2012 AFP

Being thankful for Thanksgiving shopping

Does your uncle think stores should be closed on the holiday? He's wrong — and un-American

November 27, 2014 2:00AM ET

If you’re feasting with a relative who thinks everything was better back in the day this Thanksgiving, please be kind. There are still people who do not understand that in 21st century America, Thanksgiving is now the day we need to go out and acquire those things that make life worthy of praise.

Confusion about Thanksgiving’s new meaning is particularly common among those severely advanced in age, who express bewilderment that anyone needs to go shopping at all on the holiday. Gas stations, the market and the five-and-dime were all closed back then, they say, and no one suffered. The family matriarch may claim that when she prepared the meals, nothing was burned and even if something went wrong, everyone still had plenty to eat.

Smile and nod politely at their perplexity. Our elders can’t understand that life is busy now and we don’t have the luxury of cooking for many hungry people on a near daily basis. Something can go wrong. They also don’t get that in our complex society, with recipes that call for ingredients unknown in olden times, there’s always an item that gets forgotten. They cannot understand the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if you burn the turkey, the nearest supermarket has roasted chickens waiting under heat lamps.

Your cousin who knits everyone in the family a blanket every year might ask why it’s necessary to acquire a brightly colored pair of overpriced headphones on Thanksgiving Day. Again, such a homespun person will not understand the appeal of getting the best possible deal or the pleasure of getting the gift for a child or adolescent that will make you the Coolest on unwrapping day and for nearly a week thereafter.

If placed at a table with people who can’t comprehend our new Thanksgiving traditions, you may minimize conflict by expressing sympathy with their sentiments and then dashing out the back door after dessert is served. If, however, you feel obliged to demonstrate that Thanksgiving shopping is their duty as citizens, rehearse these arguments.

America is a free country, and freedom means the ability to buy whatever one wants, whenever one wants.

First, remind the table that America is a free country, and freedom means the ability to buy whatever one wants, whenever one wants. By shopping, you are expressing your freedom. By buying entirely useless or unnecessary things, you are performing the ultimate in free acts and affirming the Pilgrims’ decision to leave oppressive England and build this shining city on a hill we call home. 

If that doesn’t convince, remind the doubters of our sluggish economy. If the stores are closed, the trucks don’t run. If the trucks don’t run, the truck stops aren’t open, and the servers there don’t get tipped. By keeping stores open, the economy is kept alive — which means America is kept alive. People spend money and provide work for the employees. Many workers for retail stores, restaurants and convenience stores don’t make much more than minimum wage, so they need all the hours they can get these days. A poorly managed business might even let part-timers work more than 40 hours this week and pay overtime for the holiday. Those workers will really be giving thanks when they cash their next check. They may even have something to spend on Thanksgiving after their shift is over.

Someone might object that workers in retail and restaurants want to spend the holiday with their families, since they work most every other day of the year. Remind your audience that the workers knew what they were signing up for — nights, weekends, holidays — and that if they want the day off, they should find another line of work. Note that places like All-Mart almost never close all year, so a few hours with the doors shut qualifies as a vacation for their employees. Add that most of these positions are filled by young people who want pocket change for movies and such. For example, there’s Sandy, who sells you chips and soda at the Quick ’n’ Dirty after the bars close. Judging by her Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, thick-rimmed glasses and white-striped hair, she’s a stylish, ambitious young woman saving up cash for a move to the big city.

Conclude your argument by suggesting to the table that America should declare Thanksgiving a year-round holiday. Explain the benefits of paying government bureaucrats, bankers and teachers to stay home all year. No taxes and no job-killing regulations. No annoying junk mail or bills piling up by the door. No more bored financiers sending the economy into death spirals every few years. No children getting taught disagreeable bits of history and science that inspire them to spend thousands to attain a degree that will bring them unemployment.

Now that you’ve convinced friends and family that Thanksgiving is the day for getting, the day that America needs, go out there and shop. It’s not just a privilege: It’s your right as an American. Thank God for that.

Josh Brokaw is a writer from Hughesville, Pennsylvania. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

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