A few years ago I remember listening to a random episode of the Rush Limbaugh Show live when Rush was on holiday and had a guest speaker sitting in from New York City. He did a segment on the much-ballyhooed “War on Christmas” that has been contentiously discussed on the right side of the aisle and flatly disregarded on the left.
His point was visceral. When walking down the streets of New York City, he was looking for the massive Macy’s Christmas displays only to realize that the store hadn’t set up any sort of Christmas decorations that year. He checked other department stores and found their garish displays of yesteryear had become truncated and minimalized. The point was visual and fascinating. It seemed modern life was starting to push Christmas traditions out of the public square. We would see this further debated with the hotly contested Starbucks coffee cup controversy.
The decline in traditional Christmas celebration is a symptom of society’s progressive march into consumerism. The holidays continue to transform from a meaningful expression of love and family into a transactional formality. This isn’t some grand capitalistic corporate conspiracy mind you. It is a year by year agreement between citizens and companies that want to sell us things that making things more convenient, cheaper, and available sooner is for our benefit. Unfortunately, this same attitude is bleeding into Thanksgiving more each year.
I won’t lie. I love Black Friday shopping. This year, I went to track down a new Blu-ray player and a copy of Kingdom Come: Deliverance for PS4 while both were on sale. I did it because it’s fun. Spending money and saving money on deals feels good. That’s a huge part of the problem. It’s easy to want to leave the family party on Thanksgiving after hours to track down cheap DVDs and gift cards for friends. Yet at the end of it, I can’t help but feel that this is missing the entire point of the Holiday.
In recent years there’s been a huge push on the progressive left to turn Thanksgiving into a hostile place for partisan discourse. Whether it’s the push to facilitate arguments between Trump supporters and liberals or the incessant need to revitalize the “Truth History of Thanksgiving” discussion by turning a holiday about gratitude into a bully pulpit to grandstand about Native American oppression there is no shortage of people trying to rip the Holiday to pieces. Yet that’s not where the true loss of the holiday lies. Black Friday consumerism has done more to drain Thanksgiving of gratitude of meaning.
When I was young, I remember hating the part of the Holiday where my family would make everyone sit around the table and state something they were thankful for. Being the bratty ten-year-old of the lot, finding something to be thankful for was not first on my mind. I wanted to cover everything on my plate in ketchup and gravy and go to town.
As I reflect on this year’s round of rampant gluttony and credit card debt, some sort of counterbalance is overdue. I don’t want to be the same child that couldn’t think of anything to be thankful for as he eagerly awaited food. I can do better than my adolescent self at being grateful for our unique position in the human experience. As toxic and frustrating as the current political moment has been, we so regularly forget just how lucky we are.
I’m thankful that I live in the United States, in one of the safest countries in the world at one of the safest times in human history. I’m thankful that crime has dropped across the board, every year, at every meaningful statistical measure. I’m thankful that I don’t live in a time where racial, religious and social oppression reign supreme, where I can marry whomever I want and I’m not restricted in my life by what I am. I’m thankful that we live in a time of such wealth and prosperity that I can afford every entertainment I desire. I’m thankful there are people who go out into the line of fire every day to protect my freedoms. Above all, I’m thankful for the people I love, that they’ve supported me through tumultuous times and helped foster my mind and soul.
For this year’s round of spending and eating, many of us are due for some charitable spending and fasting to make up for it on the other side. Considering how and what you can give, and reminding yourself how much there is to be thankful for will go a long way to righting the ship.DONATE
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