Today is “Black Friday.”
I’d never heard the term before yesterday, Thanksgiving Day.
“Is it something bad?” my Japanese wife worries. She recalls snippets of American history. “Did the stock market crash today?”
I explain I’d never heard about it before. It has something to do with shopping, I tell her, newly informed by CNN. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year.
“Then why is it Black Friday?” she wants to know. “Shouldn’t it be a Red Letter Day? Why isn’t it called Red Friday?”
“That might sound too Cold War-y,” I explain. “You know, like Red China, which we never hear anymore I think they call it Black Friday because the economy will move into the black if we kick off a good shopping season. How many hours are there between now and Christmas? Have you figured it out yet?”
But she’s undeterred. She thinks Black Friday must have something to do with African-Americans. She wants to know if there are days for Asians and Latinos and Whites … Yellow Tuesday or Brown Wednesday or White Monday?
I assure her it’s about shopping. “They want us to get out and walk around the malls–to burn up some calories from stuffing ourselves like pigs on Thanksgiving.”
“But we didn’t have Thanksgiving,” she reminds me. “You said you were eschewing it from now on. That’s what you said. You said I should look up the word in the dictionary, which I did. You said we couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving while there’s war and famine in the world. You said it didn’t feel right to be grateful when so many were hungry and in misery. You said we should save our money and give it to the poor. You said we didn’t have to stuff ourselves until it hurt. You said Thanksgiving was the S.U.V. of American holidays.”
I laughed. “Did I say that? It’s not bad. I’ll write it down.”
She’s on a tear now. “You said we were killing ourselves and destroying the world with our culture of excess. You said we were going to boycott Christmas and the Fourth of July and even Valentine’s Day.”
“No business as usual, that’s all I meant. I don’t want to shop because my government tells me to shop. Christmas is about the birth of a baby who changed the world through love. It’s not about loving people to death in Iraq or Afghanistan–or anywhere else. It’s not about withholding drugs for AIDS victims in Africa so the Pharmaceuticals can keep the prices jacked up here. It’s not about not letting our seniors get cheap drugs from Canada for the same sort of reasons. When Christmas is about Christmas again, we’ll celebrate it, we’ll commemorate it. We’ll commemorate any day of peace and charity and kindness and communion”and we don’t have to care what they call it or when it occurs!”
“I don’t understand about Valentine’s Day, though.”
“If I wanna buy you a present, I’ll buy you a present when I feel like it. Not because the card companies and the florists and the candy companies tell me I should. Maybe we’ll have Valentine’s Day once a week. We’ll call it Chocolate Saturday, or Rose Sunday.”
“But what about tradition? she wonders. “Don’t we all have to do things at the same time and in the same way? Isn’t that better for the economy?”
“If we keep doing things in the same way, we can expect the same results. That’s a definition of madness. Why shouldn’t we make our own traditions? Isn’t that what freedom’s all about? So we don’t all have to think the same, be the same. And if the economy can’t adjust to that … maybe it’s time to change the economy!”
“You’re crazy, my wife says. “You think you can change the world. What if everyone thought like you?”
“Then I’d be a damned fool to think otherwise, I say, remembering Catch-22.”
“What about Halloween? she wonders. “Can we keep Halloween?”
“When the ghouls and the goblins and the witches come out to play?” I ponder. “It seems we never got rid of the ghouls and the goblins and the witches in our minds and hearts. We’re burning ‘witches’ in Iraq right now. We call them collateral damage. We better keep that day just as it is. It may help us remember how we got here.”
GARY CORSERI has published 2 novels, 2 poetry collections, the Manifestations anthology [edited], and his work has appeared at CounterPunch,Common Dreams, Dissident Voice, The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook and elsewhere. His dramas have been presented at PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He can be reached at: email@example.com