As I write this, stores in the Pacific Northwest are scheduled to open in a matter of a few hours. While for some of us, it is Thanksgiving, for others it is already Black Friday. What an appropriate label to identify the feelings some people are experiencing as they leave their families and loved ones to facilitate others’ indulging their shopping addiction. While the picture of the baby crying clearly was not meant to be attributable to Black Friday, who knows — perhaps his (her?) mother just left to go shopping. (Or maybe, the baby is angry because his wishlist is still on the table.) Is our society so consumed with making money and conspicuous consumption, we no longer are able to take one day out to give thanks for what we already have?
Those of you who are going to participate in Black Friday sales may have already left to get in line. Certainly on the East Coast, stores have probably already opened. This rant, then, is not directed at you. If you feel the need to shop, if you believe there are actually bargains to be had in exchange for sleep and family time, go for it. And I know there is little I can do to divert this marketing juggernaut. Nor do I really have any desire to do so. People have to make a living; corporations have to make a profit for their shareholders (or so the economists would have us believe.) So what if “family values,” as the GOP hypocritically termed mores they neither believed in nor politically supported, are subsidiary to bottom line maximization.
Saturday is Small Business Saturday, as American Express reminds us. (gotta love commercialism!) If we have to shop and buy things we neither need nor want, or gifts for people who will most likely neither need nor want them either, let’s do it in our own neighborhoods, supporting those mom-and-pop stores that are the backbone of our economy and society. Better still, stay home. Read a book. Play with your kids. Take a walk. This year, give contributions in your gift recipients’ names as presents. It is more keeping with the spirit of the holidays than almost anything else we can do.
And in the meantime, give thanks for who you are, for what you have, even for the opportunity to go shopping Thanksgiving evening. That too is a gift.