Friday, November 29, 2013

Some Thoughts For This Thanksgiving Weekend

Well, another Thanksgiving is over, and now, it is the dreaded "Black Friday", that most crazy day of Christmas shopping, immediately after Thanksgiving.

More on that later, because I do have some thoughts on it.

But first and foremost, I wanted to talk about Thanksgiving a little bit. Hopefully, you got to enjoy your Thanksgiving, if you are American. If you are not, and perhaps are unfamiliar with this particular holiday, it was traditionally a day where people take a timeout for one day, in order to enjoy a feast and remember all of those things that they are thankful for. Thus, the name Thanksgiving. And yet I say again, a little more on this in a minute, as well, because there are some contradictions with how this holiday is popularly perceived, versus the historical reality.

Suffice to say, though, that the modern day holiday is a time when Americans traditionally get together with family, and enjoy a feast of turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes, candied yams, cranberries, and assorted other vegetables and dishes that may be on offer, as well as desserts such as pumpkin pie, among other things.

The main idea behind it, though, is to give thanks. Time out, if you will, to appreciate all that you have, and all that you have been blessed with in life. Generally, that includes those people around you, that you are enjoying the Thanksgiving feast with. You give thanks for having family and friends to be around, and which helps make your life more complete, more full. You give thanks for your good health, as well as those of your family, hopefully. You give thanks, also, simply for being able to enjoy this moment, to enjoy hot food in a warm, family environment, at precisely that time when the weather is growing colder, and far less hospitable and inviting.

Of course, this was by design. The holiday falls at a time when the warmth of the summer and early fall is giving way to the colder season of later fall, and the approach of winter.

Yet, traditionally, Thanksgiving is in honor of when the pilgrims and Indians got together for a feast of goodwill. There was a bit more to the story than that and, in fact, here is an article that suggests that this conventional interpretation of the holiday is actually wrong:

Thanksgiving created by ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ author — not the Pilgrims BY VALERIE STRAUSS November 26, 2013:

Well, that is interesting. But there is a problem with the history of Thanksgiving: Indians, or Native Americans, do not look at it as a positive thing. Far from being appreciative of the spirit of togetherness and companionship, they recognize in the holiday the tradition of having their land stolen from them, and the genocide that they were victims of. This makes Thanksgiving a holiday of the victors, not celebrated by those who were vanquished. More and more, this viewpoint is getting more exposure. I have read some articles, and even spoken to some native people, and so far, that viewpoint seems more than just common: it seems to be the rule among natives, and it is something that we might want to keep in mind.

I try to but, I must admit, I never reached the point where I no longer celebrated the holiday. Everyone, family and friends, celebrate the holiday, and it is a time - one of the rare opportunities, really - to simply enjoy a nice meal under nice circumstances, and indeed, to try and remember all of those things to be thankful for.

So, yes, I try and keep in mind that the history of this particular holiday has not always been kind to everyone.

But yesterday was a time to enjoy time with loved ones. In my case, in fact, I actually went to two Thanksgiving meals.

The first was with my immediate family. My parents, my brother, and my son. It came early on in the day, because my son was scheduled to go with his mom into the city, to have a second Thanksgiving meal himself with her side of the family. But before then, I was able to enjoy time with him, and to embrace him, even tell him that, for this Thanksgiving, I was appreciative to be sharing this special occasion with him. Also, to be thankful for the relative good health of my family, including my son and myself, as well as a good turn of fortune for my brother recently. My mom retired a few months ago, which means that both of my parents are retired now.

The second meal was with my girlfriend and her close friends, who are really like extended family for her here. Almost all of her family is in Poland, but this is her family here on this side of the pond. So, for the last two years, we enjoyed meals there, including for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And they really do an amazing job with the meals! I mean, the woman that cooks them is a top notch cook! These meals are, generally speaking, better than anything that you can get in a restaurant. She was not feeling too well this time, having undergone medical procedures, and feeling physically exhausted. But last year, she had an amazing assortment of food, including lamb with mint sauce that knocked my socks off! Again, better quality than any restaurant that I have ever been to! It makes my girlfriend jealous to say this (so I try not to say it too often), but I think that ranked among the very best meals that I had in my entire life!

So, we enjoyed a good meal, and towards the end, I was predictably so full, that it was difficult to move. We did move, over to the living room, to the sofas, where I almost fell asleep. But before long, we conversed. They do not have a television in the living room, which is kind of a novelty these days. Truth be told, it was actually a refreshing change. They said that, if there was a television and it would be on, we would all be watching, and not sharing a conversation. They are absolutely right about that, and it was a very fun evening, breaking bread together, and sharing laughs and lively conversation.

Before long, it was getting late, and thus, time to go. It always seems like these days just fly by!

Still feeling full to the brim, we went home. Both my girlfriend and I were determined to enjoy a nice day off the next day (today), on what now has come to be known as Black Friday. It is known as Black Friday, because it is the day when all of the stores have these supposedly ridiculous sales, and people flock to the stores to get the best deals.

Here is the thing, though: it is almost offensively about greed.  Greed on such a level, and without any attempt to keep it in check. Commercials are everywhere, encouraging you to rush out to the stores, to the malls, to shop, shop, shop 'til you drop! This, just a day after we are supposed to be appreciative for all that we have been blessed with in life, and with absolutely no sense of irony or contradiction by those who participate in both!

And the level of greed is just getting absurd! It was starting to get more extreme for quite a few years now. Some years ago, rather than waiting to open a bit earlier than usual with extended hours on this day, stores began to open at ridiculous hours in the middle of the night.

As if that weren't enough, now stores are going more extreme! A lot of them opened up on the very evening of Thanksgiving itself! Some, like Kmart, opened up as early as 6am on Thanksgiving morning, with "Black Friday" sales!

To me, this is an unfortunate trend, and what nobility and truly great spirit the holiday still may have represented has truly been compromised.

Maybe, given the paradox and contradiction with the history of the holiday, it is indeed fitting. Certainly, it is a sign of the times, of where we are exactly as a country nowadays. Seriously! Again, think about the irony of rushing to the stores, to the stress of life, to excess greed and trying to grab the best deals for things that are on sale, cheaper perhaps than they are on the other 364 days of the year, and this on the day after we are supposed to take time for a deeper appreciation of all that we have in our lives, all that we have been blessed with! Absolutely absurd! And we see the prominent reports of these excesses of greed, with news reports of violence and death, as people who participate going crazy and acting in shameful ways has become every bit a tradition of this day as turkey is for Thanksgiving.

So, maybe I have not been able to eliminate Thanksgiving as a tradition, as a holiday, that I recognize and participate in. But I can tell you one thing: I want absolutely no part of Black Friday! The very idea, the notion of flocking mindlessly to the stores to allegedly save money to buy shit that we don't need just offends me, and I, for one, will not participate! You won't find me in a store on this day and, hopefully, there are plenty of other people who share this sentiment, and who steadfastly refuse to cheapen our better spirit in order to prostitute ourselves and pervert our values by shredding what remains of our personal, as well as societal, dignity, to participate in the most symbolic and shameful tradition of our age!

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