Friday, November 28, 2008

A black Black Friday

Thursday, November 27, being the fourth Thursday of November, was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a federal public holiday set aside to commemorate the safe arrival of migrating Europeans in what is now the United States. The first recorded Thanksgiving was held by 600 safe arrivals in Florida in 1565. The purpose was to give thanks to God for protecting the migrants from the perils of the sea and the poisoned darts of Native Indians. Today, Thanksgiving is a big holiday—probably bigger than Christmas or New Year. It’s one time of the year that the family reunites. But not many people remember that it is supposed to be a day for thanking God. I am afraid the day is associated more with eating traditional Thanksgiving food—roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies, than with God and His providence. Worse still, like Christmas, Thanksgiving has received a bad dent from the gush of commercialization.
The day following Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. It is so called because that day, all retail outlets whose accounts may have been in the red lower prices and get more buyers thus moving the account from red to black. In ‘Black Friday’ is one rare use of the word ‘black’ that actually means something good! This commercial appendage to Thanksgiving is gradually overshadowing the main event. In the days leading to Thanksgiving, I heard more talk about Black Friday than about a people giving thanks or a God receiving thanks.
I witnessed this year’s Black Friday in State College, Pennsylvania. My friend and I went to a store to shop for computers. We were warned to arrive early as the period of grace (sales) would be short and the people would be many. We got to the first store about 4.15 am. What we saw was incredible: there were over 120 people lined up in the frozen weather—it was 0oC or 32oF. We learnt that some people had been there since 10.00 pm of Thursday: they had spent over six hours in that chill! No wonder a lot of smoking had to go on! We moved to another less known store and within minutes even the queue there began to challenge a medium-size train. In some stores, there was real pandemonium. In fact, a news outlet reported that shoppers broke down the doors of a store when it was time to get in. Americans are an interesting people: they’d go through anything to save a few dollars when it comes to buying; but they’d blow all of that on what, to the Nigerian in me, is trivial—such as paying $100 to watch a game of football.
But the Black Friday did actually turn black. In search of my daily dose of Nigerian news, I turned to the Nigerian Tribune online. Of the four news items on its front page, three were records of the needless deaths of scores of people in Nigeria: armed robbers killed several in Ibadan; three more children died from lethal teething drugs; a truck lost control and ran into a full market in Kogi State killing tens of people in the market. In frustration, I turned to the Nigerian Guardian, and Rueben Abati was there describing and lamenting the heartless torture and murder of scores of Akwa Ibom kids who were declared witches (winches) by some rabid pastors and senseless parents. My frustration welled to the brim so I turned to MSNBC online. ‘Enough of Nigeria!’ I screamed. But what did MSNBC offer me: “Wal-Mart worker dies after crowd rushes store” What? American shoppers trampled a sales clerk to death just to save a few bucks? I am done with the news. "Well. Let's see BBC online", I mustered some hope. But I got another stab: Poll riots erupt in Nigerian city BBC declared. Riots in Jos over elections claimed the lives of at least 20 people gruesomely matcheted or burnt to death. "No more!" I resolved. It was indeed a black Black Friday.

1 comment:


I like this. Indeed Black friday was a black day indeed from a variety of perspectives.

So, you really experienced Black Friday's commercial aspect what with getting to the store early. I have never been able to wake up early to shop although I have spoken to many who enjoy the 'sport' of it all. But, after the death of that poor Walmart employee trying to protect a pregnant lady in NY, I am very sure that Black Friday will simply remain a day for me to get work done.

Hope all is well with you and yours.