Wednesday, December 7, 2011

America can't take a holiday

My family lived in London for a year when I was 15, and Christmas was on Saturday that year. The next day was designated “Christmas Sunday,” a holiday, and Boxing Day, a holiday usually celebrated on the 26th, was observed on Monday. (Never mind that a couple centuries ago, celebrating Christmas was heresy to some in Britain.) This meant three days off, and when I say off, I really mean off. There wasn’t even a newspaper published for three days.

This drove my father crazy. As he said, a nuclear bomb could be dropped somewhere in the world or our house in California could be destroyed in an earthquake, and he wouldn’t know. (The news was on the BBC, but my dad has never been one for television.)

He didn’t mind the stores being closed; he just couldn’t stand there being no newspaper for three days. My father - and anyone in my family - has never gone to a sale on “Black Friday,” the all-important shopping day in America on the day after Thanksgiving - and definitely not at 5 a.m.

This year, in addition to the market again being open on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday crept into Thanksgiving, with many stores opening at 9 or 10 that evening.

So much for Thanksgiving. So much for taking a day, a whole day, off. In America, it’s all about “for your convenience.” It’s all about having every chance to cash in and for someone to make a buck.

There was a woman interviewed on the news on T.V - PBS - saying that “this is what’s wrong with this country.” As hysterical and right-wing as she sounded, she is right. To paraphrase, America is going to Hell in a shopping cart.

Pretty soon, stores will be open on Christmas Day, so there will be another shopping day “for your convenience.” After all, isn’t there a wall between church and state in this country?

There are those who argue that all this shopping is a good thing - and not just because it helps the economy and, as George Bush said, defeats the terrorists. In an Op-Ed piece published on Black Friday in the Los Angeles Times, James Livingston, a professor of history at Rutgers University, statement that “consumer culture is good for your soul.” He argues that “it is a part of leisure, not work” and goes on to explain, “Whether you’re purchasing food for a family meal, buying someone a drink or getting in line to buy a gift on Black Friday, you’re spending time and money to create new circuits of feeling among friends and family.”

So, in this essay, titled “Spend for your soul” and which was paired with an article titled “Stuffing ourselves” condemning Black Friday and the consuming it encourages, Livingston, who most recently authored “Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment and Your Soul” (really!), is positing that we need to spend money to find community and get love (“create new circuits of feeling among friends and family”).

To paraphrase again, something is indeed rotten - and terribly sad - in these United States.


  1. I think the sight of those people crawling all over each other, knocking each other done in a frenzy to obtain those cheap imported material possessions is disgusting and frightening. People convince themselves that having new clothes they don't need or the latest electronic games will somehow make their lives better. Can you blame them? That's the line they get fed every time they turn on those imported hi res TVs!

  2. I so agree - stores are so desperate to do anything to make money, especially now people can buy things on internet at anytime (of course now people can't rely on post office shipping). It all stems from our need for instant gratification...but eek, what a crazy Op-Ed piece. How does buying stuff you really don't need save the environment?
    BTW I didn't know you lived in London for a year!

  3. Black Friday when the budget supposedly turns into the black rather than the red, and of courses cyber Monday Manic Tues and Window shop Wednesday and don't forget the Thursday Spree for the latest high tech phone. I wonder with all the latest gadgetry and the scientist who live up in Claraboya, what will we do beyond our dreams of having a phone that does everything but call? As for me, I prefer to think that we were jipped when the flying cars never occurred.