What’s the secret to this country?
We’ve got God on our money.
And we worship God alone
Are you forgetting here is the home
Of the brave and the free and
To live well all you need
Are as many
In God We Trust funds
As you can put your hands on.
Good lord, we trust our SUVs, court fees, golf tees,
house keys, corn seeds, poison weeds…
In the land of milk and honey,
We’ve got God on our money,
All for me, all for one,
Shooting guns, just for fun,
It’s manifest destiny never done.
Because we declare this truth to be self-evident
That God has blessed America
with promised lands we promised to stay out of
But with God on our cash
Making a fortune is no trespass
It’s our God-given right
to pursue our happiness with all our might.
One nation under God, we
Resolutely stayed the course
We were the first ones in the store
And on our way to victory
We stepped over her trampled body
But, sweet Jesus, we won liberty
For our hearts and minds – a free Wii.
This poem is not particularly subtle – it’s a little on the trite side of obvious – but I decided to share it anyway in the hopes of provoking your thoughts on American consumer culture, especially this week.
The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the day where businesses open their doors to hordes of sale-starved shoppers at some dark hour of the morning. The “black” descriptor is meant to refer to businesses returning to “the black” (net profits). Fair enough. By making money, businesses are able to provide goods and services, pay their employees, stay in operation, etc. However, it seems that each year Black Friday could deserve its name for another reason: mourning. How many people have been injured, trampled, assaulted, even killed by mindless mobs of shoppers? Too many. These disturbing incidents make news, but clearly they haven’t been enough to change the American consumer’s behavior. The materialist greed, cutthroat competition, and “rugged individualism” that underpin the worst cases of Black Friday frenzies are directly opposed to the ideals of generous giving, collective action, family and community that we celebrate just one day before. Ironic, isn’t it?
Perhaps this year will be a bit different. Maybe this Friday morning more of us will choose to occupy a different space than a Wal-Mart parking lot. Maybe more of us will realize that the checkout person scanning our hot deals! may be one check away from foreclosure. Maybe more of us will realize that what we have is more than enough and that what we really need is not on sale. Maybe we’ll put our money where our mouth is – a Thanksgiving holiday that celebrates our communities and collective resources by making sure everyone has a place at the table.
After taking two quarters away from Stanford last year, Rachel is a junior-ish senior studying Human Biology. When she’s not being amused or confused by American culture, she’s distracting her friends with questions about life, the universe and everything. Send your questions to rkelley7 [at] stanford [dot] edu.