Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shoppito Ergo Sum

You know America is doomed when Thanksgiving Day—the actual day, rather than the traditional day after—is now touted as the ultimate shopping day for Christmas. We can’t even take one day out of the year for reflection and thanksgiving. All we have left as a people is shopping: Shoppito ergo sum, as Descartes might have put it, I shop therefore I am.

That is what shopping has become in this country, an act of ontological significance. I know I matter because I own tons of stuff. We are so devoid of anything remotely spiritual that debt has replaced faith as the ultimate benchmark of maturity. Our new prayer is “Our Father Who art in Heaven hallowed by Thy Name… Add to our debts as we add to the debts of those who are indebted to us…”

This is madness, and it must stop. Now.

So I am begging you not to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Say no to the people who think we are the real turkeys. Stay home. Or, if you can’t resist, don’t go to the mall. Or if the mall is too enticing, don’t go to the bookstore or the record store or to the Apple Computer store. Or if that is too much to ask, just stay away from the religion section of the first, the classic rock section of the second, and the iMac section of the third. Or if that is too hard, just pretend you don’t recognize me when you pass me in the aisles at these places.

Can you imagine? Getting away from the stress and hassle of having to entertain family and spending the day among the glitz and glamour of perfect strangers—heaven! I’m serious. What is the fun of having friends and relatives come over to your house, grind turkey and cranberry sauce into your freshly washed carpets, bore the hell out of you “catching up” (if I wanted to know how you are doing I would have called you since last Thanksgiving), and then scarf down huge quantities of food and drink only to rush home a couple of hours later to suffer the consequences?

I prefer Christmas to Thanksgiving. Why? Because it isn’t my holy day. I don’t have to bother with a tree and tinsel that turns up for months afterward. I don’t have to buy stuff that nobody wants for people I don’t really care about. I don’t have to alter my black and white wardrobe and wear red and green, or pretend to believe that a Jewish mother would allow herself to give birth in a manger: “Joseph you find us a room in a five-star hotel or I swear when this baby is born he will damn you to hel!” Yep, Christmas is my favorite holy day, right up there with Ramadan when I don’t have to fast, and Kwanza when I don’t have to pretend to be African.

But Thanksgiving is a secular American holy day—all the more secular for having the malls open on the day itself—and I am a secular American. This is my day. Dammit!

But now I have an excuse for skipping the family festivities: I have to go shopping. After all if I don’t get to the store on the first day there is little chance that what I want will no be there on the second day.

So enjoy Thanksgiving, America. Just stop calling it Thanksgiving. Call it what it is: National Turkey Day and be clear who the real turnkeys are.


AaronHerschel said...

Really, we should cahnge thanksgiving to national shopping day and move the thanksgiving feast to after christmas. Then, instead of feasting, we could all write thank you notes and give them to each other. Hallmark would make a mint, and I'd stop feeling (and acting) like a self-obsessed ingrate on the holidays. Happy Channukah!What did you get me?

Anonymous said...

Dude, I don't know where you do your shopping, but just for the record, every store I know *is* actually closed on Thanksgiving Day (thus leaving you still blessedly free to "catch up" with people you apparently have no interest in). It's the NEXT DAY, or "Black Friday" as the press have named it, that is the big talked-about, taken-advantage-of, messed-up, overblown shopping extravaganza. And yes, the stores do open at midnight Thursday...but you're wrong, I think, when you speak of stores being open Thursday during the day. Or you live in a way different part of America than the rest of us...
Your argument is a good one but your exaggeration hurts it.