This morning, as I meditated on the meaning of the "Bi-Mart Winter Wonderland, Powered by Comcast," I realized we've all been wrong about corporate america. Obviously, giant, faceless corporations have our best interests at heart. How else explain their desire to co-opt meaningful events of cultural and spiritual significance like Christmas, by attaching their names and logos? I mean, why would Bi-Mart and Comcast sponsor a heartwarming event like this, if not for altruistic reasons? What could be more in line with the spirit of Christmas than 20 or 30 huge plastic cartoon characters festooned with colored lights, circling the Portland International Raceway, where families can drive around in a slow circle for around $10 a carload? Forget a walk around your neighborhood, get out there and drive around PIR and soak up a little of the capitalist take on the holiday season. And afterwards, why not head downtown, where you can participate in an endless gauntlet of sales schemes designed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about spending, spending, spending. After all, that's what Christmas is all about, right?
Of course, it might ring a little less hollow if Bi-Mart et all were to actually pay a living wage to the workers whose labor makes it all possible. It might be more meaningful if downtown businesses didn't put such effort into removing poor people and people without houses from public view, so as not to disturb holiday shoppers. But let's not quibble, after all, they're giving us...what...a few santa lands and a race track full of tacky decorations. With their names plastered on em. Thanks.
The fact is, corporate sponsorship of formerly public events and social holidays comes with a hefty pricetag. We pay in a currency measured, not in dollars, but in dignity, respect, and cultural integrity. When Christmas/Yule/Chanuka is measured in shopping days and sales figures and comes with its own sponsors, it is robbed of spiritual meaning. When the Blues Festival becomes the SAFEWAY blues fest, the music isn't as sweet. When coke machines move into the halls of our social institutions, when Channel One markets their wares to our children in exchange for needed school supplies, when the Civic Stadium becomes PGE park, we have lost something of ourselves. Social exchanges become commercial exchanges, and humanity gives way to commodity.
It's time to reclaim Christmas, reclaim the commons, reclaim our communities and the richness of our culture. Take them back from parasitic corporate sponsors who get much more than they give every time they're allowed to plaster their name on one more holiday, one more cultural event, one more public space.