As Thanksgiving approaches, Americans begin to think about the important things in life. How long do I need to let the turkey thaw before putting it in the oven? Where am I going to stash all of my relatives coming in from San Fernando? Have we paid the electric bill so we don’t lose power during the parade? These are the big dilemmas of American life; the materialistic, nit-picky problems that most middle class suburbanites have that people around the world have associated with the nation’s culture. It’s what they love about us Americans the most. That was a joke.
And what else defines the Thanksgiving holiday than the morning after; that harrowing and hectic hustle known as Black Friday? Stores nationwide – from the smallest of Mom & Pops to the mega-sized retailers – post big sales and great deals to grab the attention of penny-pinching holiday shoppers. Then they open their doors at the earliest of hours to reel in the die-hards. It’s a real experiment in human nature, if you ask me. Who among us will be the first in line at Target at 5 o’clock in the morning? Who among us will live or die for fifty percent off of T-shirts at JCPenney’s? Forget risking lives for justice and social order in America; let’s beat down the old lady on crutches before she gets the last copy of Skyward Sword for her grandson! Truly, it brings out the worst of America.
Perhaps one of the most peculiar parts of this year’s Black Friday is its attempt to tap into the most current political movement. Occupy Best Buy, a website unapologetically stolen from the satirical websites Occupy HTML and Occupy Flash, moves people to camp out at their local Best Buys in order to be the first to cash in on the best deals. The website claims not to affiliate itself with the retailer, but it’s not hard to disbelieve. I don’t know what would be worse; a website affiliated with a nationwide retailer trying to make profit off of the anger of the American public, or a web designer trying to manipulate Americans to give profit to a retailer. Either way, it’s not very effective.
Internet users have posted petitions on Change.org to cool down the madness that is Black Friday. One such petition, Tell Target To Save Thanksgiving, has almost 200,000 signatures telling the retailer to push back their opening time from midnight to 5:00 AM. They say that with a midnight opening:
“Target is requiring team members to be in the store by 11:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation – all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!”
Of course, this petition isn’t the most dire call to action I’ve seen show up in my inbox. And an opening time like 5:00 is still too early for employees of retailers to get trampled on, harassed by frantic customers, and yelled at by their managers when they fall asleep on the couch that they’re supposed to sell to the newlyweds standing beside them.
Black Friday is not a national holiday. It’s not Thanksgiving, the eradication of which would send shockwaves through American culture and families nationwide. We don’t need to wake ourselves up at the wee hours of the morning just to stand in line for a sale. We don’t need to spend our holiday thinking about what time we need to kick everyone out of our house so that we can rest up for the big rush into Walmart, Sears or Macys. We don’t need to force the employees of these stores into their uniforms and make them work with bleary eyes. Capitalism will work just fine without Black Friday sales.
Thanksgiving starts off the holiday season, and New Year’s Day ends it. The end of the year should be about reflection and understanding; and 2011 has given people worldwide enough reasons to reflect and try to understand. In the last several weeks of the year, I believe that instead of worrying about Christmas shopping and blowing dollars and sense on mindless sales, we should take most of our time to relax and try to spread cheer in order to end the year on a high note. You know, tidings of comfort and joy. There hasn’t been enough of that around the world this year; I think that instead of punching out grandmothers in the aisles of stores, we could allstand to be civil to each other for a few weeks. Please, dear God Jesus Allah tree Spaghetti Monster Xenu – did I miss any? – let us be civil to each other for a few weeks.
This Black Friday, don’t go out and freeze yourself waiting in a line for a store to open. Don’t “Occupy Best Buy” or any retailer for that matter. During those early hours, occupy your beds. Snuggle close with your spouse. Students, catch up on the sleep you lose from having to work toward paying off your imminent loans. That new printer will still be there after breakfast with your families. Sure, it’ll cost a few extra bucks; but if it means not having to become a ruthless animal in order to buy it, then that’s worth the price.
William Sisskind studies Television-Radio and Writing at Ithaca College, and has shaken hands with several famous people. He also writes novels rife with sex and tears. You can ask him anything or vent your issues in the comments below or at @wxsyz on Twitter.