Black Thursday and Thanksgiving

And once again we’re missing someone from our Thanksgiving table because of Black Friday relentlessly cannibalizing Thanksgiving. Because it doesn’t suck enough already to be working in the retail industry, which spends enormous amounts of energy on pinching pennies away from its employees. Now you have to do the shitty job slog when you rightfully should be sitting around in your pajamas and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

There’s a lot of “don’t shop on Thanksgiving” and “if you shop on Thursday shame on you” and even stronger words going around. And yeah, I get that. It makes me pretty angry that one of my friends won’t be eating turkey with us because profit margins are king in a society that apparently worships capitalism. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if it was my spouse or kid missing out because of a shitty employer who wants to move more merchandise.

But I was thinking, tonight. I have several friends who are not in nearly so good a financial place as me. I have friends who are shopping on Black Friday, not because they desperately want to elbow some lady in the sternum to try to get an Xbone for a steal, but because it’s the only way they can possibly afford a nice Christmas present for one of their kids or someone else important to them.

And a lot of the time, the people in those situations are the same ones being paid poverty wages by the same (or similar) stores that are fucking their employees out of the one family holiday they used to be able to count on. And those poverty wages are the reason why they’re being forced to depend on the relentless creep of Black Friday so they can try to have something a little nice. The viscious ugliness of that cycle takes my breath away.

I don’t think yelling at people for shopping on Thanksgiving is the way to go. Maybe some people are doing it because they’re bargain hunting assholes, and maybe I’m wrong and it’s actually just plain consumer greed enabling this trend. It’s not like I have data to back up this horrible realization of mine that no doubt has people who have been living it laughing bitterly and shaking their heads. But let’s be real.

The true blame lies in corporate greed, because profits have been and always will be more important than people, and in the complicit spinelessness of the government that insists capitalism is magical and we can’t possibly afford to raise wages to a point where people can survive, let alone thrive. The true blame lies in a class of decision makers so coldhearted that they blame the poor for needing assistance to survive when they aren’t paid enough to even feed themselves, then scold them for having the audacity to want something nice for their families when we’re constantly told that the real American dream is always buying the new shiny.

That’s where the real villainy is. Not in someone who just wants a nice present for their kid. Not even for a crazed shopper punching someone else in the face over a new cell phone because they’re been convinced there’s some kind of fulfillment in owning an expensive toy. We should be questioning the system that makes anyone think it’s okay to place profit at a higher priority than families.

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Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, there’s the standard thing for Thanksgiving, which is being thankful for things, up to and including the fact that your stomach once again refrained from literally exploding when you wedged in that last piece of pie.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I graduated with my MS, and I’m thankful to my advisor (Mary!) and my committee members (Jaelyn and Dr. Budd!). I’m thankful for having a job I love and an awesome boss (Pat!). I’m thankful for all the art I’ve gotten to do this year, between participating in filming and then breaking $1000 earned with writing. (Who knows how next year will go, if this was just a fluke, if it will go up or down, but for now that feels amazing for someone still struggling to get going.) I’m thankful I have a lot of great people in my life.

So today after breakfast (at least I got to see my friend who is missing dinner because of work then) I went for a four mile run. Which is a rough prospect in Colorado since I’m no longer acclimatized to the altitude and there are these things called hills. We don’t have those in Houston. But I kept plugging away and a bit before mile three I got that amazing feeling that yes, I was going to do this. It might suck, but I’d keep chugging along. That feeling is worth more than anything.

Sunlight on my face, a light breeze, just my feet on the concrete and grass as green as it ever gets in Colorado scrolling along forever next to the sidewalk. Everything else stops mattering, and in that moment I felt the pure gratitude for the air in my lungs. For being here, in this moment, for existing in this time and place.

Thanks for everything.

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