Szyperski: This is why we can’t have nice thingsWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A new pledge has been circulating in regards to the push by retailers to move Black Friday to Thanksgiving Thursday. The oath reads, “Because I believe in family … I pledge to not shop on Thanksgiving. If I’m shopping, someone else is working and NOT spending time with their family. Everyone deserves a holiday.”
I’m a big Black Friday fan. The first time I can recall shopping the day after Thanksgiving was in my dad’s hometown of Madison, Ohio. My mom, my grandma and various other female family members headed out to forage together in what would become one of my favorite yearly rituals. I instantly felt a sense of kinship with not only the women in my family, but with my fellow day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers.
I don’t even care so much about the deals; I just enjoy the excitement and ceremony of it all. I love getting up extra early and heading out into the cold November chill with leftover Thanksgiving desserts in hand for breakfast. It is the only day of the year that I take off without my children, to bask in a sea of chaos that isn’t mine.
As with most things that are wonderful, however, someone has taken the initiative to ruin it. The thrill of doors opening early at 6 a.m. has slowly been pushed further and further up. It started with 5 a.m. and then 4 a.m. and eventually worked its way to midnight. Over the past few years, it just kept going and going until it finally spilled right over into one of the most sacred of all American days: Thanksgiving itself.
Yes, Black Friday appears to now be Black Thursday. The “black” will no longer stand for companies shifting their profits into the black, but rather for the death of a once-great tradition. Black Friday as we once knew it is likely gone for good.
I’m not of the opinion that things should last forever. I understand that some things must fall by the wayside in order to make room for other things. Progress is important.
Still, coming from someone who really enjoys shopping and really, really enjoys Black Friday shopping, shopping isn’t progress and it isn’t important. It can almost always wait until tomorrow. When it is literally the only day of the year that most of us can agree to take off, it can most definitely wait until tomorrow.
On the other hand, even Thanksgiving isn’t for everyone. Some consider Thanksgiving to be a celebration of genocide, insensitive to the history and ongoing struggles of Native Americans. For still others, Thanksgiving is simply a reminder of the home and family they don’t have, a national celebration of something that is missing from their personal lives. A joyous day for most can be the loneliest of days for others.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
There is no universal agreement in the United States, only perpetual debate and reconsideration and cultural dissection. I’d love to say that such an always-open-for-discussion attitude fuels our democracy and keeps us fresh and balanced, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It just confuses us and takes more than it gives.
We all need a day off; we really do. All of this constant arguing online and at the office and at the dinner table is completely wearing us out. Perhaps now more than ever, we need a day of just family, friends and semi-quiet reflection.
As someone who has spent a Thanksgiving in the ER with a croupy kid, I can tell you that there will always be someone working on Thanksgiving. Whether at the hospital, at the nuclear plant, on the football field or even making dinner for 20 loved ones, there will never be a day when we’re all at rest. There never has been. Even setting a day aside just for food and family means a whole lot of work for someone.
Can we at least try, though? Can we do our best to put at least one day aside where we focus more on our appreciation than on our consuming? Can we forget the questionable history of the thing and just agree that taking as much of a day off as we can is a good thing overall? Can we leave the doorbuster deals and low-priced electronics out of it for at least 24 hours?
Thanksgiving will never be perfect. Nothing ever is.
Let’s pledge to allow ourselves to have something nice for once, something that’s more about a simple idea than about our material, consumer selves. If the tradition still fits, keep it.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at letters@toledo freepress.com.