Saturday, November 22, 2014

JFK and Black Friday

51 years ago today, the world changed forever. This weekend, it seems America’s quantum shift will be complete. On November 22, 1963, our President, John F. Kennedy, was murdered. I was 13 – I remember everything about that Friday and the weekend that followed as if it had happened to me. of course, it had – as it happened to every citizen of the country, whether they actually liked JFK or not. My generation found its innocence trampled in the dust of the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald took aim and fired the lethal shots. When the Vietnam War escalated, it only proved our disillusionment was appropriately placed. Among very bad days, November 22, 1963, ranks as the worst in my own lifetime. But when I look around today, 51 years later, the changes that evolved throughout those years have taken on their own peculiar bend. You see it readily in what has happened to Christmas: the shopping season grows longer and more intense every year. This year Black Friday starts on the Monday before in many places, intensifying on Wednesday. Some malls, as I understand it, are actually going to penalize stores if they do not open on Thanksgiving Day. All this so Americans can fill their shopping carts, drain their bank accounts, and exceed their credit limits. We are conditioned to buy, buy and buy some more. The reason for the season tells us to spread love among those we treasure, and gifts are a way of showing that love. But in America, the giving has become extreme (I am guilty of this myself, continually wanting to get more, more, more – I am, after all, a well conditioned citizen). Schmaltzy Christmas movies try their best to remind us that what matters is each other, and not what we give each other, but it is hard to knock tradition. Still, the tradition of consumerism has plenty of detractors, which I will try to remember as I watch my family members unwrap their assorted gifts. It is better to give than receive, yes, but when I remember that phrase I remind myself of those who gave their everything – like the one whose birthday we are about to celebrate, and the one who died 51 years ago. They did not die so we could shop, but Capitalist America seems to think so.

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