There's quite a bit of grey to think about with Black Friday

This week, I’ve been frustrated with some comments about Black Friday. For many, the idea of Black Friday is wrong. I understand where they’re coming from, but the reality is that as long as consumers show up, the hype isn’t going to die down. 

Black Friday used to be more commonly known as “the day after Thanksgiving”. For as long as I can remember, that day has marked the official kick off to Christmas shopping. I have personally gone shopping on the day after Thanksgiving to take advantage of the sales as I completed my shopping lists for Christmas.

I once worked 14 hours on the day after Thanksgiving. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day. The atmosphere was happy, energetic, excited. People were gearing up for my personal favorite holiday of the year - Christmas. Working that day was actually fun. I was even interviewed for the local news.

Though the term “Black Friday” has been around for decades, it became a marketing ploy only in the last decade.

As with most things, the press has taken isolated yet extreme incidents and created an impression of rampant violence fueled by the greed of American consumers. 

I’m not a fan of what Black Friday has become. I think many of the “deals” are suspect and it saddens me to see shoppers worked into a frenzy to spend money in order to save a few dollars. If I lived in the US, I would no longer participate in any way with what it has become. I also won’t participate in the burgeoning Black Friday sales that have made their way into Canada. (And, for the record, we avoid Boxing Day as well.)

There’s been a lot of disturbing criticism of Black Friday that hits home to me, because it comes across as judgmental, uses generalizations or makes accusations of hypocrisy. 

The judgmental criticism is usually centered around the idea that Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family. And I totally agree. The Black Friday sales that are creeping into Thanksgiving Day (Black Thursday) - ugh. I just hope people boycott those retailers. However, the day after Thanksgiving sales really aren’t any different than Boxing Day in Canada. And though there haven’t been the same reports of the kinds of crazed shoppers that have happened in the US, it doesn’t mean that can’t or won’t happen here. 

I’ve seen a lot of generalizations that lump all Americans into various unflattering categories (both implied and explicit) - selfish, materialistic, greedy, etc. Sometimes generalizations can be used to make a point and recognizing that they are generalizations can soften the impact. But there are a lot of people in the US who are really good people. Some of them choose not to participate in Black Friday. Others do participate. The vast majority of the shopping that goes on happens with long waits, but customers remain civilized. Unfortunately, that’s boring, so it doesn’t make the news or internet memes. 

Finally there’s the hypocrisy claims. Suddenly it’s bad to be thankful Thursday and then go out and buy things Friday. I could probably come up with a list of dozens of reasons that people might be out shopping that don’t have anything to do with acquiring more posessions. One happens to be the original purpose of Black Friday - Christmas shopping (presumably for others). And so what if I go out and buy something new for myself? Does doing so the day after Thanksgiving make me somehow less thankful?

Instead of questioning the motivations of those who are going out on Black Friday to shop, perhaps it’s more productive to think about the reasons we’ve gotten to the point of frenzied shopping in the first place.

  1. We have had years of downturn in the economy, workers who can’t find jobs, etc. 
  2. There is more pressure than ever before to keep up with all the latest and greatest stuff - affordable or not.
  3. People want to save money wherever they can to live up to a certain standard.
  4. Some people think they will feel better if they go shopping (retail therapy).

I’m not so naive that I think everyone is out there due to misfortune or for altruistic reasons. However, I know that not everyone is out there for the negative reasons that are being thrown about on social media lately. 

There are over 300 million imperfect humans in the US. There are over 30 million imperfect humans in Canada. Both countries have their pros and cons. Both countries have awesome people and not-so-awesome people. Neither country is better than the other. 

In my opinion, it is foolish to think that Canada is immune to these kinds of incidents, especially as they’ve already happened here before. So, perhaps it’s time to stop being critical and start speaking with your feet by walking away from Black Friday. That’s the only way retailers are ever going to tone it down.

"The only thing we have to fear...

Source: UPI.com

…is fear itself.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

*****

I live 1,500 miles away from my hometown where my father still lives. Getting there by car takes 24 hours if you drive straight through with minimal stops. I know this because I’ve done it. On the other hand, taking the trip by plan can take anywhere from 5 hours - including layover(s) (inevitable when you go to Tallahassee - there are no direct flights) - and 24 hours depending on weather, luggage, cancelled connections, etc. If I’d started this blog years ago, I would have plenty of stories about our flying adventures to link to.

Since Brandon joined us, Matt and I haven’t been too keen on flying or driving down, partly due to financial concerns since I was on maternity leave and then laid off for over a year of Brandon’s life so far. Other concerns I’ve had is the simple fact of being contained - in a plane, in the airport, in a car for 24 hours - with severely limited options for retreat if he’s inconsolable. I know other people do it all the time, but my comfort level just isn’t there.

And lately, with all the news about TSA, I’m not sure my comfort level for travelling in the U.S. will ever extend to airline travel again. From the story about the man who protested being groped in a full body search (they call it an “enhanced pat-down”) in San Diego, to this story of a hysterical 3-year-old girl - the daughter of a reporter, no less - forced to undergo the enhanced pat-down, to the inevitable lawsuits that will probably start popping up regularly as this issue hits the fan.

What about this pat-down is enhanced? The fact that TSA reps are “legally” (in quotes, because I question the legality) putting their hands on individuals’ private parts? The very parts we tell kids that strangers should NOT touch? And TSA is surprised that people aren’t taking this kindly? This article from Huffington Post is blunt, but raises some crucial points about this issue, including this:

These procedures are patently ridiculous security theater. They don’t make flying much safer. They clearly violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, regardless of arcane readings of the Constitution by compliant judges. Probable cause for suspicion is not that someone decided to buy an airline ticket. So why are allowing this to happen?

The author of the Huff Post article, Ben Tripp, talks about the culture of fear that is driving these asinine security measures. But I repeatedly hear facilitators of fear talking about how sacrifices are required.

I should not have to sacrifice my right to decide who touches me.

I should not have to sacrifice my right to decide who sees my body unclothed.

Right now, you can opt-out of the backscatter scan. But how long will that last? The alternative is perhaps even more invasive and certainly more traumatizing for children. There are concerns about survivors of sexual abuse/assault and the effect this would have on them. Good point. TSA, did you consider that when you came up with this idea?

Did I mention that they want to “legally” touch places that we tell children should not be touched by strangers?

September 11, 2001 was a horrible day. Horrible things happened and many people died. I cried every single day as I watched the news until my husband pulled me away from the television. When I think about all the people who’s lives were lost, who suffered serious injuries or the loved ones who are left behind, I still grieve. No one should have to experience what we all lived through on that day.

But we can’t live our lives in fear that it’s going to happen again. No one, prior to 9/11, imagined someone would fly planes into buildings. So, what are they dreaming up now while we’re focused on keeping planes safe? And that isn’t meant to be a statement to incite fear. It’s meant to encourage logic. The kind that acknowledges that we don’t know what could happen.

Taking reasonable precautions is necessary and understandable. Treating every person who walks through an airport with suspicion is ludicrous. Besides, we all know they miss things - like my friend whose sealed jar of peanut butter was confiscated but they let her (unknowingly) walk on the plane with a cheese knife. (It was conference swag. I got one too and didn’t know I had a knife in my bag until I got home.)

TSA policies are prompted by every new incident that they hadn’t previously thought of, so there is a constant game of cat and mouse going on that they will never be able to win. All while honest, law-abiding individuals suffer through invasive, “legal” searches in the name of security. The party line is sacrifice = safety.

I decided to look up the definition of “terrorist” and according to dictionary.com, it is “a person who terrorizes or frightens others”. Then I decided to check out “terrorism”, and it is defined as “the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization”.

Reading those definitions, it seems to me that - nearly 10 years later - the purpose of the terrorists actions on 9/11 are still a success.

I think it’s about time we stop letting terror define us and take back our lives.

*****

Mama's Losin' It

This post was based on the prompt “CONTROVERSY! Are the new security measures performed by the TSA really that bad? Take a stance!” from Mama Kat’s writing workshop. 

I’d love to know what you think. Would you fly in the U.S. right now? If you had to choose between the backscatter or a pat-down, which would you submit to? Or would you walk away from your flight like the blogger in San Diego?

Happy Independence Day from a patriotic expatriate

I was born and raised in the United States of America and I'm really proud to be an American. The U.S. is not a perfect country and I don't agree with all the decisions that are made by its leaders, but at its core, I believe it is a great country. Celebrating Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain is a favorite pastime in the States. Every year, we'd head out to the biggest park in town, knowing it'd take us forever to get home once the fireworks ended. And it almost always rained. But we loved going out to celebrate, proudly wearing our red, white and blue.

As a young child, I didn't really understand what it was all about - I just went for the cotton candy, hot dogs and fireworks. As a teenager, I knew the historical facts that surrounded our independence, but I don't think it sunk in fully until much later, probably around the time I moved to Canada.

If you've never read the Declaration of Independence - the whole basis for Independence Day - it's pretty short and every American should read it at least once. After reading it again and being reminded of the extremely volatile situation in which the colonists lived, I felt grateful that these men took a stand, despite the danger it put them in, and made it possible for America to become the nation that it is today. 

The great thing about the Fourth of July is that no matter what your political beliefs, no matter what state or city you came from, Americans are united in celebration of a nation that was built on the right foundation. We've teetered and we've tottered, but we always have the potential to get things re-balanced because the foundation is that strong.

Much like Canada Day, which we just celebrated here on July 1st, the whole U.S. is going to throw one gigantic party to celebrate its freedoms. So, to all my fellow Americans, Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the fireworks and the food and spare a thought for why it's all happening in the first place.