Let’s pause a moment, the day after Thanksgiving in America, and reflect on what this means.
More importantly, though, let’s reflect on what it SHOULD mean, versus what it APPEARS to.
(Yes, I recognize the other issues with Thanksgiving and the mistreatment of the Native Americans and such, but that is not the topic I am addressing here).
What it SHOULD mean: Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day to spend with family and friends, grateful for the things we have and the people we have to share them with. A day to do what we should do EVERY day: Be thankful. Express gratitude.
What it APPEARS to mean: Thanksgiving marks ‘x’ number of days until Christmas. And that number is insufficient, so we need to buy buy buy everything we can, because that is what you need to do. Time is short, and money is tight, so here is a one-day sale to draw you in to spend spend spend. To hell with time for friends and family, get out there and be a good participant in Capitalism and spend your cash on STUFF!
Worse, we have become so cynical about this situation, we just feed it more and more. Either we get outraged by the unbridled, raging consumerism overtaking family and free time – or we are a part of that shopping feeding frenzy. Neither of these will do anything to change this.
What can we do? What should we do?
I haven’t an answer that will work for everyone. Hey, for some people today is a great shopping day. As I work in retail, today is a big day for the shop I work for sales wise. The problem is greater than Black Friday and its overrun of Thanksgiving. The problem is purely American, from what I can glean, and would require a fairly large shift in our culture that I think we are unprepared to make on many levels.
We need to address the life/work balance. We work far longer hours than Europeans like the French and Germans, though comparatively fewer than Asians like Singapore and Korea. None-the-less, we work and work and work, and are stingy with our free time, stingy with personal time, and we never seem to have the time/money combination desired, and sometimes even needed.
And all that work doesn’t make us happy, it generally still leaves us wanting. It causes quite the imbalance, which leads to this issue:
We need to address our health. We should be embarrassed by the numbers when it comes to health care in this nation. We have, for the vast money we spend on the industry, one of the shortest life expectancies in the developed world. We have a broken system run by insurance companies focused on profit, with a reform that only partially addresses the issues, and seems to have caused as many problems as it was intended to resolve. We focus on caring for the sick, rather than preventative care. We pop pills rather than work long term solutions.
We all want to be healthy, but we eat foods that are mostly chemicals, we neglect exercise, and we focus on the quick fix over lifestyle changes for the better. Not a good means to the end.
We need to celebrate our differences, not lament them. Doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, black or white, religious or atheist, male or female, or whatever difference you want to choose between people – we should be celebrating our individuality. Is it just me, or does it seem more and more over the last decade or so that we have gone from a nation striving towards unity and equality and tolerance to a nation of division, widening inequality, and intolerance? What happened to “Free to be You and Me?” and the notion of how similar we are despite our differences?
It is disheartening to see people working harder to divide than to unite. Greater separation does not make our lives better in any way.
We need to accept the secular and the sacred as separate and equal. Plain and simple – we are NOT a Christian nation. Period. We are a nation with every single religion known to man in practice. Choose the religion, major or minor, and someone here practices it. However, there are many people who are atheists, and do not practice ANY. And somewhere in between, there are agnostics and spiritual but non-religious folk across the nation, too.
There is no attack on Christmas. Period. Sorry folks, I don’t care what Sarah Palin or any other fundamentalists tell you – Christmas is pervasive, it is the dominant event across this nation. It is on our televisions, in our stores, on our radios, it is EVERYWHERE. It is for this holiday that our rampant consumerism gets its focus.
Please note – I am NOT attacking Christmas, I am not against the idea of peace on earth and goodwill towards your fellow man or those aspects of the holiday and its spirit. What I take issue with is those who acknowledge no other religions in the first place, but when they see this dominant force taken from 100% to 80% they call it being attacked. This is not a digression on my topic – it is precisely what I am getting at here: Focus on separation and discord in place of togetherness and peace.
We have reached a point where we are always looking for who is against us. Who believes something apart from what we do, and seeks as such to break apart our society? Who is our opposition? Who will corrupt and disrupt our way of life? Divide and conquer.
Until we see and acknowledge these things, there is really nothing we can do to make this holiday back to what it SHOULD be. A rather major cultural shift, but I believe a necessary and really worthwhile one.
So – what does Thanksgiving mean to YOU?