Once upon a time, it was not very uncommon for the people of these United States to engage in non-intercourse agreements, although the use of boycotts and similar agreements has always been fraught with some difficulty. At the beginning of our republic’s history, when the colonies were just beginning to forge a common identity in the opposition to British imperialism, non-importation agreements were vital in expressing the colonial will against taxation without representation. In contemporary times, efforts to boycott business have often revolved around their business practices or the political behavior of those who run the company. The effort to refuse doing business with those who engage in immoral practices is itself a salutary reminder of the sense of moral outrage of a society or a segment of society, and helps remind other people as to what values others hold dear. In the 18th century, that meant refusing to import tea so as one could avoid supporting the corrupt monopoly of the East India Company.
Of course, it should be noted as well that a sustainable non-intercourse agreement requires the finding of sufficient substitute products. Hopefully a personal story here will not be considered out of line. When I was a child, I was thought to be somewhat on the hyperactive side, and in lieu of drugging me into a stupor, my family decided to control my abundance of nervous energy via the control of diet. Growing up as a child, I was not used to drinking soda and I was even supposed to avoid the candy and sweets that those around me had in large quantities. As I was known and am known for having a particular sweet tooth , though, clearly the avoidance of sugar was only one part of a larger strategy. To their credit, my family did not go the route of seeking to use nonsugar substitutes. Instead, they went for raw sugar. Of course, this was the late 1980s, and the niche market for Sugar In The Raw and other related products that we use nowadays were not available. So, what were the parents of a moderately hyperactive child with an incorrigible sweet tooth to do in seeking to avoid the processed products that were the only options on store shelves of the time? Well, it so happens that we had a good source for raw sugar, namely a family friend from Belize who was the wife of a sugar farmer outside of Belize City who would bring us a fairly substantial amount of sugar twice a year when visiting our family for the Spring and Fall Holy Days, violating the trade barriers to protect sugar farmers from the threat of cheaper and more healthy foreign competitors. It would not be for another decade or so that I would be able to buy healthy American sugar because of the lack of competition or awareness of markets. Nevertheless, I remain grateful to my family for being willing to go to such lengths to satisfy my sweet tooth as well as the need to curb my hyperactivity without the use of horrifying drugs that would have killed a great deal of my intellect.
What does this have to do with Thanksgiving, though? As I have commented on before , there has been in recent years a growing trend towards commercial exploitation of the Thanksgiving weekend in ways that are immensely hostile to our moral well-being as a society. It is bad enough that one has to hear Christmas music at all, but worse that the attempt for companies to induce irresponsible buying behavior continues to expand like a cancer in our body politic. Where it used to be that the push for Black Friday used to be limited to the day after Thanksgiving, it has become more of a trend for some companies to advertise that they are open for business on Thanksgiving itself. And it is this that is prompting this particular modest proposal: to refrain from shopping at any store that is open for business on Thanksgiving. If a company is unwilling to close its doors and allow its workers to enjoy the company of their family members or close friends and to show gratitude to God for the blessings we receive, that company is unworthy of our patronage. It’s not that complicated–we should be willing to reward those companies that show restraint in the face of rampant commercialism, and punish those who seek to corrupt those few times on our calendar that are devoted to showing gratitude and honor towards others for the blessings that we have.
What would be the point of such a course of action? For one, the reduction of business would be an encouragement for businesses to engage in practices that provide for the well-being of their employees. There is a great trend towards pushing for greater convenience in a way that harms the well-being and morale of those who are forced to work longer hours or worse hours so as to cater to the convenience of others. If we can demonstrate as a people that we are willing to suffer some inconvenience in order to protect the time that others can spend with family and loved ones, then we will go a long way in making business life more amenable for the well-being of all of us as people. By showing restraint ourselves, we will make it clear to business that it is simply not profitable to exploit their workers by denying them the time that our culture provides for people to enjoy the company of those we hold dear and show gratitude to our blessings from God as a people. We need more time shared among our culture as a whole, and not less time, as has tended to be the trend. Let us therefore encourage others through moral suasion, and through a rejection of those companies that seek to pander to our search for convenience rather than showing a regard for the employees whose interests should be near and dear to them, but who are often forgotten in the quest for the almighty dollar.
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