It's that time of year again. We get together with our families and our chosen families, cook up a big feast, and give thanks for all that we have in our lives. For food, shelter, warmth, love, companionship. For that which is essential and universally cherished and treasured. The basic components of a "good" life. Thanksgiving gives us a chance to reflect on what we actually need, and how much we take for granted. What if you don't have family? Food? Shelter? What if you are one of the billions of humans on this planet that struggle every day with having their most basic needs met? This thought often inspires us to give to a charity, or donate a few hours of our time at a local soup kitchen. This little bit of giving back helps us feel better about how fortunate we are in comparison.
How ironic is it, then, that Black Friday should fall the day after Thanksgiving? These two days are technically separated by a mere second - the clock hasn't yet struck midnight on Black Friday and people are already lined up outside of their local [fill in the blank] store gunning for a deal on their Christmas shopping. Or their Hannukah shopping. Or their "just because" shopping. Many stores are even open on Thanksgiving day, when people should probably be giving thanks for what they already have in their lives instead of thinking about what they can newly acquire. It's a tragic thing, I think, when Thanksgiving (a holiday whose message we sorely need to be reminded of in this country) gets sacrificed in exchange for a deal on a shiny new [fill in the blank]. But that's so like us Americans and our deep love of capitalism. I'm not knocking capitalism, per say, I'm just wishing it could take a back seat for one day a year while we focus on the most meaningful aspects of our lives (i.e. not the stuff we accumulate.) In previous years the spillover of Black Friday onto Thanksgiving Day has been so substantial that this year a number of large businesses are making a bold choice by electing to stay shut until Black Friday actually starts. You know things have gotten bad when it's a strong statement to choose to protect a national holiday instead of increasing your profit margin by a few hours' worth of shopping.
Call me cynical, but really it's just that I'm tired of this culture that obsesses over consumerism, and cheaply made knick knacks that are built to break after a year so that you are forced to buy another. And another. And another. Meanwhile the broken remnants end up scattered in the ocean and wind up inside the bellies of beautiful whales and sea turtles.
This Thanksgiving I'm going to refrain from purchasing anything that isn't either edible or drinkable. Will you promise to do the same? Maybe if enough of us take this pledge we can actually reclaim Thanksgiving and the beautiful things this holiday stands for.