Black Friday’s Black Hearts

By:  Selwyn Duke
11/27/2012
       
Black Friday’s Black Hearts

A day originated for the purpose of giving thanks for what we have is now followed by one devoted to aggressively seeking what we do not. And while it’s fashionable to bemoan the commercialization of holidays, we ought to wonder how we got to this point. Because it didn’t happen overnight.

“As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.” So said the Frank Costanza character on Seinfeld, as he described a toy-store struggle with another man over a doll during the holiday season. It was comedic fiction, but, lamentably, it is also art that has been imitated by life.

Most of us have heard the Black Friday stories. Two men viciously beat another man over shoes in a Sacramento mall; two people were shot over a parking spot at a Florida Wal-Mart; there was a brawl over women’s underwear at a California Victoria’s Secret; and a man punched another while trying to cut in line at a Texas Sears, prompting the victim to pull a gun. I guess you don’t mess with Texas shoppers. These incidents are nothing unusual, either, as Black Friday — the mad shopping day after Thanksgiving — is now associated as much with bad behavior as good deals.

It’s ironic, too. A day originated for the purpose of giving thanks for what we have is now followed by one devoted to aggressively seeking what we do not. And while it’s fashionable to bemoan the commercialization of holidays, we ought to wonder how we got to this point. Because it didn’t happen overnight.

Ever since “holy days” was contracted into “holidays,” there has been ever less holiness in them. This is no coincidence. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t a holy day per se, yet it is a time when we’re supposed to give thanks to God. And materialism has infused Christmas as well, which is now the only time when everyone but the birthday boy gets remembered. But Christmas isn’t truly about trees and tinsel any more than Thanksgiving is fundamentally about turkey, stuffing, stuffing yourself, and football games. Yet how many Americans thanked God last Thursday or will think of His son next month?

Of course, many in this secular age regard this transition as the mere dying of myths. If we remove the spiritual from a celebration, however, what but the material is left to observe? If the spiritual were mere fantasy, what would exist but the material? And in moderns’ philosophical universe, which allows only for the material, is it any wonder they live in a material world?

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Selwyn Duke (photo)

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