The Politics of Holidays

by Chris Dasan Ahanu Massenburg | December 25, 2014 10:07 am

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go; take a look at the five and ten, glistening once again with candy canes and silver lanes aglow…”

-Robert Meredith Wilson

The holiday season is upon us. There are gleeful songs waiting to be sung and holiday television shows to be watched. There are decorations across yards and throughout malls. There are recipes being dusted off for the family gathering. The allure of seasonal clothing has made our family members make sketchy decisions. Parking lots are full of cars. Stores are full of people. ‘Tis the time when everyone shops with fierce determination and will. But amidst the candy canes and stories of reindeer, the politics of the moment refuses to be outdone or forgotten! It seems that party lines and class conflicts have been as prevalent of a conversation as stockings and Santa.

So, it is with both the state of our country and the state of my wallet that I set off to try and fulfill Christmas wishes. As I shopped, I was struck with a peculiar notion: Is our Congress and its bipartisan base just wondrous retailers? This was the year of the midterm elections, which allowed for public opinion and political pandering to mirror a holiday shopping experience. The tags on our ideals and values as Americans were printed with “original” prices that seemed unobtainable. Health care costs, inflation, and unemployment rates were big-ticket items laid nicely on racks in large-scale retail outlets like Fox News. There were wonderful sales associates with “truth” on their nametags ready to influence which statistics we paid attention to. They offered “suggested retail prices” that were no more than an attempt to spook the middle class, line the pockets of the upper class, and divide the working class with promises of deals that aren’t real.

One such tag was that of economic growth. It is said that poverty should be impacted positively in a period of economic recovery, but from 2012 to 2013, the US Census Bureau reports that median income and the amount of people in poverty were not statistically different. And even though the poverty rate has decreased from 2012 to 2013, there has been little change in other markers. There seems to be stagnant income. If the economy is in recovery, but the median income and amount of people in poverty isn’t really changing, then who is benefitting from this growth? Much like retail stores during the holidays, it seems that the same few victors are getting the spoils and we are buying overpriced politics with no new disposable income!

As holiday planning comes to an end and new resolutions are being made, we will continue to be inundated with political opinions on the recent rush to approve the federal budget for the coming year. With the memory of last year’s shutdown still lingering like the ghost of Christmas past, we listened to political pundits argue our priorities. Like the ghosts of Christmas future, we are presented with the impending transition to republican control of the House and Senate. It all serves to remind us what a tumultuous year this has been. And as hard as it may seem, we must not discount our values or allow “compare to” pricing rhetoric make conservativism seem like a good deal for working people. Slashing our budget with Grinch-like resiliency will surely mean cuts in governmental programs and unemployment benefits—programs that were designed to stabilize the income of families who have not been able to find work or whose labor is inadequately compensated.

As I ponder this season, I guess I’ll decide on the best wrapping paper for these gifts, pick up a little eggnog on the way home and continue to watch the season’s cast of characters play their roles: the Grinch, the Scrooge, and the people of Whoville who just want some cheer…yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go…

Photo credit: Flipsy – flickr.com/flipsy

Chris Dasan Ahanu Massenburg

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