What’s in a Date?

Thanksgiving is upon us in a couple of days. I feel 98% sorry for Thanksgiving. It lacks the cache of Halloween and is now little more than a rest period complete with mid-week football games before Black Friday (unless you’re in retail in which case you stuff down a meal, kiss your family and hustle off to work). My practice has been to have a quiet Thanksgiving day and then have family in on Saturday to give them the opportunity to celebrate elsewhere on the day and still make time for mom. This year, though, a cop and a heavy-duty tow truck driver who’s on call have split our day into Thursday and Sunday. I can’t remember the last Thanksgiving I had on a Thursday.

It doesn’t matter really. I mean, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of the month (next week in 2012) as the day of thanksgiving and praise. Up to then, states had randomly selected days to recognize and receive their many blessings. Canada, whose harvest is closer to finished in October—has theirs then.

I guess what bothers me is that Thanksgiving was pushed around by whiny retailers complaining about sales in 1939; there would only be 24 post-Thanksgiving days in which to shop. Roosevelt gave in and moved it up a week. Calendars were now wrong. Games had to be rescheduled. People of faith generally and loyalty to Lincoln particularly were outraged. About half the states went along with it, while half did not. A couple of them did both days. In the subsequent year, a few more states went along with what was being called “Franksgiving,” with confusion ensuing for another couple Thanksgivings until Congress fixed the celebration where it is today.

Did it work? The simple answer is “No.” Spending patterns shifted so the graph was more evenly distributed over the weeks leading to Christmas (instead of most of it the week just before), but spending was what had been expected.

The recovery was in full swing by then. Shell-shocked Europe, though, grimly watched as Hitler began invading one country after the next. But the President of the most powerful country in the world was puppeted by financiers, banks and others with interests in commerce in an effort to finagle more and more money from the American people.

Now it’s all about Black Friday. Odd when you remember that “Black Tuesday” was the moniker given to the day the Stock Market crashed in 1929–we all know that but did you ever think why it was BLACK. Somehow in our history classes we’ve filled in that blank to be a black day, a day of mourning, a day of loss and a grim future. Actually black and red are terms related to financial profit/loss statements. Black is good; not so good to “in the red” or showing a loss. (Kinda makes you wonder about that day in 1929 when we can see plainly these days who has benefited the most from the Great Recession–just sayin’)  Black Friday is called that because it’s the day that retailers pin their entire annual profit hopes on. The larger chains and mega-stores can literally afford to lose money ALL YEAR if they have a “good Christmas.” They’ll still be “in the black” on their profit/loss sheet. Merry Christmas, indeed.

Here’s what an e-notes writer says that sounds eerily familiar:

The stock market was only one cause of the Great Depression, however. Unequal income distribution was another problem. While businesses showed great profits during the 1920s, workers got only a small portion of this wealth in their low wages. People who had small incomes therefore bought merchandise on credit. Advertisers pushed them to do so with the slogan “Buy now, pay later.” Many consumers accumulated so much debt that they could no longer purchase products, leading to a slowing of manufacturing because there was a backlog of merchandise. During the 1920s American farmers in the Midwest had been suffering from drought conditions. Others had geared up for high production, but after the end of World War I (1914–18) they found that the international market was overstocked and prices fell so low that they could not make a profit on their crops. The banking industry also made mistakes in too freely lending money, especially to foreign countries trying to rebuild after the war. These countries had trouble repaying their debts. To make matters worse, the United States (and other industrialized countries) charged high import taxes on goods that other countries offered for sale. These taxes prevented countries from selling the goods they needed to earn the money to repay loans from U.S. banks.

Will we never learn?

Source: http://www.enotes.com/history/q-and-a/what-was-black-tuesday-286639  comment by “fact-finder.”


Self-Sufficiency Turned Out to be a Lie

I’m one of the last of the Boomers. I hit my teen years a little after the Summer of Love (1967 for you young whippersnappers) and while Vietnam (the war, not the country) was noisily winding down. John Denver, bless him, crooned about life in the mountains and everybody in the know had the Life Subscription to Mother Earth News. Jeans with handmade anything were pro forma.

Among the mantras of that time was the phrase “self-sufficiency.” Among the now-speak of back-to-the-landers, DIY, off-the-grid and “health food” was this notion of providing for oneself all the necessities of life. Grow a food garden (what was the big deal—my family always had!). Not only sew your clothes, but also weave the cloth, spin the fiber after sheering your sheep. The point—or at least part of the point, was to leave Corporate America out of the loop, to be shed of those accoutrements of a wussy dependency upon The Man.

I can even say that at a certain level self-sufficiency grew to become a competitive sport. “Oh, you bought your shoes? We grew the cow from a pup, slaughtered her ourselves, and tanned the hide on the side of our barn.” Now words like “total self-sufficiency” moved the end zone of virtuous living out another 50, 60, 100 yards. The new path of Enlightment was trod by the self-sufficient.

Even then, it occurred to me, probably while I sewed a recycled fringe for my jeans out of those deadly pop-tops that we had on soda cans then, that to learn every skill, to acquire every tool, to manage every farm animal while growing your veggie garden was, to put it simply, a herculean feat. I mean, I was having enough trouble just fiddling my fingers around macramé (1970’s glossary entry meaning twisting cords into knots to make pretty plant hangers). There was always somebody who found enough hours in the day to do all of that AND make macramé. I was in awe.

It turns out that all that talk about self-sufficiency was a lie. Why?

Somehow it was possible to be self-sufficient because it was held forth as a beacon of youthful energy, the goal of my age, but what I learned most from my attempts at bread making, quilting (shamefully removed from the original frugal art by the  purchase of fabric and patterns instead of using scraps from sewing something useful like clothing), growing food in containers (we lived in an apartment) and making my children’s baby food at home was that each of these skills takes time to learn well. Making bread requires commitment to do it all over again when the centers of your precious loaves are all sodden still.  No normally proportioned human being wanted to wear my hand knit sweaters no matter how much I had om’ed (glossary entry for a repeatable mantra that doesn’t basically mean anything but sounds exotic) while my needles click-clicked. I conservatively estimate that it would require several lifetimes to learn all the needed skills for a subsistence existence.

The part of all this that we Self-Sufficient, rugged, individualistic Americans missed was this: that we are social animals. The Wiki defines self-sufficient this way—

 “Self-sufficiency is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival….”

 —and while that sounds very much like a noble thing, when it all boils down in the iron kettle over the hickory fire is that somebody, be it Corporate America or some self-sufficiency guru, was able to hype this and sell each of us a food grinder, each of us a loom, each of us pottery making classes. While nobody can argue that farm fresh eggs are better for man AND chicken than battery farmed eggs, it’s clear that my generation was retailed, even as we protested being sold. But that’s not the crux of this.

Human life is intelligently designed to MAKE us dependent on one another. The job of surviving, of simply existing in this 3-D world of effects, is just too big. Even in our most equitable (and now considered primitive!) social models—the hunter/gatherers—cooperation was necessary to survive. They had to think of themselves as a member of the group, as within the larger community. Competition was considered insane or sport until the innovation of agriculture allowed us to be able to store food and thereby threaten the rest of us with starvation.

All That Is/God/the Universe knew we’d be at each other’s throats with ego-ic judgments and an entire litany of other sins and that if we weren’t having to bank our survival on our fellow man we’d have blown this planet to smithereens a long time ago. We’re engineered as community beings. I’m happy that the current planetary shift is teasing out those values and beliefs we hold dear that run counter to the idea of being gathered. Jesus showed us how to think of it; in what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” we find the personal pronouns to be plural—“our,” “us.” Do you think “US-sufficiency” could catch on?