Monday, December 02, 2013

The Fake War On Thanksgiving (or: The Hypocrisy of Matt Walsh & Everyone Else)

For some reason this year people were much more upset than they were last year about Walmart and other stores being open on Thanksgiving. There seemed to be a consensus among liberals and conservatives that this was evil and wrong, that people should have the day off to spend time with their families on Thanksgiving. To that end most people posted links on Facebook to articles slamming on Walmart and the other stores who dared to be open on Thanksgiving. One popular one I saw was this one by Matt Walsh, which was posted by many of my well-meaning liberal friends (I have maybe 4 or 5 conservative friends on Facebook, and by "friends" I mean people that I kind of knew in college who I never actually communicate with on Facebook. They are just kind of there.). It s odd that I had never heard of Matt Walsh before but suddenly I have now seen two of his pieces pop up in the last couple of months because they were shared by liberal friends. which is odd since Walsh is a right-wing asshat who basically thinks that "Obamacare" will be the end of Western Civilization and fully supports Creationism being taught in biology class alongside Evolution (one of his more laughable blog posts was his claiming that religion is what started and advanced science throughout history).

Walsh's post tells us all that if we shop on Thanksgiving we are "part of the problem" and goes on to write about the poor single mother who will have to work 14 hours at a register ringing up people's unnecessary shit, among other things. In this article Walsh calls himself a capitalist but not a "consumerist" which is about the stupidest attempt at splitting hairs that I've ever read.

On its surface this diatribe looks like a defense of the working class, so I understand why my liberal friends linked to it on Facebook. But they would be wrong, Matt Walsh cares nothing about the plight of workers.

For some reason this whole idea that everyone should have Thanksgiving off of work began when these stores decided to open up on Thanksgiving. Where was this huge concern for workers who didn't get the day off before this? Walmart, Target, Macy's, JC Penny, Sears; none of these companies were the first ones to ask/make people work on Thanksgiving. Where was all this outrage for the poor Denny's waitresses or the 7-11 clerks? What about all the grocery stores that are open on Thanksgiving?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Matt Walsh says that people who shop on Thanksgiving are part of the problem, meaning that if nobody shopped these stores wouldn't open. He's certainly right about that. But aren't we also part of the problem if we do just about anything on Thanksgiving that causes the need for people to work?

I would assume, being the Republican-American manly man that he portrays himself to be, that Walsh watched football on Thanksgiving. There were three NFL games on that day and a couple of top level college games. Isn't Walsh "part of the problem" if he watched those games? In addition to the players, coaches, referees, and TV announcers there are the ball boys, equipment managers, trainers, network production assistants, gaffers, boom-mike operators, cameramen, stadium ticket takers, security guards, and the thousands of part-time concession workers, among I'm sure many other types of workers I'm not even thinking of. And in those college games the players are not making any money at all (not counting the scholarship players - which is not all of them - getting a free college education).

Hell, if he turned on his TV at all he is part of the problem. There are a lot of technicians and other staff needed to run a TV station even if you are just airing reruns. And did he watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with his family? You know, tradition. Well, there are a lot of people who had to give up the holiday with their family so he could sit on his couch and watch the parade with his. That includes a lot of cops and other first responders who would have the day off if they didn't have an event with millions of people in the middle of New York City

If you used your computer at all you were making somebody work. Despite a lot of people's belief, the internet is not magic and run on its own. I wonder how many people who railed against the stores being open that day ended up ordering something on Amazon? Amazon's warehouses were staffed that day (and don't even get me tarted on the shitty business practices and anti workers' rights attitude of Amazon) because people go online to order stuff on Thanksgiving. Again, the internet is not magic, there are actual people pulling shit off of shelves to ship to you.

I took public transportation on Thursday, meaning I'm responsible for bus drivers, train operators, station agents, mechanics, switch operators, and many others having to work. Even if you drove your car and think that means nobody was affected, well, there are a lot of tow truck drivers, toll road attendants and gas stations clerks having to work because of you.

I read that something around 30 million people ate out or got take out on Thanksgiving. They made a lot of waitstaff, cooks, busboys and delivery drivers work that day.

What about people who fly home on the holiday? That's a lot of flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers, counter agents and others who have to work. I suppose we should close the airports on Thanksgiving. What would we do about the international flights that day? Should we not allow any international flights that day to land in the U.S? Even though they don't celebrate Thanksgiving?

I could go on but I'm sure you see my point. Fact is, a lot of people have to work on Thanksgiving. Some are for good reasons (ER docs, police, fire department, etc) and some are for stupid reasons (cheap plastic shit or needing to pick up a can of cranberry sauce). And it is almost impossible that any of us are not part of the reason why. Anyone who calls out the idiots who go shopping on Thanksgiving causing the need for people to work is a big goddamned hypocrite.

For people like Walsh this has nothing to do with the plight of the underclass even though that's the terms he tries to frame it. No, it is about the world conforming to the way he thinks it is supposed to work. People should hang out with their family, eat turkey, watch football, and adhere to whatever the hell he means by "tradition."

Well fuck Matt Walsh. Just like how he thinks every child in America should be taught his Judeo-Christian idea of how the world was created (which is complete and utter bullshit to begin with) this is just another way he wants to tel everyone else how they should live their lives. Well, I'm a vegetarian, I hate American football with a passion, and my family sucks (except for my sister). So I pretty much have no interest in his traditions.

When I was a young man living in Seattle and making my living as a barista (I know, it's a cliché) I never had the day off work. And that's exactly the way I liked it. I would work at my cart in front of the Safeway and make more in tips than I usually made in two weeks. Then I would go home and watch crap on TV while drinking beer. And that's the way I liked it. I'm not saying that everyone who had to work on Thursday wanted to work that day, I'm sure some wanted to be home with their families. But some people don't give a shit about these holidays and how dare anyone presume to tell people what they should be doing on them.

Thing is, I did spend my holiday with my family. Just my wife and daughter. We went over to a tree lot and bought our holiday tree (yea, that's right Matt Walsh you right-wing Christian douchebag, I called it a holiday tree), which also contributed to more people working, and just hung out together. But I don't really think about it as a "family" thing. My wife is a super smart and hot woman who I like having around and my daughter is an awesome kid who cracks me up and amazes me. I don't really think about it as some sort of tradition or family thing to do. My wife had four days off so we all got to hang out together. It doesn't matter at all that it was Thanksgiving or in April.

The difference between the likes of Matt Walsh and myself is that he's concerned that his single mother working behind the counter get this one day off (unpaid), whereas I'm concerned that that single mother has to have two jobs because Sears or Walmart or JC Penney doesn't pay a living wage, so she doesn't get to see her kids pretty much the whole year. And those kids are going to do poorly in school as they don't have great parental involvement because Mom has to do everything she can just to keep a roof over their head. If that single mom could pay the bills with just one job and have time to spend with her kids all year long, but in return had to work Thanksgiving, how much do you want to bet that she would make that trade?

Walsh telling us to give them Thanksgiving is the same as "let them eat cake."

That's where I think my liberal friends are misguided to take up this argument.

Look, Walmart is an evil company. They have been known to lock overnight workers in the stores, they cheat workers out of overtime pay, they pay substandard wages, they offer crappy health insurance plans that are expensive and don't do anything, they wrestle tax breaks out of communities and then ruin small businesses. The heirs to the Walton family fortune have more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans (which includes pretty much everyone who works for Walmart).

Being open on Thanksgiving is probably the least evil thing that Walmart does. And to focus on this one issue obscures the real problem that we should be focusing on - namely workers rights.

Getting Walmart or these other stores to close on that one day won't change the fact the employees don't get paid a living wage and so many have to use food stamps.

If and when Walmart employees finally unionize there is no way the union leaders would try to negotiate closing on Thanksgiving. They would negotiate a volunteer and seniority system to decide who works. They would demand overtime pay of double-time or at least time-and-a-half. This is on tip of the fact that they would already have demanded a living wage and real benefits like health insurance and paid vacations.

These are the real issues that are being obscured by this "war on Thanksgiving" argument. People like Matt Walsh don't give a shit about these employees the other 364 days of the year. They don't think Walmart needs to pay a better wage or offer benefits. They don't have any problem at all with Walmart's business practices. They are not even arguing for a paid day off for these workers, just the day off. Unpaid is not a problem with them.

I don't shop at Walmart. Not on Thanksgiving, not on Black Friday (I stay the hell away from any store on that day), not ever. They are bad for workers and they are bad for the economy. I don't order from Amazon for the same reason.

Costco is not an awesome company because they close on Thanksgiving, they are an awesome company because they lead their industry in pay and benefits.

The whole year matters, not just the holidays. We lose sight of that by focusing on this one issue. That's why I think this is just as dumb as the war on Christmas.

And just like in the war on Christmas, I refuse to cede the moral high ground to jerks like Matt Walsh.

I'm disappointed by the progressives who have allowed themselves to be drawn in to this narrow issue framed in the way conservatives want it to be framed.

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