Black Friday and the Erosion of the American Dream

Recently it was announced that Wal-Mart was going to be open on Thanksgiving Day at 6PM to get a jump start on the infamous Black Friday sales. For a number of years now, stores have been opening at Midnight on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now, it’s creeping back. If the trend continues, soon all retailers will be open all day long on Thanksgiving and it will no longer be Black Friday. It will simply be that stores are open for special Thanksgiving sales and everyone who works in retail and sales will no longer have a Thanksgiving holiday.

The placement of Thanksgiving on a Thursday was designed to give workers an extra long weekend. People would not go to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving either and they would have an extended four day weekend over the Holiday. This was all part of the culture of America. The American work ethic created time for work and time for rest, relaxation and reward for hard work.

The erosion of sacrosanct days of rest in our culture is nothing new. Sunday used to be a day when everything was closed except for absolutely essential services like hospitals. The point in establishing Sunday as a strict day of rest was not simply a Christian agenda. It freed people to be able to rest. Because everything was closed, there was no effective work to be able to done, so people put up their feet and enjoyed resting without worrying that there was work that they had to do that wasn’t getting done.

This was all integral to the idea of The American Dream. If you worked hard you could also have a lifestyle that allowed you to enjoy yourself on a regular basis. People fled Eastern Europe and other countries around the world to come to America so that they wouldn’t have to live an existence where all they did was work all the time and end their lives with nothing, indentured to the land and a boss. In America, one could work hard, have their own things and make their own choices.

Here in America we’ve become so focused on making sure that we are busy all the time that we’ve forgotten why people were busy in the first place. People stayed busy in order to survive. Now we wear our “busyness” like a badge of honor. We are so concerned about our work ethic and proving that we are busy and “getting things done” that we have effectively indentured ourselves to one another.

And, for the people living near the poverty level who work at places like Wal-Mart, they are truly indentured. They now have to work on Sundays and the Thursday afternoon Black Friday sale in order to keep their jobs. They are left without a choice. Surely, there are some who want the extra hours in order to make the income. But the shame culture is so prevalent now in America, that if someone turns down a volunteer opportunity to work on Thanksgiving Thursday it will be counted against them and they will be accused of being lazy.

People came to America seeking a better life, not simply more money. The money was a tool to enjoy the life they only saw others enjoying in their former homelands. Hard work was a means to an end, not the end itself.

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