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DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Oh Goodness, Happy Holidays

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Don't Shoot the MessengerMy great-great-great uncle was Thorstein Veblen, a name that comes and goes as a vogue economist. In 1899, he wrote Theory of the Leisure Class, a book that effectively predicted the rise of American yuppie a century in advance—and expressed a grave concern that Americans were being increasingly driven by profit and dreams of wealth, rather than production for the sake being, well, productive. Veblen expressed concern that American workers were increasingly detached from the products they created—and in lieu of actual ownership and pride of the work-product, people would express their value by purchasing items and goods to show off their wealth. It was what he called “conspicuous consumption,” a term that he coined and a term that is on full display around Christmas time.

Although some stores—most notably REI—have staged corporate protests against Black Friday by closing their doors for the day, largely the “shopping season” has become a massive exhibition of consumption. Yes, Black Friday and Cyber-Monday and Over-the-Top Tuesday has my great-great-great uncle is spinning in his grave.

No, we are not saying the buying gifts itself is a hollow act; instead it is how it is done that offers meaning—and, yes, southern Oregon has many examples about small businesses taking great pride in the specialized and thoughtful gifts they offer, and in the process connecting community closer to its economy, and vice versa. In this issue’s feature, we highlight both goods and services, from plucky to practical, from local businesses, that make thoughtful and unique gifts.

Also in this week’s issue, there is a story about a recent event at Medford City Council that displays some of the best this community promotes. Over the past few months, Medford city council has been considering a ban on marijuana growing. It was a big statement, as one-third of licensed marijuana growing in Jackson County occurs within Medford’s city limits. Already city council had voted in early November 6-2 to enact the ban. On November 19, they were scheduled to provide a second vote and final approval on the ban.

In response, dozens of residents showed up to voice their opposition. There were some grumbles and a few heckles from the audience, and some strained patience from the mayor, but overall the tone was civil as residents asked city council not to enact the ban.

And then the most remarkable thing happened: Democracy, in a pure way that is too rarely seen. The vote switched from six councilmembers supporting a ban on growing marijuana, to seven councilmembers suggesting instead the matter be sent to voters to decide.

In considering this about-face, I cannot help but think about Charles Dickenson’s A Christmas Carol when a stubborn man considers that his steadfast opinions may deserve reconsideration (okay sure, he was thinking about Christmas, not weed, and was visited by ghosts and fate, not concerned voters, but grant me that it is still an interesting comparison). Certainly two of the enduring lessons from A Christmas Carol are that we should celebrate humanity and that there is an invigorating generosity in considering opposing viewpoints.

Both those ideas were on display when Medford city council reconsidered its ban.

It is both a noble and humble to admit that one’s viewpoint may not be the correct—especially to do so in such a public forum. Although some in attendance grumbled about city council, it was truly a remarkable about-face and deserves a hearty congratulations.

The ban is still possible, as according to voting patterns for/against Measure 91, as many people in Medford support recreational use—and presumably growing—of marijuana as oppose it. When/if the measure to ban marijuana grows goes to the ballot, it will again be an interesting—and most likely—close vote.

But when/if the matter goes to voters, may we all be so open-minded to consider each others’ viewpoints as Medford city council members did this past meeting.


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