THE BOSTICK REPORT-Few things are more uniquely American than Thanksgiving. It is an integral part of our national mythology and a historical representation of our most precious ideals. In many ways, it is the story of the American Dream – that we can exist harmoniously in a land of diversity, that hard work provides us with abundance, and that we are profoundly grateful for that excess.
And we need Thanksgiving to remind us of all that because we live in an era where we have had to face the harsh discrepancies between our country’s founding ideals and our oftentimes-failed execution. That’s a hard pill to swallow for some, easier for others. And I can agree. It is sometimes hard to look optimistically at those ideals when you account for the profound degradation of upward mobility, the growing inequality of wealth, and the disappearing mystical “middle class”.
Worst of all has been the historical discrepancies between the ideals Thomas Jefferson articulated for us and the realities in civil rights that have dogged us for centuries now. From the decimation of the American Indians to slavery to gender rights to Japanese internment camps to an imperfect justice system to… the list runs on and on, but my point is to acknowledge that yes, we have what I would politely call an imperfect history of equality.
But the underlying principles of graciousness, equality, and determination that drove those beleaguered, dying pilgrims to make peace with the American Indians and celebrate the power of community – even for just that one day - still ring true and the hope that our system is capable of doing better is the reason we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving as a day of rest and gratitude for nearly 400 years.
So as we watch more retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving, contradicting the tenets as espoused by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and the bulk of America’s heavyweight leaders, I find myself patently offended and defensive.
Are we really going to passively engage in commerce and toss aside sanctity of Thanksgiving without any discussion? President Lincoln went so far as to pause the Civil War to break bread and express gratitude. What are we going to do? Will our desire for stuff outweigh the fact that retail employees can’t say no because they lack the economic means to stand up for themselves?
That’s precisely the most un-American part of shopping on Thanksgiving Day – that it is yet another shift away from economic equality and towards the creation of an underclass of people who will now forgo the most basic American tradition of sitting down with family and friends in order to celebrate the triumph of American abundance.
Thanksgiving is the one holiday that every man, woman, and child can celebrate regardless of faith or politics. Historically, it is the day when we put down our work and celebrate our profound fortune for being born in a land of so much bounty. It is the one day we celebrate every year that returns us to our agricultural roots and asks everyone to bask in the humility of gratitude. I think that’s a good thing.
So, if you are capable of shopping on Thanksgiving, I put it to you that you have a moral obligation to consider your actions carefully. Your participation in the economy on this holiday forces the employees of big box retailers to lose Thanksgiving.
Because these employees cannot fight this decision or they risk losing their poorly paid jobs, I put this question to myself: does saving a couple hundred bucks on some trinket matter more than the children who don’t get to be with their mothers and fathers that night because someone had to be in the stores to satisfy my shopping bug? Is the loss of their sanctity worth it when data shows that there really is no demonstrable net gain in sales because of staying open on Thanksgiving?
For my money, a better use of our shopping dollar is to participate in small business Saturday. It keeps our money local and encourages respectful shopping hours. In the fashion of our forefathers, let’s reward the independent shopkeeper who respects their employee’s Thanksgiving.
We have many options. Look through your community and patronage places like Summit Cycle in Westchester, Soaptopia in Mar Vista, Guild on Abbot Kinney – or the whole of Abbot Kinney for that matter.
The point is this: the choices we make on Thanksgiving are important and hugely impactful. Don’t support something as un-American as Thanksgiving Day shopping especially when it is a much-needed beacon of our ideals. And if you absolutely have to do something on Thanksgiving, take Lincoln’s direction and “tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers”.
I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
(Odysseus Bostick is a Los Angeles teacher and former candidate for Los Angeles Councilman. He writes The Bostick Report for CityWatch.)
Vol 11 Issue 95
Pub: Nov 26, 2013