South Park, the adult cartoon, often comes up with the best satires for current events. From child pornography to scientology, South Park has a knack for coming out with hilarious episodes that hold up a mirror to the often-uncomfortable truths of the real world.
While Jews America-wide have been so busy raving about the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah this year, there has barely been any mention of the Black Friday sales that follow. But South Park won’t let us forget. The show did a three-part special warning of the coming massacre that Black Friday will bring.
To those non-American readers, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving where stores offer huge discounts on everything. Its name indicates that it is the day where shops go from the red into the black on their balance sheets; such is the volume of shopping.
While Thanksgiving is a festival I have come to love in America, Black Friday, much like South Park, holds up a macabre mirror to the madness of this country.
Traditionally, Black Friday sales meant that the stores would stay open later on that Friday. It then morphed into having the stores open earlier, too. When I arrived in American a few years ago, the main event was a midnight opening. There is a ritual of lining up outside the stores in the cold, working out what items you want to buy. To feed the frenzy, shops would state that the first 50, lets say, customers would receive 50 percent off any item they chose.
Around three years ago, shops realized that they could make more money if they started opening even earlier, and some chains stated that they would start opening on Thanksgiving itself. While from a business perspective one can see the logic, from the employee perspective this is deeply unfair. Black Friday is a must workday. By moving the opening hour to the day of Thanksgiving, these businesses rob Americans of their chance to enjoy an essential piece of Americana with their family.
While rare three years ago, every year since, more and more stores have started opening earlier and earlier despite the protest of their employees. The capitalism of Black Friday has been cannibalizing the enjoyment of Thanksgiving, allowing the economics of America to basically consume the civic patriotism that holds America together.
All of this is to mention nothing of the violence. Every year, without doubt, you know that someone will either be seriously injured or killed during a Black Friday sales event. To date, there have been four deaths and 67 serious injuries from a mixture of stabbings, stampedes and pepper spray incidents.
It’s just utterly absurd and supremely sad that one expects violence on a day that is all about shopping.
So this year, after I finish lighting candles and giving thanks on the second night of Hanukkah, I will make a list of all those stores who forced their employees to miss a dinner that is a cornerstone of American life, and pledge not to shop in them moving forward. Without changing the dynamics of the economics of the situation, Thanksgiving will continue to lose ground to Black Friday to the detriment of us all.
Joel Braunold is a Bnei Akiva alumnus and a former staff member of OneVoice Europe who is currently living in Brooklyn.