Celebrate Thanksgiving, not 'Black Thursday'

When I was searching the web earlier today, I saw an advertisement for ???Black Thursday??? at Target. Certain that couldn???t possibly be what I thought it was–might Target be kicking off the Christmas shopping season the Thursday before Thanksgiving?–I clicked the link and learned, to my dismay, that the discount chain will open its doors and launch a massive sales promotion at 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day.

I???m as staunch a supporter of free-market capitalism as you???ll ever find, but this simply crosses the line. And Target will hardly be alone in uprooting its employees from the dinner table this year–Macy???s, Best Buy, Kohl???s, Sears, and Toys ???R Us are just a few of the other major retailers that will blacken Thursday this year by kicking off Black Friday sales in the early evening. Many Old Navy and Kmart locations will be open all day long, luring shoppers away from their families with promises of extra savings on big-ticket items.

American capitalism is the world???s most successful economic system because it combines free-market entrepreneurship with the intangible morals and values of America. Certainly, stores will profit off ???Black Thursday??? sales, but they???ll do so at a much greater cost to society by threatening the sanctity of a holiday that is quintessential to the American way of life.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of family, food, freedom, and country–a day to pause and realize how lucky we are. Along with the Fourth of July, it???s one of the few holidays that is both universal and uniquely American (and maybe a little Canadian). When we gather around the table as families and friends to break bread, it doesn???t matter what our race, religion, or background is–we???re all Americans, and Thanksgiving is our day to be grateful for our bountiful land, our freedom and prosperity, and all the many blessings of our everyday lives. We???re also grateful for all the brave men and women wearing our uniform, and keep a special place in our hearts for all the families with an empty place setting at the table.

Thanksgiving???s meaning is powerful and timeless, but it???s also so subtle that it???s liable to get lost amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. To fully appreciate the day, we need to spend time in the company of the people that bring us the most joy. If we do Thanksgiving right, somewhere between the travel and the turkey, the hugs and the laughter, and the Lions losing and Cowboys winning we???ll realize how much we truly have to be thankful for.

That???s why ???Black Thursday??? poses such a great threat to our national day of gratitude–and why it???s time to call off the sales until the next morning. Retail workers deserve to spend the full day at home with their families, and we owe it to ourselves and our children not to dash away from dinner to scoop up big-screen TV???s and designer clothing that will still be there on Friday morning–and throughout the month of December for that matter. Even if we???d be saving a few dollars in the process, we???d only be making a statement that we value whatever the stores are selling over everyone else???s ability to spend Thanksgiving Day with the ones they love.

One of the great benefits of living in a free country and free economy is that it???s up to us as consumers, and not the government, to tell the retailers that enough is enough. Target and its competitors run their businesses they way the market asks them to, and they???ll only open on holidays if it???s profitable to do so. Let???s stand up together and vote with our wallets, and tell these stores that their employees??? right to share Thanksgiving with their families is more important to us than a few extra hours of holiday deals.

More importantly, let???s celebrate Thanksgiving the right way this year, by putting in the time to connect with family and friends and letting the people that matter know how grateful we are to have them in our lives–and remembering how fortunate we are to live in a land that is strong and free.

Jason Stverak is President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.