Even Thanksgiving loses its ‘untouchable’ status

This Thanksgiving time, a really big thumbs-up has been earned by some frontline players in the retail sector who’ve declined joining the mad rush to which many competitors are committed, to open their doors Thanksgiving evening. That absurdity triggers recall of the sentiments expressed by calypso’s redoubtable Mighty Sparrow, when he sang many years ago, “Capitalism Gone Mad.” Really, do we need any further reminders of where workers’ interests rank, viewed through the prism of the corporate establishment? It’s risky to accept at face value the pronouncements of those retailers now espousing respect for the sanctity of Thanksgiving (who knows if a year hence an altogether different chorus is being sung?). But never mind that. For now, kudos to Nordstrom, T.J. Maxx, Dillard’s, Home Depot, BJ’s, Marshall’s, Costco and the others who’ve opted to distance themselves from this latest display of shameless corporate greed.

Dissenters from this push to despoil the Thanksgiving spirit in favor of raking in big bucks are at least giving principled voice to the unsavory turn of events: they believe their employees should be allowed to spend Thanksgiving Day with their families. If the others, comfortable with jumping the gun on the start of the holiday season gold rush, take solace in an assault on tradition that peels away only a portion, not all of Thanksgiving Day, far from reflecting some concern for propriety, it is more suggestive of self-congratulatory indulgence attempting to maximize a token gesture. They must know that the underlying perception remains, of a willingness to dishonor a revered day that purports to connect the ongoing experiment that is America to origins deeply rooted in spirituality.

Given such historical bearing, one would surely presume Thanksgiving Day to be protected for life from any capitalist designs of dubious intent. Surely, a holiday, which commands pause for special remembrance of this country’s founding, as well as invites, in like vein, reflection upon blessings bestowed, is supposedly a bigger match than the corporate juggernaut’s avarice could handle. Or so we thought.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” spiel in his campaign resonated well with an overwhelming majority of New York City residents because it’s a living reality that New Yorkers know all too well…in respect of which, New Yorkers have lots of company throughout the country. The theme of a small, privileged population segment controlling, in lopsided fashion, the bulk of the country’s assets and resources has made it into political discourse perhaps more frequently of late than it’s been known to happen previously. Middle class/working class frustration over the gap that has grown quite enormous between them and those who are well off is palpable. The point being that there are already symbols galore surrounding or intruding on common, salt-of-the-earth folk reinforcing their unenviable station relative to those on the higher rungs, and attesting to the gap, if anything, looking to grow larger. A decision by those controlling interests to breach the protection historically afforded an institution like Thanksgiving becomes yet another manifestation of a single-minded “taker” mentality that only exacerbates the sense of siege felt by those under foot.

One expects, of course, the usual poppycock from offending parties: that opening for business before Thanksgiving Day has drawn to a close is all about affording shoppers the opportunity to grab bargains. We feel pretty confident in the assertion that, among those early-bird shoppers, if ever there is a line formed of folks who believe offering them discounted merchandise was what primarily drove retailers’ early-opening decision, the line won’t be a long one. Early shopping for “Black Friday” bargains is a fad that has attracted a devoted core of followers over the years and presumably many of them will have committed to the Thanksgiving evening variation. It’s a routine, however, to which they’re being led, new rules of the game that they predictably observe and to which they’re prepared to adjust. It’s the behavior of the rules changers that we think warrants vociferous protest.

Which sets us to wondering about the social conservative take on all this. How about that ever active lobby devoting just a smidgeon of the energy now expended on bashing the Affordable Care Act on what clearly is unabashed irreverence for traditional values. One wishes that the social conservatism impetus that practitioners make sure to keep constantly fed into the body politic could be brought to bear on an issue like desecration of Thanksgiving. Or does the presence of big business in the mix mean all bets are off, given the cozy relationship the conservative lot evidently believe they must maintain with the business sector? It wouldn’t be the first time conservatives’ decision on something that was or wasn’t acceptable confounded logic.

Sunday shopping was once taboo not too very long ago in many places. The decision to remove that restriction was readily understandable in practical terms. That bears no comparison to storming the Thanksgiving Day barricades. Probably more concerning than the act itself is what it portends. It’s pretty deflating to ponder that when once “Nothing is sacred” was uttered more or less as idle chatter, major indifference to human feelings like business as usual Thanksgiving evening comes along, adding hard truth to the deepening loss of innocence.

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