Friday, November 26, 2004

All I Want for Xmas Is Fair and Verifiable Elections

So it’s black Friday, the day when retailers plan on making really big bucks selling people Xmas presents. Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our consumerist society and wondering to what extent the pervasive nature of consumerism may have influenced the recent election. Clearly, the fact that the news is now simply a way to sell product has harmed our society and, as Jon Stewart so eloquently explained to Tucker Carlson, the pitch to the lowest common denominator, where even political discourse is sold as a form of TV wrestling, has hurt America. Even war is sold to Americans as a product and, if the ad campaign constantly changes with new and different rationales for why we should buy this product, well, we’re all used to that from frequently-changing commercials for everything from heartburn medicine to SUVs. Do Americans really need or even want all the crap that they’ll buy over the next few weeks?

I’ve also been thinking about the role of protests in a situation such as the current one in America. I grew up on protest marches; my dad took me to some of the great Viet Nam war protests and just this past April I marched with friends and family in the March for Women’s Lives. Watching what’s been happening in Ukraine, I wonder why Americans haven’t taken to the streets, as well. And yet, I wonder if large protests are still effective in America. The March for Women’s Lives was huge -- over a million people. The protests at the Republican convention in NYC this summer were huge, too. Both got a fair amount of news coverage. Neither seemed to help -- Roe’s dead within the next year and Lame Duckie has proclaimed himself the winner of the election. Finally, I doubt Lame Duckie will allow much of any protest at his coronation -- protestors will be kept out for "security" reasons. If he didn’t need to allow protestors in when he was ostensibly running for re-election, he sure doesn’t need to allow them now.

So, if there’s a big protest march, I’ll be there, just because I like to put my body where it may do some good and be counted. But I also think we need to consider other ways to make our displeasure known. And that’s where economics come in.

I don’t know for sure if this last election was stolen, although I know what my gut tells me. This study certainly gives me pause. However, the point of this thread isn’t to restart the why-did-Kerry-concede-why-isn’t-Atrios-screaming-about-Diebold debate. Here’s what I do know for sure and think everyone can agree upon: it’s important for all Americans, including those whose candidate didn’t prevail, to be able to have faith that our elections are carried out fairly and honestly. And the current situation doesn’t allow us to have that faith. Instead, what we have is a patchwork of fallible systems that appears designed more for the purpose of allowing skullduggery than for the purpose of ensuring fair elections. And that, I believe, is worth an economic protest.

This year, I’m urging everyone I know to refuse to spend money for Xmas as a protest. Stay out of the stores. For Goddess sake, don’t run up credit card debt. Give your family and friends the gift of your time and attention rather than a new sweater that they won’t wear or some object to clutter-up an already over-cluttered life. But just not buying isn’t enough. You’ve got to contact the retailers and credit card companies and tell them: I’m not going to be buying Xmas stuff and I’m not going to be charging Xmas stuff until this country has a system in place that ensures fair and verifiable elections. Reader Kate has done the research and discovered that The National Retail Federation “is the world’s largest retail trade association . . . .” Write to Their Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, Katherine Lugar. Here’s her contact info:

National Retail Federation
325 7th Street, N.W.
Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 1-800-NRF-HOW2
Fax (202) 727-2849

Write to your credit card companies and tell them the same thing. You can find the address on the back of your latest bill. And, heck if you’re really angry about this last election, write to the large department stores that you patronize, or at least cc them on your letter to the National Retail Federation. CC your Senators and Congressman or Congresswoman as well.

Do it for my friend Arlo, who reminded us that there’s strength in numbers:

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may think it's a movement. And that's what it is, the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

And pass the idea on to everyone you know. Merry Xmas.

Thanks, Kate!