"I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off, one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?
- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
It's that time of year again. Many people will wake up and turn on their televisions this Thursday morning and be greeted with big floating balloons and marching bands winding their way through Manhattan.
As far as the annual holiday parade favorites have gone, I always preferred the Tournament of Roses parade. Every float is a work of art, it's on a little later on a day I get to sleep in.
My warm association with the Macy's Day Parade is more associated with the movie Miracle on 34th Street The film is probably high on my list with It's a Wonderful Life for its warm holiday sentimentality interlaced with its optimistic populism.
Sure the actual parade is filled with commercialism, but we're entering the shopping season; we can accept the tip of this hat from Macy's. Thanksgiving means taking a deep breath, enjoying a relatively low-stress holiday with our family and friends before the mayhem really begins.
Until this year, as the dominoes fall, the dominoes being large retail corporations that are going to force the shopping season on us all during a what used to be a traditional American holiday of rest. The Macy's Parade now casts a shadow longer than the Micky Mouse balloons in the low Eastern sun.
An Ebinezer Scrooge balloon should start the lineup this year; and I mean the Ebinezer before the ghosts of past, present, and future show up.
As someone that has taken advantage of the lower fares and short lines of flights on Thanksgiving Day, I've always been well aware of people that had to go in to work on Thanksgiving. Certain positions in transportation and necessary public services just were going to include the chance that you'd have to work. One could hope that they could put a good face on pulling that short straw, knowing that maybe next year would be different, and that there was a decent turkey potluck going on in the break room.
But for the majority of the workforce, this was a day off.
This was also a day we didn't have to worry about finding little Johnny or sister Jane the perfect gift.... Fighting the crowds.
Every year, though, The Black Friday crept closer. The hour of opening for the larger retail outlets ticked closer. First 8am, then 7am, then 6, 5! The empathy for the retail worker grew with every counter-clock wise spin.
On the flip side of the coin, the amazement that a certain type of shopper would go for this frenzied push would also grow. It sounded like my type of personal hell. Even when the day of shopping began at 9am, I still didn't get it. But Black Friday shopping is a tradition for some families as much as dry turkey and mash potatoes, so who am I to judge?
And if you worked in retail, you knew what you signed up for, right?
(Oh! ahem! well, unless you took the job out of desperation in a high unemployment world.)
Thanksgiving is now going black as well, to the darker side of consumer based capitalism.
If you are a corporate executive in retail that was a part of this decision to make people work on Thanksgiving so desensitized consumer zombies can go shopping, you deserve many, many ghosts to come haunt you at night and rob you of your precious food comma sleep.
If you are a consumer that is letting yourself be led by the nose down this rabbit hole, you need to take the day off for a little self reflection.
As Macy's Parade takes on a much darker shade of that massive consumerism that was merely a smile and a wink on a day off. That smile is now a grimace; a smirk on a Big Retail Board Member's face as he checks his accounts. The parade now will lead to the doors of its store which is open for your shopping pleasure at the displeasure of those workers that weren't so lucky as to have a choice as to whether to be there or not. Gone is the time with family. Gone is the warm home cooked stuffing and pumpkin pie. Just work. Maybe at minimum wage.
As the Black Friday Creep has now taken over our Thanksgiving tables like The Blob, it's not too late. Don't shop at any of these stores. Let them know that you won't be shopping at any of these stores, at least through the holiday season, and maybe ever.
This can not turn into a new tradition. Thanksgiving cannot be allowed to be co-opted by the modern day Scrooges that see it as just another day to make money. We The People need to send a message with our pocket books and make it not worth it to be open again on Thanksgiving. Ever.
We need not turn into a group of lemmings that get one step closer to the point of no return on the path off the labor exploitation cliff.
I like to imagine a happy ending, almost like an early misguided April Fool's joke with good intentions on the part of Macy's and the rest of the Scrooge Retailers. Picture this: the parade is lead off by old wrinkly hunched Ebinezer tapping his cane on top of his poor nephew's head with a Bah Humbug. But then, as the parade snakes around the streets of Manhattan, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future appear one by one sounding their alarm to the streets of New York and the living rooms of America.
Bringing up the rear it's Ebinezer again! Though this time, he's wearing the Santa Claus suit, a cup raised in his hand, like a laughing Bacchus. Behind him are all the retail employees that get to laugh with him, throw off their name tags and badges, and march down their respective routes home to Thanksgiving dinner with their families.
"The Americans will always do the right thing after they've exhausted all the alternatives."
-- Winston Churchill