Monday, November 18, 2013

Don't shop on Thanksgiving

You've probably heard that many big retailers will be open on Thanksgiving. Not just late Thursday night, as in the past few years, but all day.

I'm generally a live-and-let-live type. This business of retailers opening on Thanksgiving, though, crosses a line.

Consider the holidays typically observed in the United States. Per Wikipedia, the most common are:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday
  • President's Day (which used to be separate days honoring Washington and Lincoln)
  • Easter
  • Memorial Day
  • The 4th of July
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day
Of these, five — New Year's Day, MLK's birthday, President's Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day — commemorate a person or a symbol (labor) but have no universally observed rituals associated with them: they are, in the main, days most people don't have to work or attend school. Easter, despite the best efforts of retailers, remains a religious holiday and is not officially observed by government at any level (nor privately observed by many non-Christians). Memorial Day and Veterans Day are intended to honor those who served in the armed forces; however, since so few Americans have a personal connection to the armed forces today, in practice these days are, like the first five, mostly just days off from work or school. Christmas, though highly secularized, remains technically a religious holiday.

Only the 4th of July and Thanksgiving are genuinely non-sectarian holidays with defined rituals that almost everyone observes. (Native Americans, for obvious reasons, may be exceptions.) They arose from the nation's shared history. But while shooting off fireworks is a fine old time (provided you aren't highly strung), it's neither terribly solemn nor ennobling. Sharing a meal with those close to you to give thanks for the good in one's life, on the other hand, is both.

Thanksgiving, in other words, is a holiday that everyone can observe and that encourages us to be better people. It's one of the only holidays that can be said to unite us as a country.

Making people work on Thanksgiving shreds that unity. It elevates shopping above our noblest instincts.

This country of over 300 million people lacks the kind of ethnic or religious identity that binds other countries together. We, more than any other nation, identify ourselves by our shared ideals. Some of them, of course, are laid out in the Declaration of Independence and other important documents, but ironically, those ideals are the ones that often cause the most strife when we have to think about how they should be put into practice.

We need Thanksgiving. It celebrates and refreshes our national spirit. It brings us together. And in these troubled times, when we are so viciously split by contentious issues, we need all the reminders we can get that we're one country.

Sacrificing all that Thanksgiving represents for the sake of consumerism is not just crass, it's destructive to our national unity.

But in spite of the holding by the Supreme Court that corporations are people (a holding that looks more and more dubious over time), corporations, unlike actual people, lack moral compasses. We're never going to guilt-trip them into remaining closed so their employees can celebrate the day. We can't pass laws forbidding them to open, either.

That leaves us only the much-vaunted hand of the market.

Send a message to Walmart and the other retailers forcing their employees to work that day. If you care about the well-being of the country, not to mention your family, friends and neighbors, don't shop on Thanksgiving.

No comments:

Post a Comment