The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

I hate to break it to you, but your pessimist progressivism is conservatism.

I take issue with people who call themselves progressives, and then go about their days with negative attitudes about what that means.

During the 2010 midterm election, I was talking with some friends about for whom we were voting. The two of them (who shall remain nameless) claimed that because they so disliked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, they were going to vote against him. One said she was voting Meg Whitman, the other said he was voting for Chelene Nightingale, the candidate from the American Independence Party. One had been fooled by Meg's claims of being able to "fix" California's economy overnight, and the other had yet to understand that a vote for a third party in the state of California hurts progress -- it keeps votes from Democrats and shrinks the margin by which they lead. I understand that this two-party system is far from the ideal democratic process, but when only 5% of the vote is split between four of those parties, it is clear that they are not making a change just yet. If you consider yourself progressive, it is in the interest of progress to elect Democrats over Republicans. Sometimes you have to work with what you've got to show the world where you'd like to go.

Yesterday, my mom bought a hybrid car. It's beautiful and shiny and gets better gas mileage and spews lower emissions than her previous car. The owner's manual has a special addendum just to explain all the hybrid stuff. I tweeted about driving this beautiful machine and a friend responded that hybrid batteries have a larger carbon footprint than the carbon offset of that hybrid car in a lifetime. For one, we did our research and that claim is just plain outdated. Hybrid and electric technology have come so far so quickly -- each new model offers more efficiency, fewer emissions, and greater environmental responsibility. But let's just say for a moment that her claim had been correct. It is in the best interest of the conscious, progressive consumer to buy things that are moving in the right direction. If we refuse to buy hybrid or electric cars until they are 100% perfect, research and development is never going to get to 100% perfect. We have to buy the latest effort to show that we are interested in the next one. And certainly, my mom did not buy the first hybrid car on the market. But other people did, and that made way for the one my mom bought yesterday. Continuing to buy fuel-inefficient cars does not show up in reports as "waiting for the best electric car" but rather as "uninterested in electric technology" -- and that hurts progress.

Similarly, I have the same conversation with every person I explain my selective omnivorism to. I am mostly a vegetarian, but I buy responsibly produced meat and dairy products, and I encourage everyone I know to do the same. Most people tell me that it would be more responsible to be a vegan -- that way I'm not participating in meat production at all. But the way to reform the meat industry is not to remove myself from it entirely. Supporting responsible farmers is a much clearer vote for progress in meat than abstention from meat-comsumption all together.

If you want to make a change in the world, removing yourself from the front lines is not the way to do it. Consume consciously -- you vote every time you buy anything. And don't be afraid to talk to other people about it. You didn't spontaneously come to know what you know about progressivism, so you need to pass it on, yourself.

When you are dissatisfied with progress, you need to participate in the only ways available. Waiting around for a better option is unproductive, and in the meantime, you do not move forward. Your inability to function in the current progressive climate makes your action conservative. So get it together, would you?

Starting off the new year with a post not really about the new year.

Rico's with Thomas