Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflections on Thanksgiving/Black Friday Madness

Black Friday has overtaken Thanksgiving, which has become Black Friday Eve.

This is an exceedingly sad development.

Locally, a television news station reported that prospective buyers were staking claims in front of retail stores twenty-four hours before opening Thursday evening at 8 PM. This is nothing new in itself, the 24-hour stakeout for first buying privileges. What is new, that this occurred the night before Thanksgiving Day. Hard-core prospective buyers camped out rather than celebrate a day of giving thanks.

What, if anything did these people give thanks for, other than another opportunity to beat their neighbors out of first grabs at goods?

This is a positive sign of capitalism?

Think abut this. Thousands of people stood in long lines overnight, a full day ahead of scheduled store openings throughout Thanksgiving Day. And some believe this is a positive indicator of the success of capitalism!

When I was a boy Thanksgiving meant giving thanks to God for our blessings. We were poor by the standards of our parish and neighborhood, and the private school we attended. We gave thanks for the food on our table, that our parents lived together and not separately. We said prayers of thanks for our health, and for our freedoms, and especially that we did not live under communism. We expressed our gratitude for those in our lives, and that we were among the privileged of this world. We were grateful for our opportunity to learn and attend parochial school, to learn about our world, and to dispel ignorance. We expressed gratitude for our friendships, if not person-to-person then privately in prayer. We gave thanks and we meant it. Thanksgiving Day was a day of sacred gratitude.

For us, there was no Black Friday shopping. It seemed absurd, and out of the question. Bargains would still be available the next day, on Saturday with far less rush, hustle and bustle. Friday after Thanksgiving was a day to be spent reflecting on the previous day’s feasts and parish community football games. The chances were our father returned to work that day, and our mother was emptying closets of stored Christmas decorations. That was our family tradition, and we all took part. It was a warm, blessed day in which to relax and enjoy our freedoms, and all that we had been grateful for in our lives. At the end of the day we enjoyed a simple family meal, and usually that transformed into a ceremony of decorating a Christmas tree together, until the last bulb was hung, an angel rested atop the tree, and finally the lights would be lit.

Obviously there are a great many of us that have much to be thankful for, especially those whose circumstances are such that they can choose to wait twenty-four hours in lines, in cold weather, just to spend money frivolously. As much as they have, it is not enough. Getting more takes precedence over being grateful for what is at hand, and what has been consumed since the previous year.

And I contrast this with those who spend Thanksgiving Day in service to others … without compensation that registers in the hearts or minds of the greedy. This is to say, volunteers who prepare and serve meals to strangers, whether homeless or well to do, in fact receive heartfelt compensation immeasurable in material perspectives.  There are no metrics to measure their reciprocity.

I’m convinced, those who choose to serve others understand the sacredness of gratitude; those who cannot give thanks debase humanity. An example: a flash of numbers on a network television screen indicates that, over the past seven years, four people have been killed and sixty-seven injured during Black Friday Madness. Is there a better way to debase humanity than by fighting to one’s death over a toy? And this week, another five deaths were added to that list, with more than eighty injured:

During the past two weeks there had been numerous articles expressing “outrage,” perhaps feigned and exceedingly disingenuous, posted on AlterNet regarding retail giants to be open during Thanksgiving Day. The retailers that opted to open, it now seems proven, merely anticipated how Americans really feel about Thanksgiving, and giving thanks: “It’s Black Friday Eve to avid buyers.” So why not give those people what they want?  

AlterNet exists primarily to promote atheism, thus in essence it holds nothing sacred. Condemnation and ad-hominem attacks are its forte. To criticize retail employers for scheduling employees to work on Thanksgiving has been contradictory of AlterNet’s historic themes, holding that sacredness is a sham. Especially taking a day to give thanks to a God they say does not exist. I believe that it’s been media like AlterNet that has helped to create this displacement of Thanksgiving by Black Friday. In promoting atheism, writing posted on AlterNet reinforces the self-centeredness that is displayed during Black Friday Madness. Selfishness is at its core, and AlterNet writers applaud and encourage that self-centeredness, that me-first attitude, and that delusion that we owe no gratitude to anyone or any Being but ourselves.

The moral foundation that would preclude Black Friday Madness is scoffed at by AlterNet writers, and undoubtedly its readers as well. Blame it on retailers for not preventing the Madness, chaos and potential violence in their stores? AlterNet does. Yet at the same time they condemn religious leaders and churches for teaching moral standards that condemn the greed expressed voraciously by the mobs.

AlterNet itself is a paradigm of competitiveness, yet it subtly and insidiously condemns competitiveness. It publishes vicious and quite false, although sometimes quite clever, attacks on upon those who strive to raise moral standards in this society. It celebrates and promotes Progressivism in fierce competition with religion, religious beliefs and practices, prayer, pro-life advocacy, corporations, religious freedom, conservative politicians and political views, and the rights of others such as Boy Scouts to follow or adhere to traditions and moral principles that have guided them for more than one hundred years. AlterNet’s pretense is to be above criticism while being prolific in personal attacks upon those with differing views, such as Sarah Palin. Yet it’s “facts” are often quite shady, and its assertions are often blatantly false.

This is how and why Thanksgiving Day evolved to become Black Friday Eve. When people are led to believe in nothing, and that values that they once held sacred mean nothing, it is an easy transition to become just another greedy fool willing to beat someone to the ground over a plastic box destined to be obsolete in a mere few weeks.

And to see w what fools bargain hunters actually are, look here.  

To echo words from Oprah Winfrey, Eckhardt Tolle and many other false prophets of the New Age as espoused on AlterNet, “When you finally awaken and hold nothing and no one sacred … you are free to become your own god.”

And that’s the essence of the problem behind Black Friday Madness.