Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, writes in the New York Post about Thanksgiving in which he mentions how he and others he was with during a trip to the Netherlands on New Year’s Eve. Everything closes that evening, so he was left without a restaurant to eat at. The hotel owner had Dolan’s party join his family for a meal, conversation and prayers. Cardinal Dolan writes:
The lesson was clear: For the Dutch culture, time with family and friends was the highest priority.
That was 37 years ago. I wonder if the stores are now open in Holland on New Year’s Eve? Because, now, sadly, that’s what Thanksgiving is becoming here in America.
Maybe it’s fitting they’re calling it “black Thursday.”
I’d guess that Cardinal Dolan is drawing a larger conclusion from one anecdote than is wise; Dutch culture probably isn’t that healthy. And it certainly wouldn’t be that way anymore.
Anyway, Cardinal Dolan says: “The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a sign of progress and liberation? Sorry, but no — it’s a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.” I disagree with him that “text, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter” are impersonal — they are precisely the opposite, allowing us spend time with people that geography would otherwise keep separate; there is no reason to privilege those in immediate contact with us if technology can help us defeat the barrier of distance. But his larger point, that there can be better things than consumption is true. This isn’t to say that buying goods and services is a bad thing — indeed, the free market is nothing but a form of cooperation for us to fulfill our wants and needs — but rather that consuming isn’t everything. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it needs to be de-prioritized, but that solemn days such as Thanksgiving can be a time to focus on other aspects of life and re-prioritize if necessary.
(Cross-posted at Sobering Thoughts.)