Am I one of few who still views Thanksgiving as a day to come together with family and/or friends to reflect on the many blessings in one’s life? Every year, I spend the day with my parents, though sometimes with extended family, too. We go out to eat and spend the rest of the day relaxing. No, my mother does not fulfill her “womanly duties” in the kitchen while my father and I watch the “Cowboys and Indians” thanksgiving football game. And, we do not pack our gear for tonight’s camp out outside of Macy’s until Black Friday‘s start. This is because we also do not celebrate Christmas as much of the rest of the country (and many parts of the world) does; as an inter-religious, fairly well-to-do family, we focus on spending time with one another rather than consumerism. Are we weird?
Capitalism On Steroids
The expansion of the holiday season over the years has been a bit unnerving. Somehow one day, Christmas, has become a month-long capitalist marathon. (In reality, many families likely exchange gifts in the morning, and then go on about their day after those first few hours.) But, we remained fairly safe with the Christmas season contained within the bookends of Thanksgiving and New Year’s. “Black Friday” has kicked off the month-long period of shopping, sales, mall Santa Clauses, annoying commercials — and New Year’s ended it all.
But, wait! This year, the Christmas shopping season has now spilled into Thanksgiving day. Those stores that refrained from being open today will open at midnight. I suppose they have some semblance of a heart for their employees, not forcing them to work on a holiday. What kindness; they can hold off until midnight to work:
One retailer, P.C. Richard & Son, posted on its Facebook page: ‘It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day or night show now respect to their employees or families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America.’
If we now see sales and shopping for 12/25 beginning on 11/22, will they begin on 11/1 by 2020? When will it end?
Is It Moral?
No, really. Is the present reality of Thanksgiving Day moral? Football (a major, masculinist capitalist enterprise), intense shopping, and gluttony. It is a bit disconcerting. More importantly, the curtain of the warm, fuzzy feeling we get about the holiday season sometimes lifts, revealing the underlying ugliness. This Black Friday — well, now, Black Thursday — we are privy to the awful reality faced by low-wage, low-power employees of many of the megastores that are opening earlier and earlier to holiday shopping. Following news that the dessert company, Hostess, decided to close its doors rather than meet the demands of its workers on strike, Walmart is now facing union strikes in several cities. What better way to improve labor rights than to let holiday shopping expand further?
Big businesses do not care about their workers. Their priority is profit for the top execs. Naively, I thought that after a Walmart employee was trampled to death upon opening doors for Black Friday shopping in 2008, we, as a nation, we realize how far we have let the consumer craze take over. Nope. Now in 2012, it is worse. And the worst part of all? Walmart would rather spend millions fighting a measly $7,000 fine for the employee’s death than to accept fault:
Nearly four years after a Walmart worker was trampled to death by a stampede of Black Friday shoppers, Walmart Stores Inc. continues to fight a $7,000 fine by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that it failed to control the crowd of shoppers.
Appalling! Absolutely appalling. But, with a day that originates with colonialism, genocide, and war, what more should we expect?
Just a little food for thought…