I was born on Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving not just for this reason but because it represents something that runs counter to the American ideal, something that could even be described as profoundly un-American: being satisfied with what you've got. Thanksgiving is, at its core, an exercise in, yes, giving thanks, which is to say, feeling appreciation for what we have been given and have worked for in our lives. Family? Career? Lots of shoes? Whatever--take a day off from the daily pursuit of more more more, and sit back for an afternoon and just feel grateful. It's a holiday unlike any other that I know of, in any other part of the world. Sure, there's probably something like it somewhere--Slovakia or Guinea-Bissau or someplace--but I don't know about it. And what matters to me, as I say, is that the whole impulse is so profoundly counter to what this nation often foists upon us. We can stop yearning after more, if even for a day, and that's great. Crack open a beer or bottle of wine or 7-Up, dig into the turkey or salmon steak or plate of tofu, and hang out with some people you like and may or may not be related to. Tell some funny stories, maybe watch some football, go to bed early. Nice.
Now, what happened when I
was out of the country for 13 years was that this other thing, this
anti-Thanksgiving, grew from some little statistical anomoly--hey, lots of
people go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving--into a repulsive orgy of consumer
frenzy. Black Friday is gross--there's just no other word to describe people
pushing and shoving and fighting and, Christ, sometimes shooting each other for
that extra-cheap, extra-widescreen TV. But what takes it from being just
repugnant to actually infuriating is its juxtaposition with Thanksgiving. Its
as if some asshole somewhere said to himself, "Well, let's see, Americans
are actually kind of humble and grateful and decent for a day... So what we can
we do to appeal to their basest, most grasping, most selfish nature? Oh wait, I
know. Eighty dollar TVs at Wal-Mart, but you have to get there at 3a.m. and
there's only one in store. Great!"
Thanksgiving is very close
to being lost, and that's a fucking shame.
Thanksgiving is probably
the day I like my country the most, but the pimps who run the show have decided
that a day of thoughtfulness and gratitude cannot be allowed to stand without a
corresponding day of greed and cynicism. Already, Black Friday is a bigger deal
to some people than Thanksgiving Day itself. Many of the people I work with,
who tend to be a good deal younger than I am, look forward to it with a glee
that borders on frenzy. In many places, Black Friday sales actually begin on Thanksgiving Day itself, which is even more infuriating. Within a few more years I don't doubt that Thanksgiving
will be the afterthought; the real holiday, the real reason to celebrate, will
be the day that you can get up at two in the morning and rush to the store to
fight the other suckers to buy shit.
Now, that may be a more
accurate representation of American values than the urge to sit quietly for an
hour being thankful, but I still can't help feeling that something will have
So listen: I'm officially
resisting. I'm staying home on Friday, not going out unless it's to go out for
a walk or a swim or something. I invite you to join me. Don't buy anything this
Friday--don't even buy food (you've got leftovers, right?) or gas (where do you
need to go, anyway?). Just stay home, or go to work if you need to. But don't
go to a store, for God's sake. We all have enough crap already, don't we? Let's
just be grateful for what we've got. For a second day in a row. We've got the
whole rest of the year to sit around wishing we had more.