I have a friend that participates, with her sisters, each year in the insane "black Friday" shopping fever. I asked her if there were really any deals good enough to get up at dark-thirty in the morning and go stand outside a mega-store filled with cheap Chinese made crap on a day when we should be sleeping in, revelling in our previous days feelings of gratefulness for healthy families, loving homes and full bellies. She told me she did it for the socks. Apparently Wal-Mart puts out a bin filled with socks that are dirt cheap, for which normally civilized women will do battle. They're not the nice warm home-spun woolies needed for the damp world of Portland that we share - no these are just cheap, white athletic socks that her kids will end up wearing for the coming year. So when I heard that a temp employee of Wal-Mart in Long Island NY was trampled to death by the early morning shoppers, while he attempted to open the doors and let them in, I had to wonder when America had decided that cheap socks were more valuable than human life.
As someone who shuns these stores anyway for their terrible impact on local businesses, I struggle to understand why stuff, cheap or not, can have so much power over the American mind. Are we simply controlled by the advertising community? Maybe since I've quit watching TV I'm less susceptible to this disease. I can't even listen to the radio, as soon as a song finishes and a blaring ad begins I have to turn it off. But even I have my reckless spending days where I feel a desire to buy, buy, buy. One of those days will come before Christmas and I'll visit Fred Meyers and find some fun learning toys for my daughter. Or.... maybe this year I'll skip Freddy's, since it's no longer a local NW company, and instead I'll visit the more expensive woman owned toy shop down the street from my home. I don't spend much money at Christmas anyway but what I do spend should support the woman that has made this store her life's journey rather than adding to the coffers of some large corporation in some far off distant land. I'll keep Christmas local this year.
If you find yourself filling a cart in one of those mega-crap-stores this Christmas, please ask yourself who you're really helping in this season of giving. The number of wrapped gifts under the tree is not a sign of success or happiness. Are your children better off because they have the latest Wii games or Dora pogo stick? Jesus, Mohammad, and Gandhi all taught that less is more, that people are what matter, not things. This Christmas light a candle for Jdimytai Damour, the 34 year old Wal-Mart employee and recognize how far America has strayed from the real meaning of this season. As a new year rolls around we might all want to consider this resolution - I will not become an animal with the insatiable appetite for cheap socks, and I refuse to harm my fellow humans in the pursuit of a bargain, keeping in mind that the human suffering caused by our spending habits is not always as obvious as a trampled person on the floor. And turn off the TV and radio - it really helps.