Consumerism destroys holiday spirit
Ideals of holiday spirit like generosity and thanks and compassion disappeared after years of erosion on the day that has come to be known as Black Friday. Even financial hardship from the recession failed to hold back the power of consumerism, the true holiday spirit in America.
Nov. 28, 2008, was the darkest shade of Black Friday. Americans once again proved to the world that many of us stop at nothing to spend, cluttering our lives with the products of excess, like flat-screen TVs and dozens of other seasonal must-have items. One man, Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Queens, N.Y., paid the ultimate price while working a temporary job that undoubtedly paid him little.
When the doors to the Valley Stream Wal-Mart on Long Island opened Black Friday, the waiting crowd of shoppers stormed into the store, trampling Damour to death. And for what? Nothing more than beating the next person in line to the best deals in the store. Sales are not worth lives. This is a disgusting display of greed forever blinding the greater virtues of holiday spirit.
Fiona Wu, freshman communications and political studies major from Brooklyn, N.Y., went out shopping on 34th Street on Black Friday. She braved Manhattan crowds, looking for all the deals advertised. But Wu was saddened by the Valley Stream incident.
‘We’re all so materialistic,’ Wu said. ‘We all want to go shopping and we don’t really care as long as we get what we want. We haven’t learned anything from the recession.’
As the recession deepened during the past year, Americans began to cut back consumer spending in favor of saving and paying bills. Black Friday dredged up our old thirst for material goods, making it obvious to anyone who may have forgotten the holidays here are about buying. In true American fashion, consumers allowed themselves to be whipped into frenzy by corporate strategy, sending a message that big sales in tough times are all the justification they need. Let no one and no law stand between us and our coffee makers and game systems.
One day after Damour was trampled, Wal-Mart issued a press release, stating the company had arranged for extra security and barricades in preparation for the huge turnout it expected. Wal-Mart dedicated a mere two sentences of the press release to condolence, and refused further comment on how the incident reflected holiday shopping trends at its stores.
The Commanding Officer of the Valley Stream Auxiliary Police, Joseph Carbonette, said the odds of investigators assigning some kind of guilt to a wild mob are almost none existent.
‘It’s a really hard thing to do,’ Carbonette said. ‘If they do, it would be amazing.’
The worst part of this holiday perversion is that the mania for consumerism is unstoppable. Barricades and security failed to stem the material lust, as did the crumbling economy. Now law enforcement agencies in Nassau County are left to sift through the only remnants, footage from a security camera. Without usable evidence and a lead in any direction the mob will run free, taking what little value human life now has with it.
‘Everyone was doing their shopping like it was nothing,’ Carbonette said. ‘Nobody even stopped to see if he was OK.’
No one has come forward to apologize. The situation shows the fear of responsibility Americans have. But there is no one person to blame and no way to corral a long-since scattered mob into confession. The entire system, our idea of the holidays, spilled this blood. All we can do is shake our heads, talk about how terrible the Valley Stream Wal-Mart incident was and ride on this wave of overbearing consumerism until the end of the year. Then we will file it away beyond the back pages of the newspapers and out of memory before it ruins future holiday feasts.
Nothing will ever change unless we all change, and there’s a slim chance of that happening. So, spend more and be merry with that blood dripping from your calf leather wallets, your $500 purses and your ad campaigns. Happy Holidays.
Brian Lance is a junior newspaper journalism major. His columns appeared every other Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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