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BLOG: Giving Thanks for Capitalism

November 28, 2013, 3:39 PM HST
* Updated November 28, 3:49 PM
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Have you ever heard the “real” story of thanksgiving?

Unless you’re a fan of Rush Limbaugh, you probably haven’t.

In Limbaugh’s version of the tale, which he recounts yearly, the first thanksgiving in America (in early 1620s Plymouth, Massachusetts) wasn’t a celebratory kumbaya moment between helpful natives and grateful pilgrims.

Instead, it was a jubilant rejection of socialism.

Based in part on the journals of William Bradford, Limbaugh’s story attributes much of the early suffering of the settlers at Plymouth to their failed experiments in, well… sharing stuff.

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Bradford’s accounts (as quoted by Limbaugh) describe the pilgirm’s early economy as one where land was equally owned by all, and goods equally distributed. That arrangement frustrated many settlers, and the colony didn’t prosper until converting to a system of private ownership and trade.

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After the setter’s scored their first successful harvest, a feast was held. According to Limbaugh, the point of the feast was to celebrate the bounty that had been provided by rejecting socialism.

This, insist some right-wingers, is the “real story of thanksgiving.”

The penultimate vision of an early American thanksgiving, natives and all. Public domain image.

The penultimate vision of an early American thanksgiving, natives and all. Public domain image.

Of course, many of these same folks also insist that there is an ongoing “war” on Christmas.

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But whether or not William Bradford really managed to save us all from the threat of communism (100+ years before the birth of Karl Marx), America’s unique tradition of giving thanks is certainly evolving into a full-blown celebration of free market awesomeness.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the retail business, where Black Friday, the holiest of days on the business calendar, just managed to take over thanksgiving dinner.

For the first time, Walmart stores nationwide (including those in Hawai`i) are open all day on thanksgiving, offering up “doorbuster” specials meant to lure families away from their pie in the hopes of a cheap Playstation.

Other retailers have gotten in on the action as well, as a long-respected cultural barrier between fall and Christmas crumbles before the weight of commercial capitalism.

Should we be upset over this? Should conservative diners be starting a “save traditional thanksgiving” movement in an attempt to preserve the sanctity of grandma’s stuffing?

Nope. In truth, we really needed this.

The fact that so many retailers (and shoppers) hopes and dreams have been, for so long, crammed into a single calendar day is frankly amazing, and it’s about time we started loosening things up.

We couldn't pass up a pie pic on thanksgiving now, could we? Photo by Nate Gaddis.

We couldn’t let thanksgiving pass without a pie picture now, could we? Photo by Nate Gaddis.

By spreading the peak holiday shopping phenomenon over a few extra days, businesses will hopefully be a little more profitable, while consumers will feel a tad less stressed.

With a still-fragile island economy attempting to nurse itself back to health, any opportunity to increase sales is a welcome one here.

Of course, no one is forcing you to leave the confines of your home this weekend, and you can in fact stay home for pie while still getting bargains over the internet.

For instance, online giant Amazon.com has really thrown down the gauntlet this holiday season, with their confusingly named “Black Friday Week.” During this discount period, Amazon is offering you access to some of the most popular doorbuster deals from a variety of retailers nationwide. All without leaving your couch.

So when does “Black Friday Week” begin, you ask? On Sunday, of course!

Because America.

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