Monetizing Thanksgiving

Holiday commerce seems to oozing into to every nook and cranny of our lives--to include encroaching on a holiday.  As if Black Friday were not enough, we have to co-op 6 p.m. - midnight on Thanksgiving.  Sacrilege!

I appreciated seeing the ads from Marshall's, Homegoods, and TJ Maxx bowing out.  I also across a an essay from last year from Ann Brennoff called What Black Thursday Protesters are Doing Wrong.  Her article has two major points--both poorly argued.

Her first point is that those of us who would express disdain for stores opening for Thanksgiving shopping are making the flawed assumption that everyone would rather be eating with their families rather than earning money.  If the assumption fails on the part of those supporting privileging the holiday as a shop free holiday (assuming that people would rather not be working), then it also fails on the part of those doing the finger wagging (assuming that people are grateful to be away from dysfunctional families).

There's just one problem: Who made them the boss of us? How do these people actually know that the guy who is working the register at Target doesn't appreciate the money? How can they be so certain that the gal gift-wrapping your packages at Macy's even has a family she wants to spend Thanksgiving with? Not everyone does, you know. Some people dread the holiday and are more than happy to spend it earning some money.

That some people dread the holidays and would rather work is likely a small portion of the retail population conscripted to work--and using that argument as an anchor for an essay is weak.

But who are you -- Black Thursday protesters -- to tell us that you know what's best for us? I don't recall electing you, and yet you want to impose your values on me.

Perhaps the Black Friday protesters are those that are affected by a family member that has to work on Thanksgiving. Perhaps it is the meal's cook. It's a holiday so daycare is not open.  Perhaps the person is working because they were threatened with losing his/her job if they didn't show up--not because they appreciated the pittance of traveling to work for 4 hours of pay.

"Protesting" is not about foisting one's values on others. Rather, it is about giving voice to one's opinions about what we consider objectionable actions.  And, yes, objectionable actions are things that abrade against our values--which is why women's suffrage, racism, police brutality, child labor and a host of other issues emerge into the public conscience.

Her second point, which I believe is important (but poorly argued) has to do with not making a selective argument while ignoring the larger issue:
Thanksgiving happiness doesn't just come in one shape. Shop or don't shop, that's your choice. But don't make Thanksgiving a holiday about labor rights when you ignore it the other 364 days a year.. . . Social activism? Folks, it's a 365-day-a-year commitment, although you'll probably want to take off on Thanksgiving.
Here's where I think that Brenoff has a mixed up argument.  The objection is about monetizing the space between Thanksgiving and Christmas and changing it to 'including' Thanksgiving. It feels that we have pimped out our last outpost of non-commercialized space.  If enough of us treasure the holiday enough to NOT SHOP, then we can absolutely let our opinion be known.  But if the collective we is so titillated by the too-good-to-pass-up door buster sales, then that simply reinforces another set of values that the shopping public has embraced.

I'm opting out.


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