If You Were Out Shopping on Thanksgiving, You Wouldn't Be Reading This Right Now

[OK, granted, you could be reading this on a phone or something.]

Here's the lede from my latest column at Time.com, which went live just yesterday:

If there’s one thing even more uniquely American than choking down mouthfuls of turkey no one wants, green bean casserole no one admits to preparing, and pumpkin pie that no one remembers buying on Thanksgiving, it’s going shopping all the time. For god’s sake, George W. Bush counseled a nation still reeling from the 9/11 attacks that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. “Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed,” he said. Forget baseball—shopping is the national pastime.

Given that, I’m genuinely amazed at the pushback against plans by Walmart, Target, and other major retailers to open their doors on a day that everyone has off but no one has anything to do. Being disgusted by the willingness of stores to open for business on, what, the 10th or 20th most solemn day of the year isn’t just incomprehensible, it’s positively anti-American.

As Calvin Coolidge put it famously to a bunch of newspaper editors back in 1925, “The chief business of the American people is business.” Just as you can’t have Thanksgiving without a meal that fully no one actually enjoys (and a guest list that always seems only slightly less arbitrary, resentful, and ill-mannered than the manimals in The Island of Dr. Moreau), you can’t have a functioning free-market economy without massive amounts of shopping. Every day is “Buy Nothing Day” in North Korea and look where that’s got them.

Please check out the whole thing.

Please note that this column in no way is a call for mandatory shopping or opening of stores on this or any other holiday. But it is an argument for unfettering markets even on this hallowed day (wait, is this Gettysburg sesquicentennial?).

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  • Irish||

    Thanksgiving is for sociopaths.

    The man posing that question on my voicemail continued with a sharply critical comment about one of the essays I have written in recent years about the holocaust-denial that is at the heart of that U.S. holiday. My first reaction was not to argue but to amend: “I don’t hate Thanksgiving—I just think it’s appropriate to critique a celebration that obscures the reality of the European conquest of the Americas.”

    (Snip)

    In other words: Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs? Of course not everyone in the United States has access to all these markers of affluence, but these Thanksgiving Day routines are more the norm than aberration.

    When will liberals admit that the death of the Native Americans was not a genocide? The vast majority of those that died died through diseases the Europeans didn't know they were introducing. It's not a genocide in any meaningful definition of the word.

  • SweatingGin||

    I'm thankful the author isn't coming to my thanksgiving

  • Aloysious||

    I don't hate myself enough to clik on that.

  • Almanian!||

    I still marvel at the self-hating flagellants. Probably shouldn't be surprised by their stupidity any more. But I am.

    I hope he dies as miserable as he seems to want to be.

    Me - Ima enjoy my family's company, the good meal, and some football.

  • Irish||

    My favorite part is this:

    Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy

    Well, some of us don't despise our families. I'm sorry you come from a pathetic and broken home, but don't project your familial inadequacies onto me.

  • Sevo||

    This is the same sort of 'I'm not a moral agent!' whine as we get when lefties have the government make choices for them.
    It may be "obligatory" but it isn't mandatory; there are portions of my family whom I (as a moral agent) choose not to spend time with. I'm happier that way, and I'll bet they are,too.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That was my first reaction as well.

    Also, I've noticed that it's become a trend for all these Progressive sites to publish these "How To Deal With Your Conservative [Family Member] at [Holiday]" articles. As if even one second outside of "super-tolerant" Proggie World (Where everyone thinks the same! Because the only diversity that counts is on the outside!) is as painful as passing a kidney stone.

  • Brian||

    Well, when you love using state violence to control people in arbitrary ways, it can make for some awkward dinner conversation.

    Want to have some fun this Thanksgiving? Tell your favorite progressive that you respect their opinion or right on issue X, and that they are free to act on that in whatever way they think is best. Then, ask them if they feel the same way towards you. Let issue X be, say, Social Security. Or Medicare. Or the military industrial complex.

    Good times.

  • CE||

    Didn't you get the talking points email? Proglodytes are supposed to try to persuade their less enlightened relatives around the dinner table that gun control is good, Obamacare is fine, and taxes are still too low.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Bob Dylan said there aren't enough guns, and I agree with him. Tell them that. (use the Dylan/Santana interview on YouTube as evidence).

  • hotsy totsy||

    I got the one about Obamacare What to tell your Tea Party uncle when he says..

    E.g. "Obama said we could keep our insurance plans but mine was dropped"

    Prog answer: "That's because your plan was inadequate!" (The new ones are better!)

    Left unanswered: "You're too stupid to choose your own plan so we came up with a better one for you. That'll be $500 extra every month. You're welcome."

  • Ted S.||

    Some of us do have difficult family relationships, but don't let it bother them that other people enjoy the holidays.

  • Winston||

    Well, some of us don't despise our families. I'm sorry you come from a pathetic and broken home, but don't project your familial inadequacies onto me.
    Didn't Gillespie do just that in the article?

    Just as you can’t have Thanksgiving without a meal that fully no one actually enjoys (and a guest list that always seems only slightly less arbitrary, resentful, and ill-mannered than the manimals in The Island of Dr. Moreau)

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Denying genocide is an interesting aspect of Left 'thought.'

    For one thing, they willingly ignore that what Stalin did was a genocide, even though the guy who coined the word said the Holodomor certainly meets the definition. They deny what Mao did was a genocide for various reasons, in ever escalating piles of bullshit.

    As honest as they might get is that those piles of corpses were mass murder, not "genocide," as if that makes it okay.

    Of course, only Hitler and Americans are guilty of "genocide" to them, and they are not even accurate when they pull that one, since they toss colonialists of the 1600s in as "Americans."

    Really, when you get right down to it, the Leftist is always in search for a word for "meanie," with "meanie" defined as someone who merely disagrees with him or his tastes. Since "poopie head" does not covey quite the same bludgeon, they use other words instead.

  • Aresen||

    I don't have to want to ban holiday shopping to resent the fact that the executives who order others to work on Thanksgiving/Christmas/St. Elgius' Day almost never do themselves.

    Even the 100 hour-a-week workaholics usually reserve these days for their wives and the cable repairman's kids.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Who cares about the execs? I worked for many years on the holidays in my previous life. The shittiest thing was getting off work and nothing was open. So much better now for that but I've moved on and get the day off.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Yep, even when every day was a day off for me (before my work life began) it was a joy to find the fireworks store open, just across the county line, on Thanksgiving day.

  • ||

    Even the 100 hour-a-week workaholics usually reserve these days for their wives and the cable repairman's kids.

    My observations/experience don't match up with that claim. A lot of the workaholic types have trouble "switching off", holidays included.

  • Aresen||

    Oh, they can't 'switch off' - they usually open their laptop several times through the day - but they feel obligated to spend the time at home.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    My brother in law is that type. He usually shows up at these things in his business' logo shirt. Guess where he came straight from?

  • prolefeed||

    His mistress' apartment, but with plausible deniability due to the shirt?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    So he's spending the day with his loved ones then?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    When you are the boss, you can work when you like. If you don't work right, you will not be the boss very long.

    Unless you have a government job, of course, then put all of those work references in sarcastic quotes.

  • Sevo||

    Aresen|11.28.13 @ 11:58AM|#
    "I don't have to want to ban holiday shopping to resent the fact that the executives who order others to work on Thanksgiving/Christmas/St. Elgius' Day almost never do themselves."

    Enjoy your non-vintage whine today!
    Yes, some people work and some don't.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I know a young fellow right now who is griping that his hours at Subway have been cut back during the holidays. Was a refreshing sound.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    the fact that the executives who order others to work on Thanksgiving/Christmas/St. Elgius' Day almost never do themselves.

    That, of course, being the difference between a successful business and an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

  • Almanian!||

    Oh! Did you see that? Did you see him repressin' me??!

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I ... resent the fact that the executives who order others to work on Thanksgiving/Christmas/St. Elgius' Day almost never do themselves.

    Same for working graveyard. So? I've been on both ends of this spectrum at least twice.

  • CE||

    The cable guy? Ewww. Though I did see one hot cable installer chick once, and not just on The Italian Job.

  • Aresen||

    Finally someone caught the sideswipe.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Order others to work? Really? There is some business in America that marches "workers" into the shop at gunpoint against their will?

    I need more evidence of this fantastic claim.

  • JParker||

    It's interesting to note all the objections to stores being open on Thanksgiving, but never bother to mention all the restaurants that are open.

  • Dave Krueger||

    Forget baseball—shopping is the national pastime.

    No, the national pastime is dictating how everyone else must live their lives. For me, Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate another year of successfully resisting the urge to kill a few of those fuckin' assholes.

  • Almanian!||

    Cheers, Dave! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • RandomDude53||

    I thought the national pastime was sex. Seems that way to me and the misses.

  • CE||

    I would never go shopping on Thanksgiving. I avoid the day after too, if I can.

    If I owned a retail business I would give all of my employees the day off.

    But if other people or other businesses want to try something else, who am I to stop them?

  • Dave Krueger||

    I do all my shopping on line. It helps me to be a better recluse.

  • cavalier973||

    I salute you, sir, for your service to humanity.

  • thorax232||

    I don't get why this is being reposted so much. It was interesting the first time. Now... no.

  • anon||

    Every day is “Buy Nothing Day” in North Korea and look where that’s got them.

    I know it's too late to read this, but I really enjoyed that line.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    Nick, I know that you get a lot of grief around here but I'm glad that you're getting so many columns at Time. Preach it to the masses!

    ... Hobbit

  • setTHEline||

    I'll be honest, I loathe shopping on Thanksgiving and the Black Friday frenzy also. That said, the hostility with which people treat businesses who stay open on Thanksgiving truly amazes me. I saw a bunch of FB rants about some pizza hut manager who refused to open his store, so he was fired. Everyone was all pumped up for him for "doing the right thing". It's these same people who watch football on Thanksgiving not caring about the thousands of people working behind the scenes to make the broadcast possible. The difference of course, is that these people WANT to watch football on Thanksgiving, but aren't interested in pizza on Thanksgiving.

  • KHFleischer||

    "mouthfuls... that no one wants?" No, there are plenty of us who like the traditional Thanksgiving feast foods. There's no need to lade on the cynicism; the main point, which was not about foods, but was about the American tradition of enjoying shopping was fully true; its expression was only weakened by the cynical remarks about food.

  • GLK||

    Every self-made person (not born into wealth) I've ever met that has lots of money (and enjoys the freedom that comes with it)did it by doing the exact opposite of what this article advocates. They let the lemmings become influenced by Madison Ave and go through their lives wanting every latest and greatest thing while they held back. Ironically they were the ones giving thanks for what they had and didn't buy into the perpetual itch of dissatisfaction that can only be scratched by spending every last dime and then some. Yeah, maybe influencing a whole lot of people to spend money keeps the economy rolling, but most will go through life penniless and thankless because of it. The smart people see through the mist and live happily contrarian to the status quo.

  • John Aronson||

    There is a certain 17th C./Cromwellian/Puritan flavor to Nick's article that I really do appreciate but I also think that conflating mindless consumerism with libertarianism is fundamentally wrong and will do us no good. Call me a libertarian antinomian if you will.

    Black Friday is simply one more excuse used by the oligarchs for separating the poor and the near poor from money they will certainly need between January and April.

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