Saturday, November 30, 2013

The War on Thanksgiving

In recent years, the arrival of the holiday season has brought with it a chorus of right-wing lunacy about a so-called 'war on Christmas'.  Their proof for this vacuous bloat of blarney: people these days are ever more prone to greet each other with a 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'.  Well, jeeze, what a terrible thing.  Conservative extremists take this as an affront to Christianity.  In reality, this change of greeting seems to be much more about acknowledging that there are other religious traditions celebrating at this time of year - Chanukah for instance.  'Happy Holidays' also seems more appropriate for people who appreciate the celebratory nature of the season,  without the religious connotation. I count myself in that group.

While the war on Christmas may be a sham, the assault on Thanksgiving is very real.  You see it in the expansion of 'Black Friday', the 'Holy Grail' of retail sales. 

Here is a chart that shows just how insane the competition among retailers has become for holiday sales revenue.

I found this chart with an article that just appeared on the 'Mother Jones' webpage.  Stores are expanding their business hours ever more to capture a bigger slice of the 'Black Friday' fever. Thanksgiving is about quiet celebration and good wishes with family ad friends. That's how it's supposed to be and still is for many of us. But there is no denying the intrusiveness of commerce and consumption. Retail chains are now opening for business on Thanksgiving Day as a way of gaining an edge on the competition.

The consumer merchandising engine depends on sales during the holidays. That's how the economy is shaped. Retailers need it to survive. They need to sell stuff to an American public that has less and less to spend. There's something wrong with that equation. 

If Wall Street and big business want to improve the economy, instead of expanding business hours on Thanksgiving, they might want to stop squeezing the life out of the jobs market and start playing living wages to the working poor.  In other words, what we really need is a war on greed.

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