ARTICLE BY SUMMER OSBORN
Thanksgiving is one of the few things America really gets right. While its origin isn’t exactly America’s proudest moment, the idea of dedicating one entire day to giving thanks is a concept so nice and pure it seems almost un-American. Not everyone has a perfect or traditional Thanksgiving, but for the most part it is as if the nation takes a knee for the day, pausing their busy lives and pursuits of greater gain to reflect on what they already have. That is, until Thanksgiving evening. It is amazing to me how the one day of the year America gets right can be followed immediately by the day it gets so wrong.
To me, Black Friday represents a lot of what is upsetting about modern America. While it is meant to be a day that kicks off a season filled with love, kindness, and giving, instead it is a day that values individual wants above relationships, decency, and even safety. Every year people die in stampedes of shoppers clamoring to score the best deals and buy just the right gifts. Black Friday represents the mentality of rampant consumerism that says, “If I can afford it, I deserve to have it.” According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans plan to spend an average of $935.58 this season on either themselves or their kids. Of course, that does not mean that everyone who goes shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is egocentric or greedy. But the fact that our most wildly consumerist day of the year is encroaching further and further upon our day of thanks represents a dangerously self-serving state of mind for America on the whole.
It is this same selfish mindset that creeps into Americans’ political decisions. We look for the candidate that we believe will make things best for us, without regard to what will happen to groups experiencing different socioeconomic circumstances. We believe that, because we have worked for or been lucky enough to be born into our particular demographic, our wants are inherently valuable, and we deserve to attain them at the expense of others.
Even without mention of this year’s election, both political parties run on this mindset. As the ideological gap between liberals and conservatives grows, considering what candidates will help what demographic becomes a much sharper issue, and people usually err on the side of selfishness. Democrats are known to fight for the “regular Americans,” meaning the middle class, as well as for minorities and other oppressed groups. But when they push for greater social liberties, increased environmental protection, and what they consider to be a more fair tax system, they often do so without any real sympathy towards the effects their policies will have on upper class, white, religious Americans. They choose to see that particular demographic as villains and believe themselves and their policies to be more worthy of attention and approval. Likewise, Republicans become so focused on their economic and religious needs that they fail to have compassion for the people who suffer at the expense of their policies.
When it comes time for America to vote, it comes down to choosing the candidate that will best advance an individual’s interest, which, is often just the candidate most like them who will also be looking out for his or her own interests. We are caught in a consumerist system of selfish voting.
Some may argue that this system works. If every group is out campaigning for its own interests, things are sure to balance out. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We have an imbalanced system in both numbers and resources. Minorities are called minorities for a reason; they do not have as many people vying for their interests. While they will undoubtedly vote for candidates who support their wellbeing, it is typically harder for them to make change than a larger demographic. Money also plays a huge factor, as certain groups are able to pay to advertise their policies more than others.
It seems as though there is no solution to this problem as of now. The nation is more polarized than ever after the recent election, and consumerist voting cycles onward. Going forward, it will be increasingly important that people get out to vote for causes they believe in, but it is also important that we all stop to think about the effects our votes may have on people in different social classes and social circles than ourselves. We must curb the tendency to become obsessed with our own personal interests, the same obsession present on Black Friday, and instead be careful that out of sight does not mean out of mind in regards to our votes and who they are impacting.