Black Friday is a perfect example of American consumerism gone awry. Shopping the day after Thanksgiving is a tradition for some that is more sacred than the holiday itself. But this year demonstrates once again that Black Friday needs to end.
Despite the economic downturn this year, people were still lining up at 4am to take advantage of the deals. Lining up, pushing, shoving, and stampeding. Yep, stampeding. At one New York Wal-mart people were so desperate for discounted plasma TVs they trampled an employee.
Most didn’t even stop shopping to see if he was okay. And he wasn’t, he was dead.
Normally I like to blame corporations when bad things happen in stores like Wal-mart. It’s easy and usually accurate. But when I read about Jdimytai Damour’s death I thought to myself, “those greedy shoppers should go to jail right along with Wal-mart executives.” I don’t care how little security the store had or what was on sale, there is no excuse for stepping on someone until they die. Nobody in this country needs a TV that bad.
When we started this blog five months ago, I struggled with my own American-ness. If I was going to write honestly about forging a new American identity I had to renew my faith in the American people. I had to clear out the cobwebs of cynicism, and even if I didn’t live to see the year 2050, I had to invest myself in the belief that it would be a fair and just nation. Most days I feel pretty optimistic about this country. On the days when I read about people being killed in shopping malls, I feel like moving away.
It’s hard to believe in a nation whose government hunts down law-abiding people who step over the border for a job, but won’t prosecute those who trample the man who opens the door for them. It’s hard to comprehend that a company would only put things on sale from 5am to 11am knowing full well that shoppers will huddle like cattle at the door and then crush each other to get inside.
I’m positive that they can sell the same amount of TVs and Tickle-Me-Elmos the next day at the same price. But stores like Wal-mart need the frenzy of a “doorbuster“. They need to trick us into believing we can’t get it any other time for a lower price. The convenient path is to crucify Wal-mart. There is no easier target and they certainly carry a share of the blame.
Louis Nizer once said, “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.” The American consumer is just as guilty and should take Damour’s death as a sign that our consumer needs have infringed on our humanity. That doesn’t mean we have to stop shopping, but we do need to send Wal-mart a message and not shop on Black Friday. We can pay a few extra dollars or buy a little less and go shopping on a different day. They’ll get the message and we’ll still find good enough deals. No one should have to die for a bargain.