In the aftermath of Black Friday and what is rapidly becoming Black Thursday — previously known as “Thanksgiving” — it is refreshing to read stories like the following:
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Here in the birthplace of Thanksgiving, where the Pilgrims first gave thanks in 1621 for their harvest and their survival, some residents are giving thanks this year for something else: the Colonial-era blue laws that prevent retailers from opening their doors on the fourth Thursday of November.
In fact, throughout New England there are remnants of “blue laws” and a growing movement toward keeping Thanksgiving safe from commerce. And polls show that a large percentage of this country’s population finds the commercialization of the holidays unpalatable. But record numbers of folks still show up at the stores in the early hours of Black Friday and, increasingly, late on Thursday as well. One does suspect that the anti-shopping movement will fizzle out as commerce has money at its disposal and money as we all know can be very persuasive. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?
We have bought in to the notion that money talks and what it has to say is somehow important when, in fact, it has little to say and should be told to shut up. But that ship has sailed. We not only listen when money talks, we bow down and worship it and buy into its metaphors (‘sorry about that!) and applaud its wealthy heroes and blindly accept its definition of success.
We do not define success in terms of character and improving the lot of others as we most assuredly should; we do not applaud the feats of the true heroes, the volunteers who serve dinners at soup kitchens, the underpaid police and firemen who protect our lives daily, the teachers who have to deal with our spoiled children on subsistence wages, and the men and women who step forward during a crisis such as hurricane Sandy. Instead we applaud the wealthy athletes and Hollywood actors and actresses in their $45 million homes whose shallow lives we follow avidly and seek to emulate. Those are our cultural heroes, not the ordinary folks who are selfless and go thankless and unappreciated every day of their lives.
But Plymouth, Massachusetts may have the right idea. Thanksgiving is the one holiday every year when commerce should be told to take a hike, when we should stop and think about what really matters: the many blessings we all share. Shopping should not be on the agenda. It’s bad enough we sit after a sumptuous meal glued to the television set watching one or more of the three NFL games provided for us by sponsors whose only goal is to make bigger profits. But, sad to say, the reason this day will eventually become a Black Thursday is precisely because there is a ton of money to be made and we will be told repeatedly to shop until we at long last get the message and leave the couch and head to the nearest box store. After all, we do want to get the best deal — and it’s first-come-first-served.
In the meantime, let’s give thanks to the folks in Plymouth who got it right. They are members of a vanishing breed and will soon go the way of the dinosaurs.