Thanksgiving is upon us. Time for a meal with family and friends, time for football games half-watched due to massive ingestion of tryptophan and good wine, and the time to give thanks for the good fortunes we have received this year. Well, that is what Thanksgiving used to be. Now, it is Black Friday Eve.
Retailers have convinced us that we need STUFF above all other things and the time to get that STUFF at a discounted, yet still heavily marked up price, is the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday. They have also convinced us that this is the official start of the Christmas season, in stark contradiction to the fact that Christmas paraphernalia has been displayed for sale at major retail outlets since September 1st, and Christmas music has been playing at those establishments since November 1st.
People have been camped out for several days at electronics stores and other retail shops to get “the deal of the century” on the newest STUFF that you can buy. Never mind that 3-10 people die each year on Black Friday from stampeding events and “shopper’s rage”. Never mind that the items that they advertise so heavily are limited in number and in most cases are last year’s model that the retailers are trying to clear from their inventory. Never mind that you probably don’t need that STUFF in the first place. The marketing wizards have tricked the masses into thinking that if they don’t go fight for these items like a gladiator in the middle of the night, they are somehow cheating themselves and are not good Americans.
The saddest part about all of this is an unintended side effect of the Black Friday shopping frenzy phenomenon. It has caused people to lose perspective of what Thanksgiving and Christmas is supposed to be about. I am an atheist, but I enjoy Christmas for the same reasons I enjoy Thanksgiving; time with family, good food and conversation, and reflection on the good fortune and prosperity that I have been lucky enough to achieve in my life. This is worth more than money to me, but apparently all of this holiday cheer has a price. It appears that all of the reasons I love Thanksgiving are worth about $150.
I love my sister. She is a wonderful person and has always been very close to me in my life. A few years ago she started participating in this Black Friday nonsense. Every year she gets a good deal on one item, usually a TV or a video game console for the kids, or something of that nature. Now, she doesn’t come to our family gatherings on Thanksgiving because she doesn’t want to miss her Black Friday discounts. So, she may get a $400 flat screen TV for $250 this year. All of the good fellowship with our family, quality time spent with our aging parents, and all of the joy of eating a wonderful meal with the people who love her most is worth $150.
We are easily deceived and manipulated by the marketing machine that guides our lives and our behavior every day. We wonder why our children are angry and want to shoot up high schools and movie theaters. We wonder why families are detached and fragmented and no roots seem to take in the rat race of today’s society. It is because we have allowed people who could care less about us or our families to convince us that the panicked acquisition of $150 worth of STUFF is more important than anything else, including the love of our relatives and friends and the lives of 3-10 strangers per year.
Happy Thanks for nothing.