Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday, or Death on the Blitz Line

You’d have thought by the news we were in a recession. You’d have thought people were beginning to be frugal, what with gas prices soaring in recent months, food prices skyrocketing, green peppers selling for $2 apiece.

Then what was poetically and accurately described as a group of “animals” and “savages” stormed and surged into a Long Island Wal-Mart, intent on $28 vacuums and $9 copies of “The Incredible Hulk”, unceremoniously trampling a temporary holiday worker to death. Despite recent hard times, can any of us admit to genuine surprise?

I understand that people likewise jostled the very medical crews trying to revive 34-year old Jdimytai Damour (who died of "positional asphyxiation") and kept shopping, even becoming irate when the store was closed on account of sudden death. “I’ve been waiting in line for days,” they said. And they weren’t talking of bread lines.

I recently learned that things were largely as they are today during the Korean War. People went about their business, more or less ignoring the news from the front, blithe in their new found prosperity. NPR reminded me that we have been at war this time around for seven years.

Last night I saw films of Iraqi children with their legs blown off by cluster bombs. Baghdad streets divided by razor wire, and the crumbling houses in Palestine. I am reminded of a story a few years ago, I believe it was in Texas, where free computers were given away at some fairgrounds one day. People attacked each other with folding chairs, an old man was clobbered, another man drove his car over the crowd.

It’s been said before, but now we are clear: America has gone insane.

The country is sickened by materialism. This is capitalism's inevitable end: that we kill each other for HDTV plasma televisions. The fact that 2,000 people are willing to stand in line for days on end--and in winter--to enter some warehouse-sized shopping center is enough to prove the fact. Maybe it began with the Cabbage Patch Kids. Maybe with Alexander Hamilton.

A friend in the Peace Corps in Gambia recently wrote that the Gambians love the idea of Thanksgiving--being with family, talking, a big meal--but the idea of spending all day shopping made absolutely no sense to them. In a country where Supermarkets are brand new, they were understandably confused.

Perhaps it’s only a start, wholly inadequate, but shouldn’t we put ourselves in those shoes? Instead of attacking each other for cheap sneakers?

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