How someone in a country without stuff we take for granted might see us.
Best Buy, one of the retail behemoths opening its doors with cut-rate prices on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day, has a TV commercial promoting the Turkey Day sales. Toward the end of it, the background music is from the heavy-metal rock classic “Highway to Hell.”
What a perfect anthem for a shopping stampede.
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As I noted here in the last posting, “It’s easy to take shots at Wal Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s and the other Big Boys of American retail capitalism for opening on Thanksgiving Day.”
But as they say in politics, there’s always enough blame to go around.
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The Big Boys of Retail probably are just giving us what we want, and we want it all, and all at a bargain price.
I say they’re “probably” giving us what we want, because it remains to be seen how “Brown Thursday” will go over at the cash registers. There is some backlash to the whole notion of Thanksgiving being just another big sales day, not to mention the notion of so many workers being denied their own day of thanks and family time.
Still, whether “Brown Thursday” becomes part of “Black Friday” or not, “Black Friday” is now accepted as part of the Thanksgiving Weekend, and is here to stay.
This seems to me to be indicative of how much America worships at the altar of the Almighty Dollar and commercialism. That’s nothing new in American history and of course the Bible reminds that there’s nothing new under the sun in the history of the world. But please . . . .
Where will it all end?
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I’ve heard grumbling my whole life about how excessively commercialized the Holidays are, and yet we can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re all prone to get caught up in the holiday buying and selling to the point of stressing ourselves to exhaustion and digging ourselves into debt.
And all this amidst all the chirpy sloganeering that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
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So it’s a bit twisted, really, to suggest that retailers have tainted the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving or Christmas. “Black Friday” and, now, “Brown Thursday,” emerged only because retail giants smelled the demand and foresaw what will (probably!) be the now extra-profitable, national holiday for giving thanks for what we already have.
Advertising and the whole of the American marketplace remind us with their messages every day that we just can’t really be happy or quite complete until we’ve bought the coolest stuff the marketplace has to offer, always at those seductive, debt-inducing prices.
Thomas Merton–that most piercing of Christian social critics in the last century–still challenges those who purport to live Christian lives with a few questions that ring especially true after almost 50 years since the time he wrote them:
“There are various ways of being happy, and every man has the capacity to make his life what it needs to be for him to have a reasonable amount of peace in it. Why then do we persecute ourselves with illusory demands, never content until we feel we have conformed to some standard of happiness that is not good for us only, but for everyone?
“Why can we not be content with the secret gift of the happiness that God offers us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist, rather, on a happiness that is approved by the magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing.
“Why do we think we cannot be happy unless happiness has a price tag on it?”
(My italics for emphasis)
— Thomas Merton,
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966
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