As the nights grow longer and the temperature slowly cools, we are faced with a series of festive days. It’s a whirlwind for all Americans, especially students, who use the time to visit family, cram for finals and crank out that 15-page essay the night before it’s due.
Thanksgiving is an especially joyous time.
It’s a day where we hopefully have the wonderful opportunity to gather with our families, feast together, watch football and take lengthy naps.
Oh, America, how grateful we are for your national day of thanks.
However, as American families gather around their tables to dine on a delicious meal, underpaid workers will put on their uniforms to work at retail stores across the nation. The holiday President Abraham Lincoln declared for our great nation is eroding away at the promise of a good bargain on Thanksgiving evening.
Many of the largest U.S. retailers, including Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Best Buy and a slew of others are opening Thanksgiving evening to give shoppers the chance to purchase hordes of crap manufactured overseas at prices so low, they’re insane. Kmart — perhaps the biggest offender of them all — is opening at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and will remain open for 41 consecutive hours.
Of course, it’s all about the customer convenience. Who cares how many low-wage employees have to skip time with their family and friends in order to assist throngs of animalistic shoppers?
In what qualifies as one of the saddest yet most uplifting stories of the year, employees at an Ohio Wal-Mart recently started a food drive — to feed other Wal-Mart employees on Thanksgiving. When you have to start a charity collection for your co-workers so they can actually eat a holiday meal, your country has reached a new low point.
Now, couple that image with cell phone videos of gluttonous shoppers, relishing in the cheap crap they get to purchase on Black Friday — I mean Thanksgiving. Little compares to the video of a woman grabbing piles of white bath towels from a bin at a Wal-Mart and dumping them into her shopping cart.
Boy, did her family and friends luck out when they all got a set of stark white bath towels for the holidays.
In recent years, a select few retail stores dealt with violence, stampedes — which in some cases led to the deaths of customers — and a whole litany of madness as Americans spent oodles of money on gifts that one day appear in a thrift store near you.
You have to ask yourself, what kind of society allows the perpetuation of such a disgusting trend?
When Lincoln signed the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, I doubt he had bargain shopping on his mind.
As the Civil War raged and our nation’s creeks, rivers and streams flowed with the blood of fallen soldiers, Lincoln — at the behest of a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale — issued the proclamation, setting aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanks so we could all appreciate what we have. It was a dark time in American history, but Lincoln wanted Americans to be thankful, hopeful and prayerful.
One hundred and fifty years later, he got stampeding crowds at the local Wal-Mart.
We don’t need to abandon shopping for the holidays, but perhaps we should reanalyze how and when we’re doing it.
Is there really a need to ruin someone’s holiday just so you can shop, or have we become so selfish as a nation that our shopping addiction comes before the lives of others?
Think that’s an exaggeration? Tell that to the family of a Wal-Mart employee who was stampeded to death on Black Friday 2008. The sales were so good, shoppers killed to get them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can and should demonstrate care and compassion for others, be thankful for what we have and realize the need to buy crap doesn’t help those poor employees sacrificing their holiday for you.
It helps the Waltons and other retail giants have bigger Thanksgiving turkeys.
Joel Mendelson is a UF graduate student in political campaigning. His column runs on Mondays. A version of this column ran on page 7 on 11/25/2013 under the headline "Retailers and shoppers are slowly destroying Thanksgiving"