In Which I Get Myself Uninvited From All Future Family Holidays

On my way home from our family Easter celebration last night, 1010WINS radio was reporting that certain conservative groups were upset that Google used its homepage yesterday to celebrate Cesar Chavez’s birthday instead of Easter.

The unionist in me applauded.

The Catholic in me (Yes, there is still some Catholic in me.) was, frankly, puzzled.

I could see “Google” spelled out in fuzzy bunnies and decorated eggs, all pink and blue and yellow and green. Cute, right?

But then I thought, no; that can’t be what the religious right was looking for. The Christian celebration of Easter has little to do with bunnies and eggs. What would we have instead? A crucifix cleverly created out of the letters G, O, O, G, L and E?  Would Jesus be nailed to the “L”? That might be considered irreverent. And a little sick. Perhaps more suited to Good Friday than Easter morning. How would Google represent the Risen Christ?

But my bigger question is this:

Why are people insulted when Capitalist/Corporate/Consumer America doesn’t honor their religious holiday in a way that they think is appropriate? Most religious values and the values–by which I mean “values”(finger quotes would be perfectly appropriate here)–of consumerist America are diametrically opposed.

And if in your world they’re not, perhaps a chat with your local priest/rabbi/pastor/preacher/imam/spirit guide/snake handler/shaman is in order.

We lost something vital when we moved from the giving of gifts, which can be a lovely and thoughtful and commemorative and representative act, to the wild consumption of goods that has become our various mad holiday shopping seasons.

We have somehow elided the religious celebration of religious holidays with the consumerist celebration of religious holidays. We’ve been had by large corporations decorating themselves up for Christmas and Easter, when the big department store, in its quest to make a lot of money for its shareholders, is only trying to make all of its shoppers happy.

Because Capitalism has no religion. Well, it does, but none of the traditional ones.

The Macy’s Santa of Miracle on 34th Street is a myth, folks, and he was only allowed to keep his job because his tactic of sending people to Gimbels worked, inadvertently, in Mr. Macy’s favor.

Miracle is the Capitalist version of the films Kim Jong-Un probably shows the schoolchildren in North Korea to teach them to love Communism. Ours has just a slightly different narrative–one that we find infinitely more palatable.

If Capitalist/Corporate/Consumer America had any sort of values or beliefs, any sort of religion other than greed, trickle down economics might have worked. But why would you ever expect it to?

Capitalism is as godless as Communism. It’s just not so obvious about it. Maybe that’s not quite accurate. Capitalism pretends to worship consumers, and consumers actually worship in return.

The Santa and the Easter Bunny in the mall are nothing but Capitalism masquerading as Christianity, to help you worship it more fully and completely, body and soul, to help you forget that there’s a difference between church and shopping center.

If you’re really concerned about how Christmas and Easter and other religious holidays are being celebrated, and who is wishing whom Happy Easter and Merry Christmas versus the generic Happy Holidays, stop buying into the narrative that corporate America cares anything about anyone’s religion or anyone at all other than as consumers, buying things we mostly don’t need, that mostly aren’t any good for us. Does it really matter whether the Walmart cashier selling you the hunk of plastic that will never biodegrade, that was probably made in China by slave children, says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? If Sam Walton’s heirs instruct their employees to say “Happy Easter” to each and every shopper, just how many corporate sins does that negate?

I pick on Walmart because it’s easy and their sins are myriad and obvious. But all corporations are vehicles for profit-making. No matter what face gets put upon them, no matter how they are spun, they don’t have religious values.

Capitalism is an economic system. Expecting capitalism to celebrate religion is like expecting a tree to read a book. It’s not going to happen; or if it seems to, someone is getting fooled somewhere. Someone is manipulating someone for financial gain.

This expectation is not unlike if my mother put a sandwich down on the kitchen floor and expected the dog to “be good” and not eat it, even if the dog is left alone with it.

Let Google celebrating Cesar Chavez, let the department stores wishing you “Happy Holidays,” both be reminders that they are part of enormous and often valueless economic systems and that their goals are making money, and that when they seem to be a part of your religious narrative, they are just creating a distraction to allow them to get into your wallet.

Let’s not pretend that a crèche or a cheerful “Happy Easter” at the cash register or on Google’s homepage cures the ills of capitalist America.

Don’t boycott Google for celebrating someone who fought for fair labor practices. Boycott Walmart, who, even though it might ostensibly celebrate your religious holiday, and greet you appropriately, violates the principles of your religion all over the world every day. Act upon economic entities based on their actions in the world of economics.

Shop at a locally-owned business where the proprietor knows you well enough to say “Happy Easter” or “Happy Passover” or “Happy Cesar Chavez’s Birthday” with sincerity, because you and your family are part of her community and she knows and cares what you believe and value, and shares some–maybe not all, but some–of those beliefs and values.

Because frankly, I’d rather shop at a Walmart that changed its practices, raised its prices, paid its workers a fair wage and stopped putting America’s small businesses and manufacturers out of business, even if its cashier wished me a “Happy Satan’s Birthday” on my way out the door.

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