Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Under Attack

      I was talking on the phone yesterday to to Guy H, of Sand River, MI and he said "Nobody cares about Thanksgiving anymore" and to be honest I had a really hard time refuting that.  In fact, my only response was that I still cared about Thanksgiving, and he made note that there were now three people he knew that cared about the holiday.  I thought about that for a long time yesterday while I was painting, and I thought about it more in the evening, and then I slept on it all night long and thought about it more this morning while I desperately searched for a broadcast TV channel that wasn't showing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the more I think about it and the harder I try, I just still can't refute it.  As far as I can see, there are a myriad of reasons for this, and I am going to lay them out for you right here, right now, on Thanksgiving Day, 2011.
     I want to start with the NFL.  The NFL has done a part of the killing of Thanksgiving by adding another football game to the spate.  I know, this sounds stupid, but it is very representative of one of the reasons why the holiday is being slowly pounded into the Earth.  The NFL had for years had two games on Thanksgiving Day - one in Detroit featuring the Detroit Lions and one in Dallas featuring the Dallas Cowboys.  This has produced a number of memorable games, from the Lions sacking Bart Starr fourteen times and destroying the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers' unbeaten season in 1968 at Tigers Stadium, or Dallas and Miami playing 18 years ago in the snow in Dallas when they had to keep coming out and shoveling off the yard lines so the game could go on.  But somewhere along the way the No Fun League started its own TV network, and the realized that there was a lot of money in having those games in Detroit and Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, so they just took a slice out of tradition by scheduling a third game - in the evening - in a random city every year, to be aired on their own network in order to get a piece of the Thanksgiving football windfall pie.  That chipping the away of the tradition was the first chink in the armor that was protecting Thanksgiving.
     And Thanksgiving always had a sort of weak leg to stand on anyway.  It was built around some very important things - thankfullness and turkey and family - and the football was always an important part of the tradition, but there were still a lot of things that sort of worked against it.  First was that it is on a Thursday, and many businesses don't give their employees Friday off, so they either have to take time off to go travel or they just don't travel at all.  So sometimes it gets just brushed aside.  Second, at least where I come from, Thanksgiving often gets run over by deer hunting season.  Legions of men and women and teenagers and pre-teens are away at hunting camp, and often times the are there on Thanksgiving.  Or they go out after dinner up at grandma's and try to bag a deer up there.  And so on and so forth.  So there have always been some things that have been working against the holiday.  But they always lived in a sort of stasis with the family and the turkey and whatnot.  But now the forces against it are piling up.
     The biggest reason is that Christmas has taken it over, like the suburbs of a major American city swallowing up a small farming town as they march every progressively outward.  Thanksgiving is almost gone.  Somewhere along the way Thanksgiving became not a day to give thanks for things that we have and the people that we know, it became the starting gun for Christmas.  KA-BOOM! and we are off.  Just think about it.  Tomorrow radio stations across the nation will begin to play nothing but Christmas music.  Many people across the nation have a long weekend - just like I do - and if they haven't traveled to grandma's house for the holiday (which, don't get me started - but I live in a small town where lots of people retire, and so there are lots and lots of grandmas, which means this weekend my town is full of suburbanites in SUV's toting very disinterested teenagers and clogging up the streets and stores and just generally making me very, very annoyed) then there is a pretty good chance that they are going to be spending the day putting up Christmas decorations - which is something I refuse to do.  And, of course, it is the day when shopping starts in earnest.
I think these people are idiots who are destroying Thanksgiving.
      Oh the shopping.  That is the second reason that Thanksgiving is gone.  In fact, the stores and retail businesses of the nation are what is killing Thanksgiving, they are like the grim reaper coming to slash the holiday to bits with a 57" LCD flat-screen TV for $419 between 5 am and 10 am Friday morning, limit one per customer, only three per location available.  I can remember somewhere back in the day when Black Friday was the day that the stock market crashed in 1929 that kicked off the Great Depression.  Oh there were still good deals on Fridays, but somewhere along the way the stores got wind of this and turned it into a monster of consumerism - something that became the poster child for why the rest of the world hates America.  They rechristened it Black Friday (which Yahoo! this week proclaimed had stretched into Black Week) and hit the ground running.  Now the commericals and news articles begin sometime around November first, talking not about Thanksgiving but the day after, when people are going to get up at hours of the morning that they haven't seen since a Saturday night in college to go buy things that we don't really want or need.
     This year, the stores have decided to put the nail in the proverbial coffin of Thanksgiving by actually starting the gross orgy of consumerism on that day itself.  Toys-R-Us is leading the charge by opening at 9 pm on Thanksgiving night, with some other stores like Wal-Mart, which is sort of an exception because they are mostly open 24 hours anyway, coming right behind at 10.  Then a spate of them open at midnight, and so on and so forth through the night they tumble open like dominoes until it is Black Friday morning and things are in full swing.  They have had the Christmas decorations up and the Christmas music playing for weeks now, and this year they just went ahead and caved.  In the process, however, they have neglected to realize that they have destroyed the specialness of Thanksgiving for thousands and thousands of their employees who now have to work or sleep to prepare for work on Thanksgiving night.  That is just one more open spot at the Thanksgiving table.
Next year, the football players will play in the pilgrim costumes.
     Because of their aggressive demolition of and blatant disregard for the Thanksgiving holiday, the stores have become the battle ground for those wishing to save the holiday.  It began with Nordstroms, who came out as the Black Friday ads began, and announced that they were not going to do Christmas until December.  Wow.  I believe that the only people who saw that coming were those people in the Board Room at Nordstroms headquarters.  I don't care about their reasons for doing this, okay?  Nope.  I don't care if they did it because they knew that it was going to get them a ton of press, and because they thought they would be able to corner a nitche market of people rebelling against Christmas but still wishing to participate in it, or if it was just a principled decision that things should be a certain way and that making a pile of money and bleeding everyone for what they were worth at holiday time - I just don't care.  It does not matter why they defected, it matters that they did, and for once we have one of them on our side.  It is great.  No one followed, of course, but one store did the right thing.  It was awesome.
      The other prong of the attack is the employees themselves.  You may have heard about the petition against Target by people which is led by some of their employees who were angry that Target opening at midnight would deprive them of much of their holiday.  They still care, Guy.  The petition signers still care.  There are hundreds of thousands of them out there who were willing to put their mark down in order to save a little bit of Thanksgiving from the forces that are quickly destroying it.  Very quickly destroying it.  But the resistance had begun in earnest, and I hope that it puts up the good fight, even thought I know that it will ultimately lose.  So on behalf of myself, all of us here at the Worldwide Headquarters, Guy H, and the other person who still cares about Thanksgiving, I would just ask that this year if you can, otherwise next year for sure, to please put Thanksgiving back in its rightful place.  Wait until December to put up your Christmas decorations.  I can understand if you want to do some Black Friday shopping, but wait until Friday morning.  Spend Thanksgiving with your family - make the plans and pains to travel if you can.  get Friday off if you can.  Remember to be thankful for what and who you have.  Join us and care about Thanksgiving again.  Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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