This year, my gifts to friends and family are getting political
The holidays are supposed to be the most magical time of the year, but for Americans in 2017, December has been filled with significantly more naughty than nice — to put it mildly. When you’re a young kid, it’s easy to get swept up in the festive spirit of a season that promises nothing but magic and wonder. But as an adult, the pressure of creating the perfect holiday coupled with the current state of our very divided nation makes it impossible to enjoy what is supposed to be the happiest season of all.
Part of me wants to spend the next few weeks burying my head in the branches of my Christmas tree and ignoring the daily assault of toxic news stories and shady government actions, but the other part of me — the part that has spent every day since January 21st, 2017 resisting — wants to use the holiday as an excuse to keep fighting back.
That’s why, to combat consumerism and bolster the true holiday spirit of kindness and charity, my gifts to family and friends are getting political this holiday season.
It’s 2017, after all, and ’tis the season for resistance.
When you are a child, the holidays are a truly magical time of year filled with delicious treats, fun stories, incredible gifts, and time off from your one real responsibility: school. As an adult, though, the month of December is synonymous with stress and anxiety over buying the right presents or planning the perfect party. The rampant consumerism that drives the season, from Black Friday all the way to New Year’s Day, has stripped the season of charity and goodwill.
Consumerism around Christmastime is nothing new, and neither are so many of the political and cultural issues currently dividing the United States. If Thanksgiving proved anything, it’s that even the holidays aren’t untouched by politics. Many Americans spent Thanksgiving dinner discussing race relations, sexual assault, and women’s reproductive rights across the table from loved ones who hold the exact opposite beliefs as they do. With the holiday season in full-swing, combined with a political system that feels more out of control every day, increased family conflict seems inevitable.
Just days after TIME magazine named The Silence Breakers as Person of the Year and lawmakers have resigned following accusations of sexual misconduct, it is clear that citizen activism works. But there are plenty more battles ahead and we need everyday activists on the frontline.
I want my friends and family know that, no matter what happens next, I will be by their side. I’m using their Christmas gifts to remind them.
For my older sister — a single mom since her teenage years who has devoted her life to her children and her career to helping others like her — I’m phone banking to protect Planned Parenthood.
For my father, who is older and relies on Medicaid programs for his health and wellbeing, I am sending letters to our state’s representatives demanding that, in 2018, the American health care system is protected. For my boyfriend’s father (whose political views could not be any more different from my own), I am donating money to MassVOTE, a non-profit in our state that promotes civic engagement across all parties.
Each of my loved ones — from my 7-year-old niece to my 73-year-old grandmother — has a stake in what is happening right now in American politics. I want them to know they have people on their side advocating for their needs and their rights. It is so easy to feel alone, helpless, and scared in the midst of all that is happening politically and culturally. My hope is that, by advocating for the people I care about, I can make those feelings a bit more bearable.
Instead of splurging for the most expensive video games or the newest Kitchenaid attachment, I want to gift my friends and family with meaningful — albeit less tangible — presents that can potentially make a real difference in their lives. They are getting a promise from me that, no matter what lies ahead, they don’t have to face it alone.