Thanksgiving Sales and Black Friday Obsession Is Our Fault

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Black Friday and specifically shopping during Thanksgiving dinner itself wouldn’t be the obsession it is if it weren’t for you.  If your family time was more important to you than a new flatscreen, less stores would be open during the time.

You selfish thankless bastards wouldn’t know that Thanksgiving was supposed to be special time to give thanks and be grateful with family and friends or go Black Friday shopping and fight with people over electronics at your local Walmart while shirking that family time.

While Black Friday participation was thankfully down this year among thirsty shoppers by about 20%, the consumer culture that it feeds is alive and sucking the wallets and time of the afflicted.   Yes, more stores closed, but still plenty were open.  This doesn’t even include the various warehouses where we stick our seasonal wage slaves.

Everyone – regardless of their ideology – can put their finger on this notion that something is deeply wrong, but most haven’t dug deep enough.  Simply put, we can’t fix ANY of our problems until we fix our people and the culture they create.

We can’t build meaningful relationships that transcend all the difficulties of life if we will spend that time on obsessing over Amazon details or shopping at Walmart instead of with our families over some tasty turkey.

That problem lingering deep down in a shadowy hole is that there are far too many people willing to forget their families in favor of shopping during Thanksgiving Dinner to save a few dollars off crap they really don’t need or have to own.   Do you really need another tablet?

Of course, greedy corporations and businesses looking to churn out profits from already greedy debt-ridden consumers are willing to appeal to the fallen angels of our nature to generate some additional cash for their never satisfied shareholders. We are our own worst enemy and there is plenty of mutual feeding on greed to go around.

It’s an unspoken dirty secret, but if there weren’t a significant amount of consumers willing to abandon precious time with family and friends – which they probably don’t see all that often – for “deals” and gadgets, there wouldn’t this hoard of companies willing to make millions of people work like dogs during Thanksgiving.

Maybe even the desperate deal shoppers themselves might think twice before throwing another article of clothing on the ground with the assumption some poor minimum wage seasonal worker is going to pick it up for the hours and hours of sorting and cleanup that will be happening all week.

The demand for Black Friday and it’s accompanying World Star videos are because enough of us are significantly demanding with pockets deep enough to blow 5 billion dollars in 24 hours on a day that is now stretching into the weekend.

Until that changes not only will most of us not be thankful for what we have – as well as the time we can spend with friends and family – but we will sacrifice the little time we have with them for the pursuit of more stuff.

No, this isn’t as if you are toiling away for a career, rather you are upgrading your 40 inch tv to a 55 inch during the time you should be spending with your family – the ones who actually care about you.

What make us supposedly happy and our primary goals are reflected by what we spend our time doing and investing in.  As Black Friday shows, too many people are still spending that time and money on stuff than on time with their families.   It’s what makes them happy.

That’s a horrid problem itself.  How do you alter the ingrained programming of thousands of hours of media that more stuff will make you happy?

Attitude of Gratitude

Often we forget about being thankful for what we have because so many people think their life is crap because they dont have the newest gadgets, products, or apps.  We end up shackled to these items and unable to experience the freedom found in gratitude.   at the Imaginative Conservative makes this point:

But gratitude remains the only key that unshackles us and lets us breathe free. Life is a peculiar phenomenon. We all unthinkingly use the phrase “the gift of life,” but it is only a gift if we really think of it as such. If we don’t, then life is an unbearable curse. It is Hell itself. No matter how bountiful and varied our good fortune, life has no flavor and is devoid of any joy unless we are grateful for it. As the Dominican mystic Meister Eckhardt succinctly put it: “If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was thank you, that would suffice.””

The newest IPhone and 4k tv wont make you feel any more lively than your previous generation Iphone. Unless you are grateful for what you have, you will never be grateful for the future possessions you so envy after seeing ads for the latest flash sale or Amazon deal.

It’s tragic, but there is one definite way to experience gratitude just as Scrooge did in Charles Dickens parable like story or Jesus’ tale of the prodigal son.

You have to lose everything.  Your health, family, and every last item you so dearly valued.  You have to be brought down to rock bottom to rise back up, riches to rags.

Hopefully, we can learn those lessons Scrooge style from those who have so that we don’t have to go through their pain.

To that grateful end, I will share a tragic story that is a part of my industry.  Remember to look on that sunny brightside.  It could be much, much worse. So be thankful for once, you thankless bastards.

Where I work, I run into some rather sad unfortunate stories.

It’s made me realize a few things. We often get caught up in our own lives, worlds, bubbles, and in the troubles and trials that we endure.  Its easy to forget about the plights of those in the distance who are faring much worse.  We become our own worst enemy.

No doubt many of us have seen pictures, videos, and stories about the recent hurricane devastation that has been wrought upon Texas, Florida, and now Puerto Rico.  Or the fires that ravaged California. These people lost everything, but their families and friends remained intact who hopefully aren’t too immersed in “stuff” to lend them aid and support.

Talk to each person whose lost something there and you’ll hear some depressing stories about their current living situations as they try to cope. (Most of us take our support networks and families for granted.)

I won’t reveal where I work as we are in the age of self-righteous Internet lynch mobs who go after people’s jobs as I have a wife and two sons to support.

However I can tell you about about a tragic story I ran into.

 

Hotel From Hell


I’m on the phone talking to a man – we will call him George – who is stuck in a hotel of a large hotel chain.  Him, his wife, and his infant son are homeless after the hurricane.  Evacuating, they took with them as many clothes as they could, their son’s pack-in-play, car seat, and baby carrier you strap to your chest.

George – who was a vet and had fought in our recent middle east excursions – described that everything left in the hurricanes wake reminded him of towns he had seen that had been completely ravaged by bombs and artillery fire.  Their home which I believe was in Tallahassee had been utterly destroyed from Hurricane Irma.

Forced to go from one Red Cross makeshift shelter to another – with a rather sick infant,  a tad bit of luck would come their way; George’s brother would pay for them to stay at hotel for a period of time to get them out of the vicious hot humid weather.  All of the “good” hotels were booked through already.

They would begin their stay on Monday and on Tuesday night their already existing suffering would escalate.  Their infant son – about 5 and a half months old – had just been in the hospital three weeks prior.  Apparently he had been in and out of the NICU quite frequently since he was born, adding to the seriousness of their plight.

Their son – we will call him Jonny, had contracted RSV when he was just a few months old, on top of his previous medical issues.  RSV for infants that young can be deadly to the point they have to stay at the hospital for the duration of the infection.

Jonny had just started sleeping through the night in his pack-in-play. Or at least he was till a flea infestation in the room, unknown to them at the time, left the infant with flea bites from head-to-toe. It was so damn bad, he couldn’t sleep anymore and they would stay awake with him as he screamed and cried through the night.  They themselves would suffer from the flea bites.

A further slap in the face was that they couldn’t use chemicals to get rid of the flies off the clothing that was salvageable – almost none of it – because their infant son couldn’t be exposed to said chemicals due to his medical issues.

The fleas would decimate almost ALL of the clothing they brought with, including the car seat, port-a-crib, and infant carrier.  So now they weren’t only almost broke, but they would have to replace all the clothes somehow.  You can bet most of the charitable places in that area that give out clothes were already overwhelmed.

Of course they couldn’t switch rooms. There were no other available rooms. All had been taken by insurance agents and other survivors and refugees of the hurricanes wrath.  They were stuck there.

George would roam the hotel hallways to clear his head and to think of any way to improve their situation. Of course, he would be penalized for this.

While observing construction that was going off in an area of the hotel – that strangely wasn’t taped off, George would step on a piece of metal and puncture his foot – something that looked like a large metal construction staple.  It wasn’t even near the obvious area of construction.

He would be in immense pain from it.

George’s wife mentioned that she had never seen him scream or cry before, but when he pulled this staple out, he cried from the pain. Perhaps the mental and emotional burdens on top of this recent were enough to put him over the edge.  When thrown in the mix of losing everything you have, it must have felt like a release.

Now I don’t know what happened to them after this.  I hope they were able to find a place to stay.  Mail had to be sent to his mother’s house in another state – that’s the closest relatives they had in proximity.

They had lost everything, but at least they had some family.  Their stuff could be replaced, as tragic as their situation was, but family can’t.

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Family First

When you are obsessing over the stuff you don’t have, just remember to take a look at those who have nothing – through no fault of their own.

Spend time with your family. You never know how much time you really have with them.  New flatscreens and crazy sales designed to lure you into dishing out for a new one you don’t really need will always be around.  Your family may not.

When me and my wife lived 8 hours away from most of our family – specifically mine, it made me realize how much I miss them.  With so many families with members scattered across the states, Thanksgiving may be one of the few days where everyone will be gathered there together.

Make the most of it.  You can go shopping later, which you probably don’t need to.

 

Legislating what is best for everyone – the consequences be damned!

There has been a question on a mind that has been bugging me as of late; Do we actually care about people, or do we just say and/or pretend that we do?  A nasty fact of life is that the world is filled with people who are hurting with a lot of that pain being caused by the communities around them. A fellow acquaintance and “left-wing” Christian on a forum I follow made this startling assertion:

Unfortunately, you sometimes have to force people to do what is best for both society and themselves.

I hate to say it, but a lot of us have this idea at our base that lends to the direct and indirect advocacy of this pain.  Ideas like this have consequences  Often there are good intentions behind this idea, but the consequences always seem to be devastating upon the less fortunate in society. How does this idea translate into society? “Gulp.” The greater good for society apparently, whatever that actually is. (Hitler had some interesting ideas about the greater good. Very nasty and deadly ones.) Granted, the author of this statement doesn’t intend for this notion to be used to oppress people, but this idea does precisely that when followed to it’s logical conclusion. I can only feel somewhat guilty as a Christian that I have not done enough to do my part in countering this idea in popular culture today.

Huh? Let me formulate my thoughts a bit further.   Unfortunately this is an idea that must be constantly refined and the imposition of the idea closely examined in every circumstance . This idea is the very nature of law. We assume that society functions best when what is best for society and members of society is established through law;  more specifically through the force behind the laws determining exactly what that is “best.” Scary eh?

Well how do we address the extreme implementation of  what is  “best”  in a completely post-modern society?  Just in the 20th century we have seen the above quote used to justify the murder and oppression of tens of millions of people.  We have seen the poor trampled underfoot and the miscarriage of justice become commonplace.  This is of course what happens when the extreme of this idea becomes an idea of sensibility in people’s minds.  (Notice this idea in both current political parties?) The question is: how do we balance this idea correctly, fairly, and reasonably? Note the subjective nature of those 3 previous adverbs in society.  Therein may be our deepest problem.  

By what standard do we determine what is correct, fair, and reasonable? If not a Biblical standard, then what do we appeal to?  Tyrants and dictators have used these three words to oppress people and to justify that oppression for as long as we can remember.  Are we going down a similar path in America? Most Americans would insist that they do indeed care about their fellow American, but do they really?   If we implement ideas that are good and beneficial for society by the force of law, do we run the risk of oppressing those who disagree? Is the legislation of any idea into society always the best approach to solve the many problems we encounter on a daily basis?

We’ve made many, MANY laws in this country. On January 1st of 2010, we introduced on state and federal levels over 40,000 laws on the books and 40,000+ more laws in 2012. Granted PoltiFact disagrees with these numbers for 2012, but even in the lower thousands, the number is still astonishingly high. Just think about having to be aware of a few thousand new laws and the time and effort that would demand. (Note that I couldn’t find a conclusive figure regarding the amount of laws passed in 2011, though it appears to be around 30k. Also something to point out is that not all of these laws come into affect the next year, but over the course of several years.)

So how in the hell are we ever supposed to be consciously aware of every law out there? It’s impossible, but as any judge will tell you, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”   Well, that’s rather unfortunate for the poor single mother who can’t afford a lawyer, but at least whatever law she may have violated had good intentions ins mind, right? Just how easy is it to be “ignorant” of all these laws, just for the ones implemented in 2010?  The publisher at amelia.com had an insight as to the what we face on a daily basis in regards to ignorance of the law: I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169¬† 8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169  8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

The task of becoming familiar with laws that can reign all hell and possibly prison bars upon our lives is very intimidating. When you drive down the street and see someone pulled over – Round Lake Beach anyone- do we consider just how many possible traffic violations they could have committed? You’d be shocked by the amount of well-intentioned traffic laws that exist in Illinois.

I myself have been a victim of “unknown” traffic violations. Prepare for a story/small rant. A few months back I got a ticket for Scott’s law. I’d never heard of it before. Neither did anyone I know or my Aunt who is actually a police officer in Algonquin.  Scott’s Law has a minimum fine of 100$ to a maximum of 10,000$ plus the possibility of a license suspension. When I looked up the law online, I was scared out of my mind.  I managed to plead the violation to a lesser violation in court, because having Scott’s Law on your record is like having a bulls-eye painted on your car for every cop in Illinois to target.  Just imagine a single mom in the Round Lake area or some minimum wage worker getting hit with just a 1000$ fine for a violation of Scott’s Law. Yes, justice really does favor the rich. I was lucky in that I only had to fork over 150.00$ for a lawyer, plus the fine which ended up being only 75$ but totaled over 300$ because of the 200$ in court fees that our state charges. Yea, let me repeat that, 200$ in court fees. No wonder they always try to make you show up in court for a ticket!

This is yet another example of laws with good intentions being used to essentially squeeze more money out of people who are barely making ends meet. It won’t stop here. Expect the amount of “good-intentioned” laws to skyrocket.  The fact that I live in Illinois simply means that people will vote in the same politicians who will in turn keep churning out new laws to “solve” the problems we face just in this state on a daily basis. To make matters worse we encourage politicians to be “lawmakers.”

What have our good intentioned laws bought us? Over two million Americans in prison and growing. Let’s think about that for a moment. Two million Americans in prison. Prison Song anyone? That’s a guaranteed two million broken families. Did we actually bother to think about the impact of the drug laws that were supposed to stabilize society? Look at Chicago as to what the war on drugs has wrought upon the families there.  Isn’t it obvious what happens to the teenager with a jailed father who has literally no one around him to keep him accountable, to make him stay in school , and to discipline him for the small things before they escalate into prison term offenses?  The war on drugs has done far more harm to the African American community in this country then racism ever has. But hey, those laws were for the good of society right? Those people doing drugs obviously don’t know what’s good for them, so we need to force them to do what is good for them by passing more laws!  Did we ever think what happens to the people we’ve thrown in jail after they are finally released? Good luck getting a job!

I look at communities around me that face some very real problems; distraught and broken families, failing schools, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, ect.  Instead of truly going out of our way to actually help them, we either throw money at the problem -which usually never ends up going to them- and/or pass a few laws to try and discourage whatever element we think is contributing to the problems.  We’ve been recycling this process of dealing with issues despite the fact that it has not worked.  How about we change the way we address these problems? Pro-tip: You can’t solve the above issues through legislation. You can only solve them through revitalizing and restoring communities. As Christians we should be fully aware that this is what the Gospel was intended to do! The Gospel is what brings hope to the broken and repairs the damage to the families in our communities. Even the secular humanist is aware that addressing the problems this country faces starts in each of our homes and our surrounding communities. Should we not be even more aware of our callings as commanded by Scripture rather then by man’s selfish attempts to do what he or she thinks is good?

The Church needs to get back to what it used to do; strengthen and build up communities. We have a responsibility to the shattered communities around us. We have a responsibility to the broken families, the single mothers, and the children turning to gangs in a desperate attempt to find community. We have a responsibility to show that Christ cares about the broken, the downtrodden, and those in the worst of situations.  The early church cared for the babies left to die, the poor in the streets, and the unjustly oppressed. Are we doing the same? Are we advocating for abortion laws in Washington and forgetting about the single teenage mother with no income?

Are we proclaiming the Gospel through our actions or just through our words and to each other in our own little Sunday morning bubble? Our lifestyle and what we do with our time should clearly communicate what the Gospel is all about.  Let us take a stand on the issues of abortion and homosexuality -as the church rightfully should-  but let us not forget that there is much more to God’s Word.  We can talk all we want about Christ’s love, but we must actually demonstrate and show His love in our communities, our time, and our finances every day of our lives.  Let us escape from our own little bubbles and start to become apart of the many different societal bubbles around us so that the truth of the Gospel is displayed for all to see.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.”

Arguements with a personal twist.

Mittens Romney. Barrack Hussein Obama. What do these very politically charged “nicknames” have in common?  They are the constant recipients of personal attacks of every kind. Nothing seems to be off-limits these days for any political candidates, as Sarah Palin’s family found out the hard way.  The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Why do engage in these nasty portrayals of people’s character?”

Strong disagreements will always occur, but what matters about political positions are the ideas behind them, not specifically the people advocating them.  In today’s culture it seems we are dedicated to winning any debate, regardless of the casualties left behind.  You may be able to “win” the argument on a forum, in a conversation, ect, but the person you debated may be even more firmly entrenched in what they thought because of the conduct of the conversation.  Ideas have consequences, but the ways in which those ideas are endorsed, proposed, and manifested have consequences as well.

I personally tire of hearing rather personally charged attacks on Romney and Obama. If you disagree with them and those supporters behind them, which I do as well, discuss the reasons for your disagreement.  Insults like Liberal Whackjob, Bible Thumping Fundementalist, Liberal Nutjob, Ignorant Bigots, ect do nothing to make one’s argument and his or ideas more valid, rather they simply make the issues more polarizing to discuss then before. This is why it so hard to talk about controversial issues and ideas in today’s culture because everyone is afraid they will be branded and their reputations ruined. Calling someone a racist or an ignorant bigot today has rather disturbing consequences concerning how someone may be treated by society.

I reject the notion that people are ignorant. Instead I propose that people have reasons for how they think. Don’t bother with name calling, personal attacks, ect; get to their base presuppositions. Racists are racists because of their core ideas, the experiences that they have had, and the condition of their hearts. (And who knows how many additional factors…) Legislation can never change that. What can change that is the communities and families around them and conversing with those around them who have very different worldviews.

We need to get opposing worldviews and ideas into the open, not relegate them to the shadows. Someone may be afraid to discuss their thoughts and ideas openly, but this simply ensures that they will continue to retain those said thoughts and ideas. State what you believe and discuss your ideas with others who challenge them, regardless of whatever those ideas are and how politically incorrect, offensive, and shocking they may be.   In otherwords, show some real tolerance.