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Valerie Alexander Headshot

Thanks vs. Commerce -- The War Rages On

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I feel completely ready for the Holiday Shopping Season. My heart is full of love, I know who I have to buy gifts for and how much I plan to spend, and I even have some ideas for special surprises to make my loved ones happy.

What I don't seem to be ready for is the apparent vitriol that accompanies the Holiday Shopping Season. We as a country seem more divided than ever on one major issue -- no, not Obamacare, or filibuster reform, or whether saying "Kimye" to describe a certain couple makes you a hipster jackass. It's whether stores should be open on Thanksgiving Day or not.

Recently, Costco made headlines for announcing that they would be closed on this one purely American, non-religious, no-agenda-other-than-gratitude holiday. The company has decided that the loss of one day of revenue (minus the costs of being open, including labor, electricity, extra security, etc.) is worth it in order to treat their employees to whole day with their families (or, if you read some of the nasty comments online -- a whole day to shop at Walmart).

Why are some people getting so angry about this? It's like we all have to take sides. Either you are pro-commerce or anti-Christmas. Either every day after Labor Day is one less shopping day, so get out there and buy! buy! buy!, or you are the curmudgeon longing for the days when all Santa brought you was a new pair of socks and an orange in your stocking and you were happy about it. So get off my lawn!

My friend, John, is in the anti-commerce camp, and he recently posted this on Facebook: "Hey everyone... don't go shopping on Thanksgiving, 'k? Let's make it so that the d-bags who force their employees to work on the holiday are just going to waste their money on payroll for that day. And if you can't get indignant about that, think about this: Saving money to buy things for your loved ones is a poor substitute from actually spending time with your loved ones."

I was stunned at the angry backlash to his post -- from his friends! The sentiments ranged from, "I have no interest in spending time with my family," to "I can't afford to travel this year, so I should at least be able to shop," to "Everyone has a choice whether they want to work on Thanksgiving or not, and you don't have the right to deny them the time-and-a-half they'd get paid." That last one came from a man who clearly had not had an hourly job in a while, since it shows a complete lack of understanding of how much control the checkout clerk at Target might have over her schedule, and continues the myth that hourly workers get bonus pay for working on holidays. The great majority of them do not -- even the ones who have to come in at 3:30 a.m. to get the store ready for "Doorbuster Savings!"

It's amusing to me that the politicians in this country who lament the loss of family values the loudest are the very ones who worship at the alter of pure market-capitalism, without seeing any connection between the two. As long as corporations are encouraged to maximize shareholder return at all costs, driving down wages and dodging fair taxes through strategic campaign contributions, the value of the family will continue to deteriorate. We will continue to have more adults working longer hours earning lower wages without the luxury of owning a home or having a full-time parent able to stay in it. A majority of stores being open on Thanksgiving is a symptom of this. In fact, it might just be the canary in the coal mine. The last, dire warning that we have placed commerce above all other values to a degree that has become self-destructive to the American way of life.

Just about every cultural subgroup in America celebrates Thanksgiving. No one has their own separate version of it, on a different day, with a different name. There are no competing holidays to this one, and it is the loveliest holiday we have. A day to remember to to be thankful. Which begs the question: does everyone in America really not have a single other day off to shop between now and December 25? Are the deals you're getting worth knowing that the person bagging your cheap tablet isn't enjoying a whole day with his kids, or his mom and her parents? Is it too much to ask to close up shop on that one day? A day that we as a nation have set aside to give thanks for all that is abundant in our lives?

I love Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday of the year, and not just for the food, but for the meaning. I love that I live in a country that at one time decided that we needed to designate a day to appreciate the bounty of our harvests, the kindness of our neighbors, and the riches we receive from the land and each other. I hope that you have the freedom to enjoy this day to its fullest, and that you can find a way to surround yourself with people you love, and who love you, and that you'll all embrace the joy of gratitude that this day is about. And if you wind up going shopping, I hope you at least get a really great deal on a gift for someone who will be truly thankful for it.

For a guidebook in achieving lasting, permanent happiness, check out "Happiness as a Second Language," a Happiness Top Seller on Amazon (Makes a great gift, and you don't even need to leave the house to get it!). For added fun, watch The Happiest Book Trailer Ever, and for even more happiness, please visit Speak Happiness.com, and follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter.

For more by Valerie Alexander on Huffington Post, click here.

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