Thanksgiving or Thanksgetting?
"Dude! I swear, you can buy a 50-inch TV for, like, $100!"
"Yeah, but you have to wait for hours in a huge crowd and perhaps not even get it."
"Well that's the tradition of Black Friday. You gotta try."
This was a recent conversation between two of my classmates that I eavesdropped on. It began with one of them asking innocuously, "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?"
Being natives of South Africa, my family have never really celebrated the holiday, but I know the basic concepts: an autumnal gathering of family and friends, a table laden with ceremonial fare and a spirit of amity and welcome that has been a cherished tradition of the American culture since its origin in 1621.
In fact, so sacrosanct is this holiday that when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the day a week earlier in 1939 so that it wouldn't interfere with the long Christmas shopping season, the public was so outraged that he eventually returned Thanksgiving to its original date.
It is ironic, then, that today we are embracing the infiltration of a day of giving thanks by a day of profligate consumption. Black Friday is another American tradition, but one that features massive crowds engulfing shopping centers nationwide in a desperate attempt to buy, buy, BUY, stampeding and demolishing their fellow man. Indeed, Time magazine calls Black Friday shopping a "full-contact sport."
Tessa Toche, a senior at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts, is a loyal Black Friday shopper and says that it "promotes economic growth of the nation due to impulse buyers pumping money into the economy."
Without doubt, money is being pumped, but into what? Capitalism has resulted in the hegemony of large corporations and the demise of the small. It is the "fat cats" who directly benefit from Black Friday. Alas, events such as Black Friday only enrich the rich and deepen the class divide.
Black Friday began in 1966. For many years, retailers opened their doors at 6 a.m. Over the years, large corporations have aggressively pushed the opening time to as early as 4 a.m.
This year, however, many retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Holidays have become marketing opportunities, and the meaning and importance behind each observance is lost amidst early bird sales and "50 percent off" signs.
MCAA senior Oliver McGovern's disapproval of Black Friday was clear: "People buy items they don't need merely because they are on sale — mindlessly adding to our nation's overconsumption." A consumption so excessive that the nonprofit Adbusters magazine started a "Buy Nothing Day" movement in 1992 to lessen "the ecological, psychological and political consequences" of an insatiable society.
But it took Rocky Lubbers, an MCAA freshman, to sum up the reality of Black Friday: "It doesn't matter whether or not Black Friday is good or bad; in the end, there will be those few who get that flat-screen TV for $30."
Natalie Landau is a senior at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. Her column appears every six weeks in Education.