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Misanthropy’s Holiday

by KATHLEEN PEINE

It’s not exactly “The Gift of the Magi” -the inevitable Black Friday footage that so marvelously serves to reinforce the notion that Americans are simply a cloudy plague of consumer beasts. And in most ways that really is what the country has become. Feeding on red juice made in China, not real flowers.

If you are from another nation that doesn’t observe this nonsense (I’m jealous)- but anyway, Black Friday is the day after our Thanksgiving that sets off the consumer festival of Christmas in America. Stores deeply discount small amounts of items hoping to draw in “marks” who they then disorient with bright lights and hallucinogens. The buyers have sleep deprivation (they open the stores in the middle of the night before people have changed out of their Thanksgiving “fat pants”). Black Friday is said to be named that because it was the first time in the year that a business might find itself in the black-that is, out of debt. Large banks have a Black Friday machine, that of the Federal Reserve, but non-banks have to make due with this version.

Funny that this tradition that has proven itself to be dangerous due to past tramplings wasn’t met with John Pike clearing the sidewalks. It’s a blatant absurdity to mention this though, of course. Even the most thick-headed Americans know that the only time you are targeted in your free speech or assembly is when it jacks around with the big boy money. You can hang out at funerals, calling the deceased “fags worthy of death” and this won’t be met with pepper spray. Nobody will trick you into stepping in the street so they can arrest you. Because that nonsense doesn’t interfere with commerce and advances the notion that the country tolerates unpalatable free speech (it’s the palatable stuff with the potential to spread that gets the pepper treatment). You are also free to bring guns to “protests” against government health care if you like. And you can hang around on sidewalks without bathrooms if you brought your wallet. Hell, defecate on a car if you want- Visa or American Express, sir?

I get the usual visceral disgust when I see the footage or hear others talking about their Black Friday plans, but I am trying to remove myself from all my rancid sanctimony this year. An aside, a sanctimonectomy is almost as expensive as an exasperectomy, but you all know that.

Like so many things American, the notion of Black Friday has a kindergarten notion of good in it. Someone is in line to get a present they can’t afford for a loved one. It’s a modern day cutting off of your hair to buy your husband a watch chain as he sells the watch to buy you a comb for your hair-whew, that was convoluted–sorry. But like it or not, our modern Black Friday mayhem has roots in even the stories we are forced to read as adolescents, thank you O. Henry. We never reach the end though, when the epiphany that “stuff” is not what matters takes residence. Americans have the giddy notions to do good for others, but like a damn Labrador retriever end up knocking people over with their slobbery intentions.

The toddler mentality is certainly advanced by those who have the ability to… well, advance things!

Take a piece of a good intention and turn it into hell. It’s the formula for getting kids to go to war (or was before the economy helped so much ). Take an honest to god, good intention like giving a present, or being told that you need to protect you and yours– then pervert it to advance something quite different. To facilitate slave sweatshops or to murder families in mud huts making wild profits for the makers of the bombs- that’s not what you were sold in either case, was it? But Americans like it superficial. White hat-good, Black hat-bad cheesy Western movies caressing our brains. And of course we are good-that’s the national narrative, facts be damned.

This is the mentality that many of the OWS protesters find themselves trying to erode. It’s large and it’s consciousness shifting. That’s why they try so hard to kill it. And many jaded people will do the bidding for them.

But I would advance that there’s a core decency in even the Black Friday mayhem -that of wanting to do something for someone else by purchasing a present. (I told you I’m trying very hard to cast off judging these folks).

The challenge is to erode the pathology that promises that emptiness will be filled by transient consumer goods. It’s easy to just laugh at the spectacle and feel superior when you don’t partake in all of this, but really, many of us who do mock it, just bought a computer at a different time of the year at a higher price. We aren’t virgins in all of this.

Disparaging Black Friday is a little like pretending that a meth addict will be well if they just take care of their teeth. No awareness of the festering issue at hand. No thought to cause. But it’s just as stilted and lacking in nuance to feel entirely superior to these Black Friday troops. We all could all stand to grow up and attempt to expand on the minuscule (but present) core decency lurking in our fellow citizens.

It’s really time to start eroding these artificial lines.

Kathleen Peine writes out of the Central Time Zone in America so please only email during those hours so as not to wake her. She can be reached at: kathypeine@gmail.com

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