Today is Black Friday and the stores are doubtlessly mobbed. This season a rash of stores will have opened on Thanksgiving Day proper. The holiday was late this year, giving retailers a more condensed window before Christmas. Also, once you start opening stores at midnight on Friday, moving it up four hours to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day isn’t much of a stretch. One could argue about where the line should be. It might be a good idea to prevent stores from opening until midnight Thursday.
Yet, once the discussion becomes the line, we’ve already lost the fight.
As long as everyone is spending Thanksgiving waiting for Black Friday, we’ve already allowed the values of the latter day to overrun the values of the prior day.
Black Friday, at its core, is about impatience. Black Friday is about the rush to get the newest consumer goods, as fast as possible and as cheap as possible. We cannot wait to begin the season’s shopping frenzy. Sadly, the day of impatience follows what is supposed to be a day of gratitude and is, to some degree, overriding it.
Impatience is simply not compatible with gratitude. This is a bigger problem and one that consumes not just this particular day — or its creep into yesterday — but every day and in a very damaging way.
Of course, patience is not always a virtue. It can be a crutch to justify inaction. Yet, impatience also has its downside. The Obamacare website is a perfect example. Yes, it is terrible the website is slow. Given the amount of time the administration had to prepare for it, it is a disaster. But, the larger fear should be that because the website was initially slow, millions of American will abandon the effort to get the healthcare they need. A laudable goal will become impossible to achieve just because the public isn’t willing to wait for it. It suggests that collective impatience has made it difficult, if not impossible, to do anything collectively.
This attitude, and this problem, isn’t limited to health care. Technology has speeded up the pace of everything. If I decide I don’t like something, it is gone. If something is moving slowly, I can just give up.
We all do this far more often than we would like to admit. The public, or large segments of the public, won’t undertake complicated projects because with complicated projects come problems and with problems come delays. Collective action, rather than becoming easier in an interconnected world, becomes harder as we become less willing to tolerate any obstruction. The willingness to show up at a monthly meeting to work on improving the values we see in media, or the ability to manually gather signatures for ballot initiatives or do the kind of long work it takes to organize a union.
Our only hope is in meeting these problems, not with impatience and aggression, but with appreciation and understanding.
All of which makes it particularly pathetic that the one day we have set aside for thankfulness is being consumed by greed. Most of us live comparatively good lives here in America. We should take the time to acknowledge and enjoy that. Instead, we can’t wait to get to the mall.
As we allow Black Friday to eat into Thanksgiving, we lose not only the holiday and it’s meaning, but also a way of approaching the world and those we love. We can’t be grateful because we’re fretful. We can’t be responsive because we’re restive. We can’t be magnanimous because we’re anxious. And we’re losing a tradition that is important not only for the history but for its place in our culture.
Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving in itself has not been about consumer preferences. And now it is. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. It should be something other than a celebration of our impatience. Just waiting until Friday would help.
Jason Paul of West Hartford is a partner in a campaign consulting company called What’s Next. He is also a student at the University of Connecticut Law School.