If You Go Black Friday Shopping on Thanksgiving, You’re Part of the Problem

There’s nothing new about retail stores opening on Thanksgiving. This has been going on for a while, although godless, anti-American establishments like Macy’s, J.C. Penny’s, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Sears, and Target, have progressively moved their times up to the point where they will all be open for business between 5 and 6 pm on Thursday. Still, none of these amateurs can compete with Kmart, which will open its doors before dawn on Thanksgiving, and stay open for 42 hours straight.

That’s not good enough for these women, who started camping out at Best Buy three weeks before Black Friday. There’s a lot wrong with this picture (understatement of the decade), including the fact that our society has even made it possible for a human being to do nothing but sit outside of an electronics retailer for 22 days. But I think there’s also a bit of discrimination at work here. Let two teenagers try and stand next to a 7-11 for 5 minutes and the cops will roll up with loitering citations in hand, yet these middle aged women are allowed to linger by the entrance of a store for 528 hours in a row? AGEISM! CLASSISM! MANY OTHER ISMS!

I’m almost tempted to go to that Best Buy right now, purchase every single one of their TVs (by the way, can you lend me some money?) and then burn all them right in front of those poor saps. I can’t imagine a more beautiful sight.

Something has to be done. Someone has to do something. Black Thanksgiving must be stopped.

Look, I’m a capitalist. It’s not my religion, I won’t bow before its altar, I won’t kiss its ring, but I believe in capitalism. It’s an invention of man and it involves money, so it’s not perfect, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest a better system. So I’m a capitalist.

I am not, however, a consumerist. I like the freedom and innovation of capitalism; I loath the materialism and gluttony of consumerism. There’s a popular misconception that capitalism and consumerism are inextricably linked — that one naturally involves and requires the other. But this is a fallacy. Certainly the “stimulus” programs a few years ago ought to have dispelled this notion entirely. The government perverted the free market and elected to hand free money to millions of people, hoping that they’d go out and buy a bunch of stuff with it. This was consumerism at the expense of capitalism, and it revealed our priorities: forget freedom, forget principle, just buy stuff.

That’s our entire economic system: buy things. Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy. Our civilization now rests on the assumption that, no matter what else happens, we will all continue to buy lots and lots of things. Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. And then buy a little more. Don’t create, or produce, or discover — just buy. Never save, never invest, never cut back — just buy. Buy what already have and don’t need with money you don’t have. Buy when you’re happy. Buy when you’re sad. Buy when you’re hungry. Buy when you want to lose weight. Buy an iPhone. Six months have passed, here, buy another iPhone. Go online and buy things. Go to the mall and buy things. On your way, stop and buy some more things. Buy things for every occasion. Buy things to celebrate. Buy things to mourn. Buy things to keep up with the trends. Buy things to prove that you’re with it. Buy things to prove that you don’t care about being with it. Buy things to be a part of the crowd. Buy things to be an individual. Buy things while you’re buying things, and then buy a couple more things after you’re done buying things. If you want it — buy it. If you don’t want it — buy it. Don’t make it — buy it. Don’t grow it — buy it. Don’t cultivate it — buy it.

We need you to buy. We don’t need you to be a human, we don’t need you to be a citizen, we don’t need you to be a capitalist, we just need you to be a consumer, a buyer. If you are alive you must buy. Buy like you breathe, only more frequently.

How appropriate, then, that a holiday created by our ancestors as an occasion to give thanks for what they had, now morphs into a frenzied consumerist ritual where we descend upon shopping malls to accumulate more things we don’t need. Our great grandparents enjoyed a meal and praised the Lord for the food on the table and the friends and family gathered around it. We, having slightly altered the tradition, instead elect to bumrush elderly women and trample over children to get our hands on cheap microwaves.

For a while, Black Friday and Thanksgiving coexisted. We thanked God for His blessings on Thursday, and then bulldozed Walmart greeters on Friday. But this Black Friday-Thanksgiving marriage was tenuous and rocky from the start. It was doomed to fail. Thanksgiving offers tradition, family and contentment; Black Friday offers smart phones at drastically reduced prices. In America, we all know who wins that battle. So Black Friday, like a black hole, violently expanded; it absorbed the light that surrounded it and sucked everything into its terrifying abyss, where all substance is torn to shreds and obliterated.

Black Friday could not be contained to a mere 24 hours. It is Consumerism. It wants more. It always wants more. Nothing is sacred to it, nothing is valuable. So, now, Black Friday has eaten Thanksgiving alive. Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured it whole, but we barely noticed. It’s hard to hear anything when you’re wrestling 4,000 other people for headphones at Target.

Will the Black Thanksgiving shopper carve a moment or two out of their busy bargain hunting schedule to break bread with their family and friends? Will they make it all the way through grace before dashing out the door, trading in tradition and merriment for trendy electronics and kitchen appliances?

“Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts yadda yadda — gotta go, Walmart opens in ten minutes!”

I’m willing to bet that the hoarding hordes descending upon shopping malls and retail outlets at 6pm on Thanksgiving, would, in a different context, likely speak quite solemnly about the dreaded “commercialization” of our national holidays. They might tell us of the importance of family and the benefits of cultural traditions. They might even frantically insist that a war has been waged upon Christmas because the guy who rang up their crewneck sweater at JC Penny’s on Thanksgiving said “happy holidays.” They care about lofty things like family and tradition, until someone dangles a pair of 12 dollar boots in front of them. Because, I mean, yeah they hate commercialization, but man that pleather footwear is just so damned pretty.

I admit, it’s easy for me to forgo Black Thanksgiving. Stay home, eat food, and drink beer, or wait in long lines at dreary shopping malls, scuffling with strangers over jackets and futons? Not exactly a tough decision in my book. But even if I stumbled into some demented parallel dimension where the prospect of shuffling like a dead-eyed zombie through Kohl’s on Thanksgiving suddenly seemed appealing to me, I’d still pass. If for no other reason, this reason is reason enough: I’m not going to aid and abet companies who force their employees to stand behind cash registers on one of this country’s most important national holidays.

Surely, these employees will be there, in their name tags and their vests, waiting on impatient mobs of customers while the rest of us eat and make merry. They will be there with or without me. But I personally can’t be among the reasons why they will be there. I understand profit margins and competition, but I think these places ought to respect their workers enough not to rip them away from their kids during one of America’s most beloved traditions. And if I think that, I could not possibly go to one of these establishments and make them serve me.

Capitalism is great, but some things are greater. Family is greater. Yes, these folks choose to work at these stores. Yes, they likely knew when they signed up that they’d be sacrificing their Thanksgivings. Yes, at least they have jobs. Yes, I worked on Thanksgiving many times when I was younger so why shouldn’t they. Yes, sure, and so what? If that’s enough in your mind to justify participating in the destruction of Thanksgiving, good for you. But you could wait until Friday, couldn’t you? And if you did wait until Friday, and if everyone waited until Friday, no store would ever open on Thanksgiving again, right? So you could take steps to protect Thanksgiving from the decay of materialism and consumerism, and, while you’re at it, give this wonderful holiday back to the customer service representatives who have been forced to abandon it and cater to the stampeding throngs, right?

Right, but then again, those skirts and food processors are super cheap.

Oh Lord, if you don’t go on Thursday to buy stuff, there might be slightly less stuff available on Friday! Think of the stuff! We must get all the stuff! The stuff must be purchased! Accumulate more stuff! Quick! The stuff! GET ALL THE STUFF!

Family can take a backseat.

Tradition can wait.

Those employees should just be grateful for the opportunity to stock shelves at Sears for 14 hours while the rest of us eat our pies and drink our wine.

Thanksgiving is just a holiday.

But stuff, things, toys, gadgets — these are what life is all about.

Why give thanks for what you have when there’s so much you don’t have? That’s the new meaning of Thanksgiving: count your blessings, and then buy some more blessings and count them again.

P.S. While we rightly ostracize and condemn the stores that wage this heinous assault on Thanksgiving, let’s give credit where it’s due to the companies that elect to sacrifice profit for the sake of family and tradition. Props to Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath and Beyond, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco, Crate & Barrel, Dillard’s, DSW, GameStop, Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Home Depot, Jo Ann Fabrics, Lowe’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Petco, Pier 1, Publix, REI, Sam’s Club, Sur La Table, Talbots, T.J. Maxx, and Von Maur Department Stores, among others. All of these places will remain closed on Thanksgiving. Thank you, brave soldiers. The pilgrims salute you. And when I begin forcibly evacuating Thanksgiving shoppers to a distant rock in outer space, you will be safe. Although I’m still tempted to banish Crate & Barrel for being the kind of store that charges 8,000 dollars for a lampshade or a decorative pillow. But, then again, they are pretty sweet lampshades and decorative pillows. Anyway, Godspeed.

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