Last year when Target and other retailers began opening on Thanksgiving Day, I invited facebook friends to take a Save Thanksgiving Pledge to fight back. It was a mild form of activism that felt right.
This year, I wanted to do more so I decided to write a letter to the people responsible for this decision to open more and more retail stores on the one day of the year in America, set aside not for the pursuit of stuff but for the appreciation of the stuff we already have! Here it is...
Dear Person or Persons Responsible for stealing Thanksgiving,
Please don’t open on Thanksgiving. Please leave this one day alone! Let workers stay home with their families and don't tempt consumers to break away from theirs. Is this really too much to ask?Sincerely, Annie Zirkel
And then I get stuck. Exactly who is responsible for this sad creep of consumerism into Thanksgiving?
Surely not the employees who are actually working in these stores - unlocking the doors, staffing the floor, ringing up purchases: I know it’s not their fault. They are basically ordered to work or risk losing their jobs.
So should this letter go to the managers of these stores? The ones making the employees work? That’s a start but are they really responsible? Aren’t they only doing what corporate policy makers are telling them to do? And wouldn’t they risk losing their jobs to not comply?
All the way up the corporate chain this letter could travel possibly landing on the desk of some anonymous corporate policy maker or maybe the CEO or board of a company pushing this edict. But would they hear my plea? Or would they too claim that it is not their fault? In fact all but the first companies jumping off this cliff have surely claimed they had no choice. And even the first batch could squawk that necessary to stay competitive because they too are victims of the constant pressure to produce profit for those incessant stockholders.
Which got me thinking. Should I write this to the stockholders of these corporations who have created the fevered-pitch insistence of more return on investment?
Ah - but then who are these stockholders? In fact haven't we been told that many stocks actually are held by the middle class and pensioners? Which means that the very consumers who are watching Thanksgiving slip away are really the ones responsible for it because of clamoring for better yield for their 401k accounts right? Well that thought (except for the fact that most stock is not held by these groups* and that most of these people aren't clamoring!) has brought many a dialogue to a grinding, helpless halt. As we blame ourselves.
But ultimately there is a point here. The world is neither flat nor linear. It’s circular. Which leads me to the real villain in this story: The Chicken! That sneaky little species out to trap us by that interminable question: Which came first the chicken or the egg?
Is Thanksgiving disappearing because of corporate profit chasing? Or has our disinterest and irreverence for protecting what is truly valuable invited this disregard for a once-cherished day of giving thanks?
Well besides the answer being BOTH - I think the more important question might be: What can be done?
Will a letter to my local mall or large retailer help? Not likely. But should I write those letters? Yes. Because Thanksgiving means something to me. Because I am not willing to passively watch as this headless, soul-less corporate world runs over something I value - gratitude.
And beyond that, you know what I can do? Not shop on Thanksgiving!
Which brings me to the final recipient of this letter - you, the potential Thanksgiving consumer.
It turns out this letter is an invitation to you. If you agree that Thanksgiving is important then please join me in saying ‘no’ to shopping on that day. In fact, feel free to give a shout out to retailers of your decision, sign the Save Thanksgiving Pledge and invite others to join you.
It may not stop this trend, but if it wakes you up to becoming more focused on taking stock of what really matters to you - then that’s a start and it makes a difference!
Thanks for reading and considering… And have a fabulous Thanksgiving!
*A statistic from the University of California conservatively puts 81% of stocks, bonds, trust funds and business equity in the hands of the top 10% of the wealthy. 2010
And by the way? That top 10% who are clamoring? Definitely not at the stores shopping that day!