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In Our View/Thanksgiving and Shopping

Gratitude, not judgment

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Since freedom is a glorious ideal that we all hold in common, and are thankful for, let's all practice another such ideal -- tolerance -- as people spend Thanksgiving and the day after, the way they choose. While most people are busy living their lives, pundits and busybodies fret about shopping and how people aren't celebrating Thanksgiving the right way. Instead of simply being thankful we can spend the day, and all days, as we like, some people feel the need to judge others because they aren't "following tradition."
People should spend Thanksgiving with their families, and not working, is one familiar refrain. It assumes everyone has a loving family to go to. It neglects the fact that with or without retail shopping, some people have always had to work on Thanksgiving. (Many of them gratefully and/or willingly.) When people choose to shop, how does that hurt the people who choose to stay home? Is a family that goes out shopping together somehow less a family than one that zoned out in front of the TV, or one in which everyone is "home" but engaged in their individual electronic devices? The judging thing is a very slippery slope...
If enough people choose not to shop, stores won't open on Thanksgiving. But trying to get people not to shop and retailers not to open by waging a shame campaign is likely not an effective strategy. One syndicated columnist opined of stores that opened on Thursday: "...these retailers further diminish the meaning of Thanksgiving while advancing the notion that time is better spent hauling away large-screen TVs than engaging in human communion." Such statements advance the notion that if people weren't buying a TV, they would be home "engaging in human communion."
(For some people in some families, where disagreements arise when two or more are gathered, the "engaging in human communion" is the very motivation that makes shopping in a big crowd seem like a good idea.)
The meaning of Thanksgiving is gratitude, but how that is observed -- or not observed, also a valid choice in this free country -- is left up to individuals. The actions of others can't "diminish" the meaning of Thanksgiving for those who are thankful. Commercialism and consumerism can be avoided or embraced as much as any person or family likes. The Black Friday commotion probably doesn't bother the Amish and other anti-consumerists because they ignore that stuff all the time. People who volunteer on Thanksgiving will continue to do so, whether stores are open or not.
Make the day meaningful for yourself and your family. Embrace tolerance. Living by example is far more powerful than a lecture.

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