We've all heard the stories of those acquaintances, friends or family members that have stood in lines at 6 a.m. for Black Friday deals, then in more recent years, at 1 a.m. and now, it seems that big-box retailers such as Sears, Macy's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's are pushing into Thursday, having recently announced their opening hours on Thanksgiving evening as early as 6 p.m., thus earning the national holiday the moniker of "Black Thanksgiving". Frankly, I'm too tired to organize a Black Thanksgiving Boycott but clearly rankled enough by it to write an Op-Ed on the subject. The tipping point, personally, was hearing about Verizon's new, and albeit catchy, marketing for the season: Thanksgetting. The Verizon website states: Happy Thanksgetting from Verizon. Get 1GB of free data. Get free movies. Get free music and more. Get into the spirit of getting.
I'm all about free data in principle but something about that phrase "get into the spirit of getting" just feels wrong at a core level. I'm not hear to discuss labor rights for employees; I understand that they are operating under free will and that some employees do indeed choose to work that day. I'm also in no position to judge someone who feels the need to endure massive cold and long queues for a casserole dish or electronic gadget-I understand that for some, their economic circumstances are such that these deals may truly affect their purchasing decisions. I'm more concerned about the mission creep of the attitudes of our spirit than our behaviors, although I believe they are not mutually exclusive. By allowing ourselves indulgences at any time, no matter the intended purpose of the holiday, no matter that our children have school off and many spouses have the day off... that we are now entering into a season where we believe we must "get", where we feel entitled that what is not ours should be; that we become deserving that something is owed to us; those are the attitudes and mindsets that lead to dark places, and potentially quite selfish and unhealthy patterns.
I had to run into REI last week for a return and barely registered the enormous hashtag #OptOutside painted on the store window until I began seeing it trending on Twitter that REI had announced that it would not be open on Black Friday. I breathed a huge sigh of relief-marketing ploy it may be but my respect for them has only grown immensely to watch a for-profit entity go against the grain and take a stand for their values and align their mission to their actions.
A daughter of Latin American immigrants, Thanksgiving was always a tricky holiday for us. Apart from my grandmother (who at times lived with us), we had no extended family in the USA and my mother didn't have the first idea (nor the first interest) to stuff a turkey with cubs of bread nor eat a pie made out of what is generally considered to most of the world, a savory vegetable. For sure, we had a wonderful meal (like many immigrant families we altered the dishes so that it worked for our culture and our tastebuds) and enjoyed the day my parents had off together; football was a non-issue as futbol (soccer) reigned regardless. Still, I would often return to school on Monday and hear exciting tales of travels to see grandparents, fun sleepovers with long-distance cousins or the aching stomachs that resulted of the umpteenth piece of pie. As an adult now my Thanksgiving experiences are more varied: I've hosted my own, experience them with other American expats in the UK several times; and been treated to a number of them by my in-laws. These Thanksgivings have all looked different but the common thread has been the luxurious experience of time, of not having to rush out and acquire more, do more, gain more; but rather feeling as though you are giving someone your total attention, and the biggest gift these days: the gift of your time. Increasingly, that is where we find the counter in our culture.