On Black Friday

Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is one of the best holidays in the Western hemisphere. In one of the world's wealthiest nations, people take pause to be thankful for what they have, to be introspective, and to focus on family. This is a wonderful thing.

And yet, by late evening, many millions of Americans are pulling on winter jackets and heading out to the shops to save marginal sums on consumer goods.

Many news outlets trumpet the turnout of millions more shoppers than previous years as a sign of the improving economy, meanwhile Walmart advertises the benefits of product layaway, and people are trampled and pepper sprayed in their clogged entrances.

How could this possibly be considered a positive thing?

Mere hours after expressing thanks, American shoppers assault shopping centers, shove their neighbors aside, and grab the most marked down products they can find. This behavior is abhorent, and undermines all that makes Thanksgiving a beneficial holiday.

I am not against shopping, nor am I against saving money, but the sheer pandemonium of Black Friday is borderline perverse. In the eyes of the world, America's most patriotic holiday has been smothered under the weight of the consumer-centric news, and that is just sad.

Heather Horn for The Atlantic:

American schoolchildren may still learn that Thanksgiving is about grateful Pilgrims and helpful Wampanoags. The Williams-Sonoma catalog may declare that Thanksgiving is about cider-brining a 16-pound bird. But for the rest of the world -- for the billions in other countries not celebrating this week -- Thanksgiving seems primarily to be a business event.

Of further significance, research has emerged showing that Black Friday is, in fact, not the best day for deals. 

Stephanie Clifford for the New York Times:

It is not until early December, Professor Etzioni’s research shows, that prices are likely to be the lowest for electronics, products that are among the biggest sellers on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

While many may be happy with their latest television or camera, research shows that shopping giants have simply manipulated their customers, and that the shopping frenzy is wholly misplaced. Black Friday deals, although real, are simply overhyped means for attracting crazed customers and, as Professor Etzioni suggests, for "retailers to go from the red into the black."

In rushing out to spend their hard-earned money (often money they do not have), the American consumer is betraying much of what makes America great. Consumerism may be a cornerstone of the nation, but so too is dignity, and crushing people to death in the doors of a Walmart is anything but dignified.