Black Friday Eve

Nothing summarizes the current condition of the quintessential American holiday more succinctly than a recent political cartoon from John Darkow of Cagle Cartoons.

Seated around a wooden table in a forest clearing are three Indians. Stuffed turkey and corn cobs are waiting to be served. But the Indians wear quizzical, forlorn expressions on their faces as their chief rises to address them.

“The Pilgrims will not be attending the meal,” the chief says. “They started their Christmas shopping early!”

So it goes with Thanksgiving. A holiday dedicated to honoring the nation’s roots and acknowledging blessings gratefully has become nothing more than an inconvenient speed bump in the clogged race toward self-gratification.

That assessment goes beyond the modern markers of the holiday: hustling to airports, overdosing on turkey and watching hours of football — and, if true, threatens the soul of a nation.

At one time, Norman Rockwell’s painting of an elderly woman serving a huge turkey to her multi-generational family symbolized Thanksgiving. Now, two obese women fighting over the latest Singing Elmo at 7 a.m. the next day represent what can only be called Black Friday Eve.

Electronic signs over an outlet mall southeast of Los Angeles make the fictitious chief’s address virtually prophetic:

“Eat Thanksgiving dinner. SHOP at 9 p.m.”

Target stores nationwide will join that mall, called The Citadel, and open at 9 p.m. Wal-Mart and Sears outlets throughout the United States plan to open one hour earlier. K-Mart hopes to overwhelm its competition by opening at 6 a.m.

Statistics support the retailers’strategy. Consumer spending on Black Friday rose from $400 million in 2006 to $816 million in 2011. Purchases on Cyber Monday, four days after Thanksgiving, surged from $600 million to $1.25 billion during the same period.

Yet only two years ago, Wal-Mart opened at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving. Sears and Target unlocked their doors at 4 a.m.

“It’s no longer Christmas creep. It’s the Christmas crush,” Marshal Cohen, who analyzes shopping for The NFD Group, told the Orange County Register on Nov. 20.

Moreover, it’s going to get worse.

As the Register’s Lisa Liddane wrote: “Get used to Black Friday beginning on Thursday, Cohen said. Thanksgiving Day is a traditional holiday, not a religious holiday, and for stores, being open on that day is not different from being open on other non-religious holidays such as Independence Day.”

The same article quotes ChainLinks Retail Advisors as stating it is “only a matter of time before Thanksgiving Day becomes the new Black Friday.”

The materialistic sense of entitlement such trends reflect not only contradicts Thanksgiving’s purpose. It corrodes the meaning of the holiday and threatens to make it irrelevant.

Entitlement is the polar opposite of gratitude. Why give thanks for something if one feels entitled to it? Besides, how much does one feel entitled to, and why?

Materialism forces a person to define oneself by what one has, not who one is. In such a case, how much is enough?

The last of the Ten Commandments forbids coveting another person’s spouse or goods. Covetousness is the ultimate expression of an entitled, materialistic self-perception. Government and business can exploit such an attitude but cannot create it out of nothing.

Designating Thanksgiving as a non-religious holiday misses the point. At its best, Thanksgiving is a national sabbatical designed for people to consider the nature and benefits of Providence. Religiosity can only complement — not replace — a personal commitment to contemplate and appreciate life’s blessings in the midst of life’s cruel rudeness.

Yet as the economy deteriorates — with the help of inflation caused by reckless government spending — so will the perceived value of such a sabbatical. More Americans will need to work during the Thanksgiving weekend just to survive financially.

“We had so many team members who wanted to work on Thursday that hundreds of our stores are now keeping lists of volunteers who want to work if shifts open up,” said Tina Schiel, Target’s executive vice president for stores.

If Thanksgiving’s original intent dies — and it is dying at Mach speed — the United States will complete its transformation from a society of free individuals into a mass of automatons subservient to public and private entities that prey upon desire and fear.

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  • scum

    Good Heavens. This article remarkably contradicts the whole thrust of FPM, which generally glorifies and viciously protects every profit-making corporate strategy ever devised. Any critique of the Wal-Mart war zone on Black Friday has in the past met with a stiff defense on these pages. Of course, Hippolito erroneously issues his little 'zinger' at the end: somehow the desperation and crass materialism he deplores is due to "inflation caused by reckless government spending," a simplistic and misleading little phrase that presumably puts all the evils for Black Thanksgiving at the doorstep of the hated 'liberal.' Wow.

    • Madrox

      He ran out of Zingers, he stuffed his turkey with them..

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Good Heavens. This article remarkably contradicts the whole thrust of FPM, which generally glorifies and viciously protects every profit-making corporate strategy ever devised."

      Wrong. At least you're honest about your name.

  • patron

    I find the people who hit the midnight deals because that's when they normally wake up and start smoking crack and meth a bigger problem.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "I find the people who hit the midnight deals…a bigger problem."

      It's just another aspect of the same problem. Without crack-smoking customers waiting to save on their whatever (which is generally just a bait and switch game), the retailers wouldn't feel obligated to their stakeholders to compete like this.

  • David R

    The article justly describes today's society drowning in greed and self-indulgence, not giving a damn about tomorrow. Who cares is the motto of today…as long as there's beer in the fridge, my boss keeps his distance, and the kids are plump 'n happy giving their thumbs a regular workout on the latest game.
    The Liberal highway to hell…yep that's the way to go!

    • Questions

      What does this have to do with liberalism any more than conservatism? This reckless politicization of peronal grievance, great or small, is unhealthy for a society. Do you think there aren't any conservatives standing in those queues?

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "What does this have to do with liberalism any more than conservatism?"

        Liberals hate (on a conscious and or subconscious level) tradition that has any link with the past, especially if there is any Judeo Christian religious connection, no matter how weak. All traditions that tie people to the past greatness of the West and the USA must be destroyed and forgotten, or distorted in to something else like "colonialism" as it is described today.

        The fact that you don't recognize this distinguishes you as a dupe rather than a radical communist.

  • David R

    Definition of Thanksgiving: Walmart and Best Buy saying thank you suckers for making us so rich!

  • Madrox

    Remember that lady that maced her way through the crowd? She has a brick in her purse this year so watch yo' head!! XD

    • Lady_Dr

      She was no lady.

  • dickymo johnston

    I am not sure what "entitlement" is portrayed by people choosing to shop or keep the shops open other than in a free society people are entitled to choose what to do with their time and money. That people want to work to earn extra money is a good thing. It flies in the face of "entitlement." People willing to work to earn are part of the solution. What's next, criticizing people who choose to read FPM on Thanksgiving morning?

    • David R

      It's the frenzy my friend, the frenzy!

    • cew

      I'm wondering who is watching the kids while the parents are out doing the 1:00 AM shpping spree. If it's just going to be another shopping day, why have a Holiday?

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "I am not sure what "entitlement" is portrayed by people choosing to shop or keep the shops open other than in a free society people are entitled to choose what to do with their time and money."

      You have a point that discernment should be made. Entitled people are attracted to these come-ons, but so are those concerned with getting maximum value…until they learn the facts. You don't really get better deals during these events unless you get extremely lucky. Your odds might be better at roulette. Then again, you stand to lose more in a casino. All in all, they are generally a waste of time and end up with people buying stuff that is they probably would not have bought if they knew enough of the facts.

  • Chiggles

    I smell Robert Goodwin. That you, Schmo?

    • Mary Sue

      yup he admitted in another post (with the Coulda Been A Contender title) he admitted he is indeed Robert Goodwin.

  • Anonymous

    Such generalizations. We're going to church, then cooking and giving thanks at a great meal.(and I still have to work 4 hours in the evening at the ER but feel so grateful that there are still stores for people to shop at)

    look at this might cheer you up

  • Western Spirit

    So Thanksgiving is going the way of Christmas in fact giving way to Christmas' materialism. It seems as if everything that is in becomes everything that's out the next day as everything changes from yesterday to today.

    For instance, just as white socks were in they became out. The same is true of Christianity it was the in religion and now is out as people repudiate God entirely, to their own peril because it is from God we get our freedom and prosperity.

    Our consciences are formed by our beliefs and our attitude toward our Creator is paramount to our well being. A malformed conscience makes for a malformed nation.

    • Mo_

      "A malformed conscience makes for a malformed nation. "

      Perfectly stated!

    • UCSPanther

      Sadly that's true. As much as I am a fan of the free market, these hideous displays that one sees during Black Friday, Christmas shopping, etc. just plain ruin the spirit of the season. You know it is out of control when people are getting trampled by the surging crowds, fighting over Tickle-Me-Elmos and macing each other over xboxes.

      If I managed a Wal Mart and could get away with it, I would be playing Iron Maiden's "Two Minutes to Midnight" over the store speakers in the minutes leading up to opening time on Black Friday.

  • Mo_

    It truly is sickening. I have come to despise the entire "holiday season".

    • UCSPanther

      Internet shopping > holiday shopping.

  • fanlad

    Moral, social, and political decay is a sad thing to watch as America runs head long towards materialism and redistribution of wealth, while at the same time throwing God out of our institutions and society. Deception seems to rule the day, for now, but remember God is still on the throne. And I give thanks for this.

  • UCSPanther

    I just reported you, lowlife.

    • Mary Sue

      man I missed out on what he said. How bad was it?

  • Rifleman

    I get a chuckle when someone says Thanksgiving isn't a religious holiday. Who were the Plymouth Colonists thanking, anyway.?

    • Tanstaafl

      Walmart, apparently.

  • Mary Sue

    Back in the day, there were no Macy's or Walmarts. And I mean, back when the 10 Commandments were transcribed. "Covetousnes" I believe was a stepping stone to outright theft. You're not supposed to covet because covetousness leads to taking. It's not "coveting your neighbor's outboard motor" if you go and buy your own. It's coveting if you eventually sneak into his garage and take it.

    However, that said. Greed and materialism can be a bad thing, if one is filling a hole left from excising out religion. Having things is not bad, but if that's the entire focus of one's life, then it can be a problem.

    Canada's starting to cash in on this Black Friday thing, despite the fact that our thanksgiving was a full month earlier and on a Monday to boot, so we've never had a logical basis for a "Black Friday" at the end of November. But eh, the neighbors are doing it so why not…

  • TomS

    The following is a definition of Covetous – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster … Definition of COVETOUS. 1: marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another's possessions . 2: having a craving for possession Covetousness is not a sin because it may lead to theft any more than lust is a sin because it may lead to rape. These things and the rest of the other seven deadly are sins because they make their victims misserable by cutting them off from the love of God.

    • Mary Sue

      well, when the Bible says thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, what does that result in, unchecked? Adultery! It doesn't result in the covetor getting his *own* wife.

      There is a doctrine that even thinking about committing a sin is in itself a sin (like Jesus said, "Anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart").

      • banastre Tarleton

        COrrrect .the first step towards a sin is actually thinking about it

  • Tanstaafl

    If we stop shopping on Thanksgiving, stores will stop opening.

  • Len_Powder

    Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are on their way out as religious American holidays. They have become increasingly days of merchandising and self-gratification. It is "Black Friday" that Americans are celebrating, not Thanksgiving. Black Friday has been extended backwards so that it now begins on Thanksgiving. In fact, with many retailers it begins the day before Thanksgiving and extends to "Cyber Monday". There are new "shopping days" being contemplated which will be introduced in the near future. They will be connected to holidays of one sort or another, secular or religious, although the connection to religion is mainly related to reaching those who have not yet proclaimed atheism as their religion. Offer discounts, print more money, increase the debt, as long as they increase sales. The new religion is consumerism and its spiritual principle is that to satisfy your needs you need to spend money. If you have no money the government has many programs to provide it to you free of charge.

  • riverboatbill

    Meth and circuses.

    • Mary Sue

      That's a good one, hehehe.

  • CurmudgyOneJr

    This is just another symptom of Obama's economy: Retailers striving for every red cent because there are so few of them to go around. Thanks a lot Mr President.