Last week was Christmas and it was time to make sure to ask for your gifts. Americans have begun to "go big" with their wish lists and to ask for and expect all manner of things to be given to them without regard to cost or possibility. But what if we were to change the tune and ask for what we'd like the world to look like during and after this time of year where so many people celebrate religious festivals and mark the return of light to our lives over the coming months? What if we took the American penchant for "living large" and thought of what an altruistic Santa list might look like? Here's what I wanted for Christmas and beyond:
1. An enduring secure and peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. It is about time for this to happen.
2. Generosity in supporting organizations like Medicins Sans Frontieres in relieving the suffering of Syrian refugees in camps and nations around the world in supporting permanent resettlement.
3. Free Chen Shui-bian from his prison in Taiwan to signal a willingness to accept different parties' transtions to/from power. Free Leonard Peltier from his prison in the United States to begin to heal centuries of disregard and abuse of native peoples.
4. End the death penalty everywhere, starting with the United States (though it would be nice to see Taiwan follow suit here too).
5. Pray for a long free life for Pope Francis for beginning to turn the Vatican back towards what really might matter and for Edward Snowden for beginning to remind Americans what really matters by showing what has been lost and threatened.
6. Kudos to Navi Pillay for speaking up for LGBT rights and for conflicts that seem forgotten. She deserves praise. Shame on the TGTE for showing no faith in refusing to even consider a truth and reconciliation process mediated by South Africa.
7. Return the US military to a position of honor by closing Gitmo (the prison AND the base), ending long detentions, drone killings, and supporting Senator Gillibrand in challenging the culture of impunity that seems to surround sexual violence in the ranks.
8. Work to protect the Rohingya of western Burma from racist nationalists that are misrepresenting religion and support real multicultural federal democracy, hopefully under an Aung San Suu Kyi presidency.
9. Support a world where environmental challenges are accepted and peoples rights to a clean environment aren't ignored because of their poverty or difference. The mountaintop removals of West Virginia and the deforestation of Brazil are examples of mining projects that have passed the profits to corporate interests instead of the benefit of the people and the planet.
10. Open the White House's Lincoln Bedroom once a month by lottery for an American citizen to sleep in the "people's house" for a weekend to remind the government and the people that the United States is supposed to have a government "of, by, and for" the people themselves and not merely for large donors or special interest groups. The government shouldn't treat people preferentially due to their personal wealth and society should remember that wealth doesn't excuse bad behavior.
11. Support international dialogues. As difficult as it will be to bridge the gulf of mistrust between the United States and Iran, as speedily broken the new nation of South Sudan looks, as shaky as things continue to be in Burma and Sri Lanka, the tools of war are overused and the tools of peace are rarely used. In a general sense, the global public should endorse more talking and less shooting and oppression.
That's 11. That's enough. There are surely a lot (too many) other cases where people need more complete access to the human rights they are entitled to, and far too many cases of people in dire need. But this is a start, a place where we might consider things moving forward concretely and with popular support. Can you hear the reindeer demanding change yet? You might. That jolly old elf is one heck of an organizer for positive change and so there was a guy whose birthday the West just celebrated last week who was also kind of interested in matters of social justice. We're all overdue for real change we can believe in and change we can begin to create. Let's start tonight. Let's make the material holiday bounty that has become so expected in the West and spread an internationally global year of change.