegetarian Shoes
Equita Essentials for Ethical Living

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The Human Rights Campaign Fund - Designer Tees
The United Church of Christ
Atlanta Pride
Persad Center
The Ali Forney Center
Immigration Equality
Outspoken Clothing
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Margaret Cho Shop
Kathy Griffin
Ellen Shop
Ani DiFranco
Ari Gold
Outwrite Books
TLA Video
Logo Television Shop

The November Coalition
The Center For Cognitive Liberty and Ethics
The Drug Policy Alliance
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
NORML Holiday Gifts

Betty Bowers Gifts
UTNE Magazine
Syracuse Cultural Workers Gifts
American Humanist Association
Unity on the Bay
Darwin Fish Stocking Stuffers
National Public Radio Shop
The Quakers
Amnesty International Gift Shop
People for the American Way
Mother Jones

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
AIDS Memorial Quilt
Artists for a New South Africa
Pets are Loving Support Atlanta
Susan G. Komen Promise Shop

The Humane Society
PETA Shopping Mall
Adopt a Manatee
National Audubon Society
The Orangutan Foundation

Kenneth Treacy
Eric Chismar Photography
The Mattress Factory
The High Museum of Art
The Warhol Museum
Clyde Butcher Photography
Corey Barksdale
Cecile Broz
Carnegie Museum of Art
Salvador Dali Museum

Betty Bowers
Tools for Change Holiday Cards
Recycled Cards That Grow

Have a Peaceful, Stress-Free and Meaningful Holiday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Left Side Of History

Every day, all day long, the media presents us with "political discussions", where one discusser defends the liberal point of view and one pushes the conservative perspective.  As pundit show ratings soar, and newspapers close up shop, the conservative versus liberal political cage matches are aired 24 hours a day, and applied to absolutely every topic imaginable.  As long as we have a conservative and a liberal fighting about something - we have a show.  And, of course, to fit the profitable format - every topic, no matter what,  must have both points of view.  In a discussion of Newton's Theory of Gravity, we would near certainly be presented with a liberal "in favor" of gravity - and a traditional conservative arguing against the controversial theory citing research by Focus on the Family that debunks everything Sir Newton ever said. 

And this liberal versus conservative "political discussion" format will always benefit the conservatives.  Of couse, there are a few success stories on the liberal side of this dangerous political battle - Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and to a degree, Chris Matthews. 

But, the underlying problem is the most basic nature of liberal and conservative minds.  The very basis of liberalism is academic discussion and investigating different points of view.  Liberals, by their very nature, want to hear and accommodate others' points of view.  Conservatives, on the other hand, have no interest in hearing any point of view that differs from tradition.  This leaves liberals holding the political discussion bag.  While liberals seek to understand, conservatives seek to control.  Liberals agree to have the discussion about whether the gravity is real, or not, because it's only fair to listen to others' point of views. And the liberal guest will point out centuries of scientific research that has supported Newton's ideas, and the conservative will argue that Newton was against God, and that if we teach the Laws of Physics in schools, it will make the children homosexual socialist abortionists.  And, both viewpoints will be treated as equally valid by the show's host**, and too many Americans will go to sleep that night thinking that these are just two reasonable, competing points of view. 

I bring this up after a discussion with my friend, Jason.  We were talking about health care and how absurd it is that conservatives have been able to control the debate so well.  How is it that this summer's town hall meetings were filled with people fired up against government run healthcare - while demanding that Obama and his liberal army not touch Medicare?  And, how did this America-hating, secessionist, secessionist, anti-government movement come to be and where was it when Bush was running up the biggest deficit in history on two wars and tax cuts for the richest one percent?  And, how did conservatives succeed in making liberal, and progressive, bad words - especially given the heritage of conservatism in this country?

Without writing a dissertation, I just want to look at the histories of the two main schools of American political thought.  It's probably necessary to start with some definitions...

1.  Conservative - tending, or disposed, to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions; to limit change; cautious, moderate, tending to preserve the status quo. 

2.  Liberal - favorable to progress or reform; open-minded or tolerant; free of, or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas or values; progressive, broad-minded, tolerant.

It's ironic that the self-proclaimed conservatives of Glenn Beck's teabagger movement so heavily lean on symbols of the American Revolution, when so many of the ideas of the founding fathers were so radically liberal.  The American Revolutionaries weren't tradition-loving Christianists.  They were freedom-seeking secularists.  They fought and died for radically forward-thinking ideas - ideas that laid the framework for future generations to work towards a society that recognized the equality of each of its citizens.  

Of course, it's difficult to neatly fit any of the founders into today's well-defined political camps, but make no mistake - if Thomas Paine, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were alive today, they certainly wouldn't tune in to the corporate loyalists on Fox News, and they'd want nothing to do with Glenn Beck or Michael Savage.   

The great American revolutionaries were products of the Enlightenment, and they wrote down their radically enlightened, radically liberal ideas as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.  And, not once does either of these brilliantly conceived documents mention a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles, no matter how many times Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly say otherwise. 

Real homegrown American conservatism found its first home in the White House during Andrew Jackson's years as President.  Andrew Jackson dismantled the federal banking system, which caused an economic collapse known as the Panic of 1837.  He stood strongly for keeping Africans enslaved and terrorized, and he was well-known for his attempts to exterminate each and every Native American from the continent.  "Old Hickory," as he was known, is now honored for his genocidal forays, by having his image engraved on the $20 bill, and I'm sure Ann Coulter has a painting of him somewhere in her lair.     

From the early days of the Union through the Civil War and through the  20th Century, conservatives fought to keep Africans enslaved, committed genocide on American's native inhabitants, fought against women's suffrage, stood strong against the New Deal policies, blacklisted movie actors "suspected" of Communism, fought to keep African-Americans separate and unequal, were disgusted by flower children, squandered nearly 60,000 young American lives in Viet Nam, made the Watergate Hotel infamous, sold weapons to terrorists in Central America, implemented "trickle-down" economics, and spent millions of our dollars in an creepily obsessive attempt to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blow-job.  

American Conservatism owes its history to the work of Andrew Jackson, generations of slave owners and Confederates, the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy,  George C. Wallace and Bull Connor, Richard Nixon, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Jesse Helms and David Duke.  It is a history of violence, domination, oppression and genocide. 

And, while conservatives were building their hateful history, liberals were gathering as abolitionists and unionists and suffragists, constructing the Underground Railroad and putting Americans to work through the New Deal policies.  Liberals rebelled against the unnecessary Viet Nam War, crafted the Social Security and Medicare systems, and stood strong against police fire hoses and dogs in Alabama.   And, without liberals there would be no consumer protections, labor rights or civil rights.  Liberals are still educating against racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia, and fighting to save our planet from the short-sightedness of conservatism.

Today, the conservative movement is completely centered around making sure that faggots and lezzies can't marry each other, and shooting dirty Mexicans in the desert.  The conservative movement has always been about keeping very distinct social classes and using violence and intimidation as regulation, and the conservative voices of today - Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and their ilk - are well-versed in using fear of the other to rally their tea-bagging troops.  

So, just how is it, that conservatives have managed to nearly succeed in making "liberal" a bad word in American politics?  I cannot for a minute understand why any thinking and loving person would want to associate themselves with the historic agenda of conservatism.  

On good days, I think it's just a matter of lack of education, media manipulation and fear-mongering.  On other days, my heart breaks wondering if it's just that nearly half of us are just hateful, racist, homophobic, unkind bullies.