Recently, a friend asked me regarding my plans for the holiday season. The text message was written hurriedly, for he and his wife were leaving for the weekend. I received the question, “What ate your Christmas plans?” Of course, I knew it was a typographical snafu that the cell phone completed; however, it struck me as strangely descriptive of that which has been going on in our country.
Many individuals feel the pressure of joining the commercial and consumer bandwagons to purchase and exchange gifts. It is quite stressful for those who can barely make ends meet. They struggle to find deals—sale discounts that they still cannot afford, but which are less than they would have to pay at full price. There are many who go into further debt, hoping that tax refunds might save them. Others realize they cannot participate in the material demands of this period of forced charitableness, and they regrettably and embarrassingly share with family, relatives, and friends the failures of their socioeconomic circumstances.
Although these latte decisions might very well save their lives and prevent them from worsening their credit rating, they often pout and put themselves down because they cannot meet their own expectations or fulfill the anticipations of others. In a very real sense, the accidental question “What ate your Christmas plans” seems precisely prescient. After all, their financial states of affairs precluded the possibility of gratifying their reciprocal gifting plans!
What is incredulous during this time is the realization that the rushed-through tax reform passed by the U.S. Congress demonstrates that legislators elected to ignore the shrill cries of the middle, working, lower, and under-classes. They decided to give unprecedented tax cuts to corporations and the richest people—a wonderful Christmas present for them, but continued exploitation of the majority of citizens of this country. Hence, this new legislation did metaphorically “eat” their Christmas plans!
When I first read my friend’s text message, I almost immediately thought about that storied arrogance, “Let them eat cake.” Even though the saying has been misattributed to Marie Antoinette and predates her adulthood, it struck me that she had been known to enrich her coffers, collude with her native Austria and other countries, and exploited those suffering all around her through deception and temporary insubstantial measures. Eventually, those in authority and the general population despaired of her shenanigans: they convicted of treason and condemned her to the guillotine.
Economic exploitation, structural discrimination, mistreatment of immigrants, and other forms of persecution and oppression have been around a long time. They have never been beaten down, but there have been times when they have not won the day entirely. We are witnessing a resurgence of actions and policies that seem to permit the deliberate obstruction of full participation in the body politic based on classifications and categories of people we need to transcend. The prospects of the so-called American experiment are being vitiated and distorted deliberately, and we seem unable to come together to trample the corruption.
Whereas I am nonviolent in my approach to the resolution of conflict, I am by no means passive. We cannot remain idle when the ethics of love, compassion, and justice is being ignored by our leaders. Representative democracy depends on the participation of all, and we need to make our voices and perspectives heard in the public arena. There is a lot at stake. Else, many more will soon be asking, “What ate your Christmas plans?”