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Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Eco-Justice Political Convention Drinking Game
distributed 7/15/16 - ©2016

We are heading into a very difficult two weeks. Both of the major political parties in the US are holding their conventions -- the Republicans first (July 18-21), and then the Democrats (July 25-28).

Only hard-core political junkies can be excited about this. The rest of us know that the conventions usually function as carefully-staged free advertising , and that there is little real news generated at the gatherings. (This year may have some slightly different dynamics, but the potential for drama and surprises on either side has dropped in recent days.)

But still, many of us will settle down to watch at least some of the televised festivities.

As a public service, Eco-Justice Ministries offers a way to observe both conventions with a consistent ethical perspective, and a bit of fun. Our "Eco-Justice Political Convention Drinking Game" gives a way to listen to the flood of speeches and commentary that cuts through the sound-bites and conventional wisdom.

Be aware, though that this "drinking game" is quite likely to leave you thirsty and very sober. You'll have to work hard to find occasions to take a sip.

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There is a long-standing tradition of drinking games for major events, including political speeches. A web search reveals many options for the President's annual State of the Union Address. A typical example comes from the Huffington Post. Their listing for 2016 (incorrectly headlined for 2015 -- maybe the editor got an early start?) has multiple categories, each with a range of drinking responses.

In each section, if Obama uses a particular phrase, or speaks about a designated topic, the viewer is to take a drink. Depending on what was said, you might "take a sip" for a fairly conventional message, or move up as the wording gets more unusual ("take a swig", "pound a shot", or "finish the bottle"). With games like this, the participant is quite likely to be awash and/or incapacitated by the end of the hour-long speech.

Our game for this summer of political theater (with at least 16 hours of live coverage spread across the two weeks) will go in the opposite direction. Our highlighted topics may not be mentioned at all, so you'll have few opportunities to quaff your chosen beverage. (The liquid in your glass is entirely up to you: beer, wine, lemonade, tea, prune juice, or water. Drinks that depend on large quantities of crushed ice are not likely to hold up well through hours of summer-time convention watching.)

Your assignment, as you watch some or all of the conventions, is to listen for indicators of three broad themes that reflect eco-justice principles. The more remarkable the statement, the more enthusiastic you can be in toasting the speaker. The same list can be used for either convention.

Civility -- Eco-justice hopes for political processes that are inclusive and respectful. The conventions are designed to highlight difference between the parties and candidates. Civility and good manners are going to be rare.

If something affirmative is said about the other party, take a sip. If something affirmative is said about the others party's candidate (without that being the lead-in to a joke), take a swig.

Recognizing limits -- Central to eco-justice ethics is the recognition of limits. There are limits to what Earth can provide to us, and there are limits to what Earth can absorb from us. Keep your ears open for any hints of this recognition.

Limited resources -- Does anybody talk about natural resources that are in short supply (fresh water, topsoil, fish in the oceans, rare minerals used for batteries and electronics)? It that topic is mentioned as a problem, take a sip. If there is a call for conservation or efficiency, take a swig. Is there a word said that fossil fuels are a finite resource that will eventually run out if we continue to rely on them? If so, "pound a shot."

Limited processing -- Does any speaker acknowledge pollution (the contamination of the environment at a pace greater than nature can cleanse)? If there is a mention of air or water pollution, take a sip. If the source of that pollution is named (industrial waste, agricultural runoff, oil and gas production) take a swig. If climate change is named as a crisis caused by human emissions, that calls for at least a sip. If anybody demands that we meet and exceed the Paris Agreement, "pound a shot".

There are some extremely rare possibilities about recognizing limits. If anyone specifies limits that exist, and insists that we have to live within those limits, including leaving fossil fuels in the ground, "finish the bottle." And if any speaker admits that our lives will be better when we learn to live within the limits, well, the realm of God has come. Turn off the TV and join in the celebration.

Concern for others -- The justice aspect of eco-justice calls for ways of living that treat all of our neighbors fairly. At the conventions, especially for domestic issues, countless speakers will proclaim that their party will do good things for almost everybody. There's too many topics with too much code language to sort out game points here.

Our game, then, will focus on international concerns. Certainly, there will be lots of talk about national security and wars, and international relations. As an insight into moral perspectives toward the global community, listen for statements that express concern for people and populations within countries.

  • Immigration -- Does anyone suggest that US policies have to deal with the factors of war, violence and poverty in Latin America that drive immigration? Take a sip. If they get specific about what could be done, take a swig.
  • Global terrorism -- This will come up a lot. But if anyone names the fact that most of the victims of violence from ISIS are Muslim and live in the Middle East and Africa, take a swig.
  • Global poverty -- If anyone speaks about the desperately poor of the world (those living on the equivalent of $5 a day or less), take a sip. Take a swig if they get specific about urban poverty, or about famine. If anybody connects climate change with drought and famine, "pound a shot."
  • Other species -- Our neighbors include other species. If anyone speaks about caring for livestock or wildlife, take a sip (or two). If anyone speaks positively about policies for protecting threatened and endangered species, take a swig.

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You can play this game, of course, without drinking. My rather cynical sense of US politics leads me to think that your health is not in great danger, even if you were to follow these guidelines with high-content alcoholic beverages. These topics and perspectives I've listed are not likely to be mentioned all that often.

Whatever you might be imbibing during the conventions, at whatever pace, I do hope that you will think beyond the ordinary political categories. These suggestions about eco-justice principles are intended to lift up issues and moral values that may be ignored. Feel free to add your own topics, and to react spontaneously to real surprises.

And, going beyond the conventions, I pray that we will continue to hold firmly to these kinds of eco-justice perspectives, and to work hard at bringing them into our political discourse.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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