Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday Recap

I can’t stand it. Where is the outrage?

There’s plenty of angst and unhappiness this holiday season as we Americans talk about the sacrifices we must make, the things we must go without. We can’t afford the high price of the cheaply-produced electronics our ‘tweens beg for – nor do we treat ourselves to a new automobile this season, produced in part all over the world and hopefully assembled somewhere on our continent. We do honestly believe we intend to be modest this holiday season of extravagance.

Yet… as Black Friday, the 28th of November, 2008 closes… what do we see?

The headlines of my regional paper sum it up precisely. As precisely as we Americans, in our land of plenty, care to think.

Above the paper’s masthead? Date – Place – Time – Station for rivalry football.

The main headline? “Mumbai gunfire rages; 2 Virginians among dead”

The right column headline? “Shoppers scour stores for deals on Black Friday”

Which article did I read first?

Well… I was where papers weren’t delivered on Friday, so I’m catching up after a long weekend with little outside influence. I’ll admit to already knowing the outcome of the football rivalries for the weekend. I’ll also admit to watching headline news during our sausage breakfast on Friday morning, followed by a LONG stretch of CNN trying to figure out what was happening in our world, followed by a WHOLE lot of football. Today it’s Monday, with a family-friend crisis at hand, and I’m digesting papers as we go from snow delay to the hospital to school and back, then home.

I wonder… Which article did you read first?

We, as Americans, have for generations defined ourselves as “not British” and, yet, live some telling British ways. Our forsaken forebears celebrate their Christmas holiday with gifts, a feast, and an afternoon lolling by the fire and the telly (which illuminates more, I’ll leave to you). The Monarch broadcasts her version of the State of the Union in fireside-chat sheep’s clothing. On the next day, Boxing Day, the country is shut down, and perhaps a bit quiet and contemplative. When we girls were there in 1986, we walked the moors around York looking for sustaining peace and field conversation a la James Herriot. We found exactly what we needed in that serene and foggy repose.

Yet… Perhaps… What we really needed in those plentiful 1980’s was a day of free-for-all shopping! For goodness sake – who would plan a holiday without a blank day after to engage in reckless commerce?

That, my friends, is what I fear “Black Friday” has become. Reckless commerce, driven to make ourselves feel SOMETHING, whatever our perceived deficiency might be.

It didn’t surprise me one bit that the headline news carried a sympathetic bit about the two Virginians on pilgrimage who died in Mumbai – and just a few breaths later described the death of a mass-merchandise company’s employee at the feet of shoppers eager for some sort of bargain. Both tragedies,but of very different import.

WHAT are we thinking?

All of these lives were lost in senselessness… and the lack of sense surrounding our now-decreed-successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday supplants it all. I haven’t read far enough to know why these gunners in India decided to kill to make their point, nor do I understand the point they might have tried to make before experiencing their own deaths. I don’t understand, either, why Americans make their point by trampling others to stake their claim on cheap purchases. Neither of these situations seem like reasonable ways to improve ones lot in life.

I honestly believe we get what we pay for, however we might intend or direct.

I am outraged about the things I pay for. I trust you are, too.

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