For some people, the Friday after Thanksgiving, also known as Buy Nothing Day, is a fine opportunity to show their disdain for the capitalist system. For us, of course, the very idea of buying nothing is pure torture (but then again, we’ve been known to cruise Duane Reade on New Year’s Day, desperate to buy anything). Still, we understand that for non-shoppers, this is a particularly challenging season: Even if you haven’t been inside an actual shop in months, your friends and family, while appreciating your contempt for getting and spending, nevertheless expect gifts in December.
Now the good news: There is, in fact, no reason to leave the house. You have merely to raise yourself from the futon, put down your mug of chai tea latte, and commence clicking. Merchandise that reflects your political convictions is all over the Internet, and the selection far exceeds the opinionated T-shirts and partisan baseball caps you may expect.
For a very special comrade, cafeshops.com offers boxers and thongs that are decorated with a picture of a protester in a gas mask and the slogan “Peace Now” in five languages. The same sentiment is also available on Frisbees ($8.49), wall clocks ($12.99), stainless steel travel mugs ($16.99)—for trips to Washington?—and even, for $14.99, a white teddy bear (surely the only critter on the toy shelf sporting a shirt with a picture of a gas mask.) As it turns out, he is not the only bear with an ax to grind: Peace.mennolink.org has a children’s peace bear package featuring a beanbag polar bear (his shirt says “Peace begins with me!”), a coloring poster of a dove, and something called a peacemaker certificate ($10.50 for everything). No danger of this bear getting a swelled head: The text accompanying his picture reads, “Not the best-looking bear on the market, this little bear needs love and acceptance.”
Along with being blissfully free of fruitcake, the holiday gift baskets at donnellycolt.com contain goods that fairly glow with righteousness: According to the site, everything in the baskets is either union-made or fair-trade organic, and it all arrives packed in a reusable kalsa grass basket that hails from Bangladesh. The baskets range from the Labor Organizer’s model (a hefty $100, though for that you get a DVD of Salt of the Earth and a copy of Why Unions Matter) to the Bread Not Bombs basket which offers, among other things, a packet of Give Peas a Chance organic soup mix, a peace wreath button, and a paper crane ($45).
On the left-wing home-decorating front, that bohemian staple, the beaded curtain, has been emblazoned with the peace symbol and is available from lovethosegifts.com with either one big white sign ($21.60) or a multiplicity of smaller symbols that glow in the dark ($19.85), the assumption being that people who like beaded curtains are also likely to be Day-Glo enthusiasts. (For goofier fellow travelers, a marijuana-leaf beaded curtain is available at $21.60.) Hate bourgeois wrapping paper? Present your gifts in brown paper bags from womenforpeace.org. They’re 50 cents each, and though they say “Women don’t buy this war,” men are certainly welcome to carry them too.
If all the above strike you as rather too sticky or cloying for the crowd you run with, consider a deck of War Profiteers cards, free with your donation of $10 or more to the Ruckus Society. According to its site, warprofiteers.com, “The War Profiteers Card Deck exposes some of the real war criminals in the U.S.’s endless War of Terror. This is no Sunday bridge club.” The ignominious company is divided into four suits: Spades are oil, gas, and energy; hearts are government officials; clubs are military and defense contractors; and diamonds are heads of industry. The flesh-and-blood suits depicted on the cards include William Kristol (note: this is not Billy Crystal!), Rupert Murdoch, and George Shultz.
One final idea: If you’re really broke, there’s a particularly good selection of posters from a British site, adamnieman.co.uk. The time-honored graphics range from doves to an image of Uncle Sam with the legend “I want you to kill for my oil profits” to a detail of Picasso’s Guernica, harrowing no matter how many times you see it, that now features the added legend “Bombing Iraq won’t help.” As it turns out, you don’t have to pay a thing for any of these: The site just wants you to download them, then maybe back them with cardboard, stick them on a pole, and give them to a friend to wave on March 20, when unitedforpeace.org says there will be a global day of action against the war.