Yesterday you cooked your turkeys and baked your pies and, if you were in my family, apparently had a mimosa (I'm bummed I missed out). You've also probably worked your way through about one eighth of your leftovers today and possibly fought hundred or thousands of other people for good deals on presents to give to your loved ones, so the Christmas season is now upon us!
I'm writing this blog post as I continue to procrastinate the novel I'm supposed to be finishing in the next three days. (HA. In case you were wondering, I've written 28,000/50,000 words. So, more than halfway, but not anywhere near completion. We'll see how far I end up getting...)
I'm house/cat-sitting for my boss Gretchen tonight, and as I sat here in a completely silent house in an attempt to do some writing (Not actually an ideal writing situation for me. As an extrovert, it's a lot harder for me to get things done when I'm alone in a silent place. Go figure.) I decided that I needed a Christmas music playlist.
Now, my absolute favorite Christmas songs are from this band called Beta Radio that I discovered completely by chance through their NoiseTrade.com free downloads. Each year for the past four years they've put out a free EP of Christmas music. This year they recorded the last edition and you can buy the entire album on iTunes, so you should totally go do that if you at all like folk music and Christmas songs. They're fantastic.
**Warning: this post will get rant-y. If you want to enjoy this holiday season without feeling convicted about consumerism, stop reading now. I won't judge you. I'll maybe be a little disappointed, but I'll understand. You can even click the play button on that song and enjoy that first. It's all very happy for a couple more paragraphs. But after that, all bets are off. Although, I will say, I have a very important message about it all if you keep reading.
Anyway, the first song that came on was "O Holy Night". This song gets me every time. Call me predictable. It's not even my favorite Christmas song (I usually go with "The Little Drummer Boy" or sometimes "O Come O Come Emmanuel") and it never comes to mind when I think of Christmas songs I like. But every time I listen to it, there's that one stanza. Can you guess the one? Here's the song, have a listen. I'll wait.
I'll help you out. It starts "Truly, He told us to love one another/ His law is love and His gospel is peace." Now, that's really beautiful to think about. Love and peace. How nice and Christmas-y, right? I completely agree. But those aren't the lines that get me. It's the next:
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Because, like, that's what Christmas is really about. Not presents, not family time (as awful as that sounds. Because I do love my family and spending time with them.), but about Jesus. A guy whose purpose here was to set us free. All of us. To save us. And yet, it is 2015 and guess what? Lots of people in this world aren't free.
I'm not even going to touch the direct violence we inflict on each other that impedes the whole world peace thing. Paris, Palestine, Beirut, whatever place you care about that has been attacked recently--I'm not even talking about peace and love for those people. Pray for Paris if you want, don't pray for Paris if you don't want. I don't really care whom you pray for. Obviously, peace in those places would be awesome. But that's not why this song gets to me.
I'm also not even going to touch the oppression that's here in our "civilized" and "free" country. Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, right here in Minneapolis, people are protesting because police brutality is completely racist and nobody has really spoken up about it, like, ever. The Black Lives Matter movement is nauseating because why the hell do we have to have a movement to remind people that other people are people? That's sick. That's really and truly sickening. But I'm not even talking about that either.
It's the slavery thing, guys. It is 2015 and -SURPRISE- there's still slavery in this world. Lots of it, in fact. Did you know that? I won't fault you if you didn't; lots of people don't know that. It's kind of sad, particularly since slavery is the biggest industry in the world. Does that blow your mind or what?? You probably thought it was cars or gasoline or alcohol or illegal drugs or something fun and exciting like that. But nope, it's humans.
Some of that, probably a majority, is sex workers. And don't think that people choose to get into sex work. Because they really don't. Even the people who are doing it "by choice" in America probably started because they felt it was their only option. But in other countries (actually, it also happens in America, just less often) very young girls are taken from their families, or given away by their families, or even- god forbid- sold by their families into the sex industry. Barf. And then there's little to nothing they can do to save themselves once they are there.
But some of the slavery is just plain old slavery. None of us are surprised that the crappy toys stamped with "made in china" are probably made in sweat shops. But have you thought about where your food comes from? Coffee is a big one-- most coffee is grown by people who can't afford to feed themselves. Or makeup. Forget animal testing-- did you know that the sparkles in most of our makeup (eyeshadow, lipstick, nailpolish, etc.) come from mica that is mined by small children who are barely paid for it and who are actually risking their lives to fit in the dangerous caves where it can be harvested? Cool. And I'm totally guilty of wearing/using/consuming it, too.
People are forcing other people to make the random shit we're buying each other for Christmas without even paying them. If you don't know who made it, chances are a slave did. Or, at the very best, someone working in conditions and for pay that are very nearly slavery, even if they are technically being paid. Merry freaking Christmas, everyone.
I didn't actually set out to write an angry rant blog post here. So...sorry about that. Mostly, I'm just really sad that it's been nearly two thousand years since Jesus was alive and we're all still doing it wrong. And "O Holy Night" reminds me of that every. time. I. hear. it.
This year I decided I wanted to try make all my Christmas presents. Mostly because I can't really afford to buy things for people this year, and because I think it's kind of nice to do handmade gifts. But also because, when you really look at it, is that present you (or I) bought worth the slave labor it took to make? Are the hours-- or even, in some cases, minutes-- of enjoyment it will bring to the person who receives it worth the hours-- or, in some cases, weeks-- of work it took someone to make it when all they could think about was how hungry they were or how they were going to feed their family?
Is it really worth it?