Thanksgiving Shopping and The American Character

American-Flag1While most people believe progress is the act of moving forward and not looking back. Why write a letter when you can email, tweet, or contact via Facebook? Why mail a check when you can pay a bill online? Why use a pay phone (if you can still find one) when you can use your smart phone? Why should a candidate running for a prestigious office rent a bus of some description and ride all over the municipality, state, or country when he or she can get the message across with modern media? The answer is just because something is modern, high-tech, and forward-moving, doesn’t mean it is right and doesn’t mean it is the best thing. As the Thanksgiving weekend winds down and we look forward to Christmas and the New Year, let us take a good look at where the American character is headed.

 In November of 2013, we saw for the first time, retail stores open on Thanksgiving Day (11-28-2013). There were various different opinions on this matter and there is no connection between personal feelings and respective actions. Being against it did not stop a person from shopping last Thursday and not everyone for it or OK with it ventured out to shop. My fear is if this trend continues, the Thanksgiving holiday will cease to be a holiday of it’s own and be re-dubbed: Christmas, Part I. It is also another stab in the heart of small business, which I feel is the future of American and anyone who wants to pursue the American dream.

 Back in 2011, I spoke out against lifting Connecticut’s blue laws on the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays. Though the liquor business is no great passion of mine, I gave credit where credit was due. The mom and pop package store was the last vestige of small business dominance in Connecticut. In spite of supermarkets and convenience stores selling beer, in spite of Al’s Liquor Warehouse, World of Beverages, and the others of that ilk, liquor was sold in Connecticut by more small package stores than by anyone else. A big reason is one could go into that businesses and not have to make a seven-day commitment; one unable to afford employees could work the business six days a week and spend Sundays with their families. No longer the case. Opening Sundays is not mandatory, but the quid pro quo is the big boys can make if difficult to compete if one chooses to remain closed. Now there is the fear that for retail stores, mainly dry goods retailers, opening Thanksgiving will become the rule rather than the exception.

 Due to WCBS Channel 2 in New York covering the story of the train derailment in Spuyten Duyvil just outside The Bronx, they did not air Face the Nation and WFSB Channel 3, the Hartford CBS affiliate only carries the first half-hour then airs a similar program focused on Nutmeg State politics called Face The State. I watched Face The State and they managed to find an old film reel dating all the way back to Thanksgiving 1938, where his excellency, Governor Wilbur L. Cross, the same governor both the Merritt Parkway extension from Milford to Meriden and the original library building on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus (replaced by the modern Homer Babbage Library) are named, read aloud on film a formal proclamation that declared November 24, 1938 Public Thanksgiving in Connecticut. Affirming that Thanksgiving would be a people, family, friends, and acquaintances. A day where we would give thanks for what we had and reflect upon those less fortunate and those serving our country who cannot be with their families. Working, shopping, hoarding merchandise, and acts of violence in Wal-Mart (and other) parking lots is the last thing that anyone should be thinking about on this sacred day.

 Though it is at best a positive side-effect, small business will have a much better chance if our days of faith, remembrance, and celebration are observed as formal days of rest and not advanced towards the proliferation of the 24/7/365 lifestyle rapidly coming to fruition via technology and social media. Americans have a lot more to lose than small business, we will lose our identity as a nation. To a great extent, America is the National League to the world, the last professional baseball league without a designated hitter. Unique holidays such as Thanksgiving and the various remembrance days for which we honor or fallen heroes differentiate us from other economic powers and is close as we can have to a true ideology and religious and cultural melting pot in a nation that constitutionally mandates freedom of religion. I would much rather see Thanksgiving be restored to the vision of the late Wilbur Cross.

 One possibility is to look at what was done once before. Thanksgiving day once fell on November 26 regardless of day of the week. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln moved it to the last Thursday in November so he could give passes to Union soldiers to visit their families on a four-day weekend scenario. In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt moved it from the last Thursday to the forth Thursday as a Great Depression aid—any year November had five Thursday (no such luck this year), Thanksgiving would be celebrated on week earlier providing an extra week of Christmas shopping to stimulate the economy. Perhaps it is time to do that again. Suppose we guarantee Thanksgiving always be the next to last Thursday in November. The week head start should deem in unnecessary to make Thanksgiving day a busy shopping day and provide online retailers to complete rather than compete with brick and mortar as some items are still best suited to be purchased brick-and-mortar; and for most shoppers who do some brick-and-mortar and some online shopping, the extra week can make it easier to ensure online purchased gifts can be shipped in time for Christmas.


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