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A hallmark of American economics is the ritualization of our consumerism. Spending sprees have been devised to accompany all kinds of events, activities, celebrations and milestones--and Black Friday has become the supersized red-letter date that overshadows them all.

In the mercantile vernacular, profits and losses are color-coded.

Like the morning sunrises whose crimson hues signaled warnings to sailors, bottom-line figures in red warn businesses of impending insolvency. Conversely, when a company's income statement produces a positive number at the bottom, it's said to be "in the black," signifying profitability.

The fourth Friday in November could just as easily have been dubbed Profit Friday, and perhaps should have been, since the retail spectacle that hordes of consumers on holiday enjoy is only made possible by employees who aren't getting the day off (but do get paid extra).

Although it will never catch on (the day's ebony cognomen is indelibly carved into the Christmas shopping psyche), today could rightly be called Irony Day.

Consider these perspectives.

Spirit of...

One of the enduring musical tributes to yuletide materialism, "Silver Bells," features the following lyric:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks,

dressed in holiday style,

In the air there's a feeling

of Christmas.

Children laughing, people passing,

Meeting smile after smile ...

Officially, Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, pleasantly idealized in the 67-year-old lyrics above. But few front-line veterans would validate that as an accurate representation of their Black Friday experience. What is supposed to be the inaugural day of good-natured giving often devolves into a showcase of bad-tempered consumers.

It's ironic: There's an epidemic of Christmas spirit amnesia on the Christmas season kickoff day.

Jekyll and Hyde

With 130 million souls descending en masse in pursuit of sales specials featuring limited supply, the entire spectrum of human emotion can and will manifest itself.

The ingredients of Dr. Jekyll's legendary serum were never revealed in Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novella, but something in the mix of Black Friday's fever has produced a number of vicious Mr. Hydes.

Of all the days to have a "death count" website, it's depressing that the day after Thanksgiving would be the one. Blackfridaydeathcount.com has memorialized the 10 lost lives and more than 100 injured since 2006. Three people were killed last year in shopping bonanza disputes.

The idea of someone out shopping for the perfect gift being driven to utter selfishness--even to the point of lethal intent--is irony at its most grim.

The best things in life

If you finish the thought, it ends with "are free." Gathering as families to cherish the gratitude of abundant blessings is part of the tradition of Thanksgiving. It costs nothing to reflect on all that you have, and be thankful for it.

But there's nothing free about Black Friday. On the contrary, spending money is its raison d'être.

Indeed, recent studies have shown that shoppers looking for the best deal not only frequently overspend against their budgets, but one in four need three months to pay for their binge holiday shopping.

Friday's bargain-hunt sense of urgency increasingly interrupts Thursday's thoughtful respite; the "Thanks" part is barely contemplated before the "giving" demands to be funded.

It's ironic that our society can't even gratefully appreciate all we have for a single sacred day without succumbing to the burning yearning to go out and get more in spades on the next day.

Then and now

In the first Thanksgiving proclamation, George Washington mentioned God repeatedly--16 times in all. If you take out all the sentences containing a reference to God, all that's left is this:

"Given under my hand, at the City of New York, the third day of October, A.D. 1789."

Only one sentence referenced God in Barack Obama's last Thanksgiving proclamation, and here it is: "In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen."

Pretty ironic.

Almighties at odds

In the first sentence of his first Thanksgiving proclamation, President Donald Trump restored "Almighty God" to prominence.

Throughout American history, that seminal phrase--which dates back millennia--has been overtly linked with the very notion of giving thanks as a nation.

"Almighty dollar" is of much more recent vintage, and gaining in a covert capacity, if not by literal terminology then by intrinsic influence, as the driving force behind Black Friday's ascendancy. Mostly the term is remembered as materializing as part of the 20th century economic ascendancy, but one of its earliest incantations can be traced to Washington Irving (he of Old Christmas authorship).

It's ironic that he called it "that great object of universal devotion throughout our land" way back in 1836.

Though not yet a fully accepted trend, Black Friday has been called the second in the "Six Days of Thanksgiving," to be followed by Small Business Saturday, Sunday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

Now that the "12 Days of Christmas" is considered archaic and remembered only as a carol, maybe that'll become the new holiday sequence.

It also might be a good time for an enterprising composer to put the concept to music.

------------v------------

Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

Editorial on 11/24/2017

Print Headline: Ebony and irony

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  • BoudinMan
    November 24, 2017 at 7:51 a.m.

    So, trump is more worshipful to god than Pres. Obama was? Why? Because he mentions him in a speech? Let's look closely at their actions to determine which one more closely lives his life in true moral values. A devout family man, Obama had his mother-in-law move into the White House to keep the extended family connected. Obama did not trade wives in when a younger, fresher version came around. Obama did not brag about sexually abusing women. On and on. And as far as the Washington mention, he was more likely to use the term "Providence" than to use the word "god" in his speeches. Just what is the actual thesis of this column?

  • 23cal
    November 24, 2017 at 9:18 a.m.

    Kelley lies. The proclamation was four paragraphs, the word "God" isn't used in the last three paragraphs. Each paragraph is one sentence long.
    *
    Kelley also misleads by counting on the ignorance of his readers. He says "If you take out all the sentences containing a reference to God, all that's left is this:"Given under my hand, at the City of New York, the third day of October, A.D. 1789."
    What he fails to tell you is the entire proclamation is a total of FOUR sentences, one of which is the one he notes above. From the column, did you get the impression there were lots of sentences and they all had "God" in them? I did. However, there weren't.
    *
    Terms used include "that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was" and " Lord and Ruler of Nations"....but, these are primarily deistic, and certainly not wholly Christian, terms. Kelley makes the same purposeful error that religious fanatics make about the Declaration of Independence, whose deistic terms include "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and "Creator". One could as easily say "take out all the sentences with reference to Allah", if you get to insert your favorite deity.
    *
    The religious extremists always try to spin these deistic terms into synonyms for their own preferred supernatural deity. The founders were quite literate and had they meant the Christian God, Jesus, Yahweh, Jehovah, etc., they would have been capable of specifically using those names.
    *
    Kelley tries to denigrate Obama by pointing out only one sentence referenced God. What he fails to tell you is that instead of being religiously divisive in order to pander to one religious demographic as Trump did, Obama's proclamation talked about uniting with phrases such as "This history teaches us that the American instinct has never been to seek isolation in opposite corners; it is to find strength in our common creed and forge unity from our great diversity. On that very first thanksgiving celebration, these same ideals brought together people of different backgrounds and beliefs, and every year since, with enduring confidence in the power of faith, love, gratitude, and optimism, this force of unity has sustained us as a people."

  • DanaKelley
    November 24, 2017 at 11:09 a.m.

    For reference, here's Washington's proclamation:

    By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

    And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

    Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

  • 23cal
    November 24, 2017 at 12:10 p.m.

    Thank you, Kelley, for providing the proof to my statement and the refutation of yours. 4 sentences total. "God" used only in the first one, deistic terms in the others.

  • RBear
    November 24, 2017 at 1:21 p.m.

    23cal brings up an excellent point that gets lost in Kelley's op-ed. If you read through Washington's proclamation it follows in the deist tradition of the day by acknowledging a power greater than ourselves, but not being overt in declaration. While Washington was not a strong deist like Jefferson, he was somewhere in between, often viewed as a rational theist. The fact that Obama acknowledged a greater power falls in line with Washington's viewpoints.
    ...
    I do find it almost insulting for Kelley to attempt to frame presidents in such ways as if one is better than the other. Looking back at Obama's life, you find more of the teachings of Christ than you might find with Trump. Remember what Christ taught in that we are defined more by our actions or deeds than by our words. I'll let you be the judge of who walked more closely as Christ did.

  • wildblueyonder
    November 24, 2017 at 9:17 p.m.

    RB, just out of curiosity, who is Christ, historically and personally to you?

  • BoudinMan
    November 25, 2017 at 8:01 a.m.

    Well, Kelley's hero, the short-fingered-vulgarian, is certainly in the spirit. I saw where he was hawking his stupid merchandise for Black Friday. We now have a so-called president who is using his office to pimp his baubles. Making profit off of the presidency--it's the American way.

  • PopMom
    November 25, 2017 at 8:23 a.m.

    I guess most of the ADG columnists feel that they must praise Trump and demonize the black president to keep their jobs. Every politician in the state must embrace the "tax reform" so that Hussman's family won't have to pay estate taxes when he goes. Hussman probably has passed down the word that there will be no endorsements of candidates who do not take care of his desire to get rid of the estate tax. The Republican politicians are all owned by the multimillionaires. They don't give a damn about the common people.

  • wildblueyonder
    November 25, 2017 at 6:13 p.m.

    What's the matter, rbear, can't answer my question, or won't?

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