Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for Nov 29, 12
Once again, the wringing of hands, the brow-wrinkling concern, the dire prognosticators decrying stores that opened their doors on Thanksgiving night. Outrageous! thunders The Church-of-TV-Punditry-Gasbags. We’re destroying our American Values, we’re being overtaken by soul-eating commercialism! Halloween’s barely over, the Kandy Korn is still stuck in our teeth, and here come the Christmas decorations and Big Sale door-busters! Is nothing sacred anymore?
Ah, but we Americans do love our fake nostalgia. In all our heads we carry the dream of The Great American Tradition – The Perfect Thanksgiving, straight out of Hollywood and a Norman Rockwell magazine cover, the family gathered around the huge white linen-covered table, Granny bringing in the perfect turkey. The warm sun is pouring into the dining room through lace curtains. Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah and Mom and Dad are there. Little Timmy and Tammy are all brushed up, their unruly cowlicks laying flat, nice and clean in their Sunday best and are gathered around, eyes on the turkey, tummies rumbling with anticipation.
Soon, the feast will begin, the soft voices of a family sharing stories and decorous laughter rising above the clink of silverware on china. And when all are replete, the family will retire to the parlor to spend the rest of the lazy Autumn day chatting or playing board games while the men folk doze in the big armchairs and the women folk share gossip and do the washing up. Later, the kids will go out to play some touch football on the lawn. And towards evening, everyone will take a few moments to think about what a great country they live in and how important it is to spend family time together, and how much they all have to be thankful for.
In the real world, the busy family stopped eating together years ago. It’s been food-on-the-fly for ages, and if they were forced to sit at table together for more than 10 minutes, everyone would consider that to be a cruel torture. At some point, even Granny stopped cooking on the holidays years ago (“I did Thanksgiving for 30 years and I’m not doing it anymore.”), the family’s gone vegan and that’s a Tofurky on the table. Uncle Fred’s fallen off the wagon and is now face down in the mashed potatoes. Aunt Sarah is hissing at him (“I could have married a doctor years ago, but Nooo, I had to go and marry you!”). Timmy and Tammy are sullenly slouched down in their chairs, their noses buried in their iPhones and furiously texting their friends, wishing to God they were somewhere – anywhere else than here (“OMG! This sucks! What R U doing?”), while Dad has escaped to the living room with his buddies and they’re parked in front of the big screen TV watching football and drinking beer.
In short, dinner’s over in a flash and the family is bored silly and desperate to get away from each other as fast as possible. And what better way to do that but head to the mall?
It’s the perfect combination: The atomized family, adrift from old fashioned tradition and rigid social restraints, desperate for constant stimulation and entertainment, all gleefully swimming in the vast American Sea of Mass Consumption.
So starting the new tradition of a Mall ThanksChristgiving seems like a winner. No need to spend boring time with one another, there’s plenty of excitement and novelty for everyone, tons of instant gratification provided by credit cards, and if anyone misses the thrill of violence formerly provided by football games, consider the recent WalMart/BestBuy riots, the wonderful real-time thrill of dangerous crowd crush, head-butts, elbow-slams, and even gunshots from armed shoppers.
So I say to the gasbag decriers of the death of tradition: Zip it. Americans are always re-inventing their traditions. It’s what we do. Norman Rockwell’s dead. Get over it. Time for a new holiday: The Great Winter Buy-A-Thon.
That’s when, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, Americans of all ages, will gather together, credit cards securely tucked into their pockets right next to the Glock and their smart phones, a backpack full of turkey sandwiches slung over their shoulders, (O Pioneers!) and head with their fellow Americans to the Malls of America for one of two glorious days of shopping and shooting togetherness, a spectacular blow-out of happily harvesting vast quantities of unnecessary crap that will end up in the landfill come January 1st.
Can you think of anything more American than that?