Blues on Black Friday

November 29, 2013

Because it is the holiday that more than any other transcends race, religion and class,
because it unites all Americans (save Native Americans) in their shared immigrant heritage, and because it calls us to be humble, reflective and grateful for what we have, Thanksgiving is the day in which I feel most happy and most comfortable in my American skin.
The ritual of sharing a meal is one of the oldest, most universal and most sacred rites of human civilization and one highly charged with spirituality not necessarily connected to any form of religion. In short, it is a beautiful celebration.

Alas, these days, one must tune out much of the world and virtually all of the media to authentically sustain such feelings and such a spirit for if you do not, you will likely besieged by a spirit that utterly negates all that Thanksgiving is meant to celebrate. And it is designed to do exactly that.

I’m speaking, of course, of the frenzied, violent consumer rampage known as Black Friday, a spectacle that in the past few years has ballooned so rapidly and widely it is now almost impossible to be unaware of it. In some places it has even devoured Thanksgiving Day itself. I caught about two minutes worth of a super slick TV ad for the thing yesterday while watching about ten minutes of some football game. Appropriately, the ad took place in a setting where frenzied middle class people were also watching some football game only to be reminded that Black Friday sales were starting early and…

The ad was designed to transform the orgy of greed into something more than normative. It was designed to make such behavior seem zany and funny and ironic all at the same time. America has become extraordinarily skilled at making virtues of even the basest human impulses with the advertising industry often leading the way. And it’s working. According to CNN, 97 million Americans went shopping on Black Friday. And they have ample footage of ecstatic crowds charging through doors of Wal-Mart as well as ample footage of crazed consumers pummeling other crazed consumers to get their hands on some thing or other — and doing so as if their very identities depended on owning something. And can a people be more vacuous than that ?

To me the most revealing and terrifying aspect of the Black Friday spectacle is that an extraordinary percentage of such violent, almost junkie like behavior, is motivated by a desire (or need) to get their hands on gadgetry, and gadgetry that pretty much guarantees passivity and isolation in the life of its possessors.Or gadgetry that will keep them perpetually entertained and distracted from both the weight and glory of life. After all, these people are not stepping on each other’s backs to obtain microscopes or cellos or guitars or even books and CDS but rather gigantic “plasma” TVs, and computers, sound systems and the like. I‘m aware that we dwell in an age so degraded that the sole criteria for all things is how it affects the economy, but I must say this: Culturally, spiritually and intellectually, I cannot see how any good, any good at all can come of these riots. Nor can I see, in the long run, how the beauty and spirit of Thanksgiving can withstand such defilement or how what is good in the soul of America can survive at all.
And I am fearful for my daughter and all the children of this lost nation.

Saturday addendum: Fights, knifings, evacuations, and more. What kind of people have we degenerated into ? How quickly this becomes the norm. How soon before some weasel makes this disgrace into a “reality” show and the same people are stepping on each other to get on it ?


5 Responses to “Blues on Black Friday”

  1. Lisa Martin Says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Marty forwarded me your latest blog, about “Bleak Friday,” and it captured so eloquently many of the feelings I have about this deadly phenomenon. I have been noticing, over the past ten years or so, the cold creep of Black Friday, which was awful to begin with, into Thanksgiving. You are spot-on when you describe T’giving as a day that is sacred without being religious (secularly sacred?) For that, I have always treasured it. And now it’s official: the tireless capitalist monster sleeps no more. Why can’t we have a day of rest anymore? It’s like the cruelty of sleep deprivation: we must always be awake, ever-vigilant, so that we are ready to pounce and acquire.

    Good work!

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      Thank you Lisa. Hope you and our Bab and all of yours withstood the ugliness to have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  2. doggirl Says:

    I am to the point where I try to shun tv and media over the holidays or at least to be very selective about what I look at and listen to. And then I am getting to the point where I just want to do that all year long, not just during the holidays. I was watching some great Hitchcock movies yesterday on AMC and was so bombarded with xmas commercials it took all the fun and wonder out of the nostalgic moments I was experiencing. Later I thought I should have just taped the movies and watched them later so I could bypass all the commercials.

  3. paulvhogan Says:

    Used to be….. Thanksgiving stood out as the ONLY nat’l holiday that didn’t involve militarism and/or flag worship and/or konsumer kraziness. With the evolution of Bleak Friday, that’s all gone now.

    Yet another American tradition to loathe. Or at least to try to ignore.

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      Good points Paul. Ignore or try our best in what ever tiny way we can to change it. Bleak and depressing, indeed.

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