The American Way of Life

All the splendors of the American way of life will be on full display this Thanksgiving weekend.  For nothing seems to make the American way of life shine quite like a holiday celebrating the nation’s genocidal conquest of the continent’s native inhabitants.

And to commemorate the nation’s history of colonial conquest, Americans will gather together to gorge themselves on a meal averaging a staggering 2,000 – 3,000 calories.  Another sign of America’s exceptionalism, I suppose.

Naturally after the food bender, the masses, donning their sweat suits to accommodate bulging stomachs, will waddle over to the nearest mall to take part in the weekend’s next national holiday: Black Friday.  In all, this latter holiday will see 152 million Americans visit stores or websites, according to the National Retail Federation, to stock up on all the season’s corporate hocked kitsch.

The collective hysteria over a day of discounted junk, though, is perhaps not all that mystifying.  As John Bellamy Foster writes, “The United States in 2005 spent over $1 trillion, or around 9 percent of GDP, on various forms of marketing.”  A weekend of consumer orgy, then, becomes a rather natural byproduct.  As a matter of fact, in order to accommodate such a massively orchestrated revelry of consumption, Black Friday has necessarily had to break free from the limits of a 24-day.

Though traditionally starting in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, Black Friday now, in fact, begins on Thursday, with many stores opening their doors well before the stroke of midnight. (For those yet to have finalized a plan, Toy ‘R’ Us opens at 9 p.m., with Wal-Mart following just one hour later.)  But any fool knows that one can’t just saunter up on Black Friday and expect to walk away triumphantly with one’s coveted product.  Effective shopping on this day of collective consumption takes devout dedication.  It requires one to physically pack up and move temporarily to the store (time with family over a holiday be damned).  In other words, it requires occupying the space in front of the store.

In fact, capitalizing on the current media attention granted to all those homeless degenerates booted from their unsanitary encampments across the country, a group deemed “Occupy Best Buy” has a newly minted website and Twitter feed up and running.  The website even comes complete with a 94-word manifesto, ending with a final call to arms: “The only way to truly get the best deals on Black Friday is to camp out.”  Luckily, the brevity of the manifesto allows Occupy Best Buy to spread their entire program in only three tweets!

For any cynically minded readers, the website reassures that the group has no formal affiliation with Best Buy.  Oh, but, of course.  Who could possibly think otherwise?

Yet despite such seemingly benign intentions, one has to wonder what the police response will be to these occupiers of Best Buy.  What measure of force and chemical agents should we expect the police to deploy in their “crowd control” of the swarming Occupy Best Buy participants?  After all, Black Friday indeed has a history of violence (stampedes are a yearly occurrence, with a 2008 stampede outside a Valley Stream, New York Wal-Mart resulting in the death of a 34-year old employee).

But let’s not kid ourselves; despite the past violence of these stupefied masses, riot police will remain resting comfortably in their barracks, far from the shopping herds.  For the Black Friday occupiers clamoring for the year’s hyped holiday trinkets are foundational pillars of the capitalist order.  As President George W. Bush was always quick to declare in time of national crisis, shopping is our patriotic duty.

Therefore, nothing is quite as threatening to national stability and order than a refusal to consume, consume, consume.  Hence, those abstaining from gluttonous consumption to occupy public spaces in an attempt to transform an economy in systemic crisis can expect to continue being beaten and pepper sprayed by police goons.  Sure, 30 million may be unemployed or underemployed, and the top 1-percent may indeed control 40-percent of the nation’s wealth, but holiday shopping must not be hindered.  After all, the American way of life is not negotiable.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon. He may be reached at: bnschreiner@gmail.com. Read other articles by Ben.