There’s this thing called “First-World Problems”. Some refer to it as “White Whine”. (See link to blog site at bottom right.) The label applies to all those little things that we (mostly upper-class white) in America grumble about so often that poor people and those who live in other countries would have no concept of – like…
Seriously, if that’s the biggest problem you face today, you are truly blessed!
As I have been thinking about all the ruckus in America leading up to the recent Thanksgiving Day, I wonder if it isn’t really just more “White Whine”.
At issue: several major retailers announced they would open for business in the early evening on Thanksgiving Day.
Outrage followed! Protests! Anger! Righteous indignation!
The complainers (and I’ll confess I was part of this group) insisted that Thanksgiving Day has always been a day set aside to pause and give thanks to God for our many blessings. One should not have to work, but should be allowed a day to be with family and friends and to gorge oneself on a feast of turkey & dressing.
As one who has researched the history of Thanksgiving, I can point to the precedent set by the Thanksgiving Declaration of the Continental Congress of 1777:
“And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”
The reason for stores opening on Thanksgiving Day was to try to beat other retailers who have in past years opened at midnight or 6 a.m. on “Black Friday” – the day in modern retail mythology on which retailers turn their ledger sheets from red ink to black.
Pretty much everyone agrees that there is only so much “Christmas Shopping money” to go around. This year’s sales reports for the weekend after Thanksgiving indicate there was even less money this year than last. So, at least in theory, if yours is the first store to open, you have the first shot at that magical Pot o’ Gold.
But let’s take a moment and consider the reality of our First-World nation.
- WalMart is regularly open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It only closes on Christmas Day. So being open on Thanksgiving is nothing new for WalMart.
- Most grocery stores remain open at least until noon or early afternoon on Thanksgiving Day to provide for those of us who forgot the ReadiWhip for our pumpkin pie.
- The local movie theater keeps normal hours on Thanksgiving Day to provide relief to those who can only stand family gatherings for so long!
Hey! You know it’s true!
And then there are the essential employees – Police, Fire, and hospital workers; the people who keep your utilities running; the radio and TV employees.
The list grows long.
Shouldn’t they, also, get Thanksgiving Day off?
Sure, we were upset when Macy’s announced they would open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. But I didn’t hear anyone crying out against that same company for making thousands of parade workers, dancers, marching bands and city employees work that morning.
And I heard nary a peep against the NFL for making football players, stadium workers and broadcast personnel work that afternoon.
Apparently we’re okay with letting people entertain us on Thanksgiving Day, but we’re not okay with letting the poor woman – who could probably really use the extra income – sell you merchandise at [insert most hated retailer’s name here].
I sense a double-standard!
At best, we’re not being honest with ourselves.
And, at least for today, I’ve had a change of heart.
Let me state clearly that I believe everybody needs a day off. I totally believe God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing.
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work…” (Genesis 20:8-10)
Of course, we took that blessing and turned it into a curse, fleshing it out with harsh rules about which day of the week is officially the Sabbath, what you can and cannot do on that day, along with a laundry list of punishments for failing to “rest”.
But again, the Sabbath commandment was originally meant to be a blessing. God knows we all need rest. We all need time away from work. We all need Sabbath.
So what about working on Thanksgiving Day then?
For the person who truly needs the extra money, closing all the stores on Thanksgiving Day unfairly deprives him of an opportunity to earn. In a hunter/gatherer society, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. While America is far removed from our hunter/gatherer past, many of our working poor still live on that same edge.
For the person who has no family or friends nearby, closing all the stores on Thanksgiving Day under the premise that you should go home and celebrate with family and friends will make for a very lonely day. She won’t even be able to go to the mall to forget about her loneliness.
Truth is, most of us “First-World People” speaking up for
little people those who were forced to work didn’t have to work on
Thanksgiving Day anyway. We are salaried, with scheduled, paid vacations (like
Thanksgiving Day) built in. We had family members on their way. There was a 20
lb. turkey smoking in our “Big Green Egg”.
And I wasn’t planning to go shopping that day anyway.
So was our protest really about guilt?
I suspect that rather than standing up for the poor, downtrodden workers who were “forced” to work on Thanksgiving Day - and yes, I know some were forced to work - we were actually fighting for an upper-middle class ideal, as depicted so grandly in old Norman Rockwell paintings. Fearful of losing a tradition that we hold dear, we didn’t stop to consider the ramification for others.
As with the Sabbath blessing, we tried to change Thanksgiving Day into a curse – forcing people to stop work; forcing people to gather with their families; forcing people to eat turkey; forcing people to observe the day as we think they should.
My cynical side further suspects that our real fear is that eventually we, too, will choose to forego the traditional Thanksgiving Day gatherings altogether – “Oh, we can get together another time” – opting to join the great unwashed masses at the mall to get a jump on our Christmas shopping instead.
And for a while, we will feel TERRIBLE about that!
For a while...
And eventually (more sooner than later), as more and more stores remain open, and more and more of us are forced to work, and more and more of us who don’t have to work go shopping (because the stores are open), I predict that the Thanksgiving Day observance will all but disappear and the 4th Thursday of November will become just another day on the calendar – like it is in most of the rest of the world.
And once that happens, the sights will be turned toward Christmas Day…