A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, December 05, 2008

Savages at the Door

I don’t watch television on a regular basis, but I happened to catch a few moments of a recent comedy earlier this week. The scene I watched had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad engaged in slapstick style conflict with a group of holiday shoppers in a department store. Everyone involved in the chase acted as if they were all after some object that would guarantee them happiness for life. Either that, or they were all starving and the object fought over (I think it was a small, green ball) was the last morsel of bread on Earth.

The scene was intended to be funny when it was released, but this year it is hitting a little bit too close to home to laugh. Oh, did I mention I was standing in the middle of a Walmart store waiting for my aunt to finish shopping when I saw this scene? At first, I thought perhaps the store had released a training film for their customers on acceptable shopping behaviour. It wasn't; it was a comedy, Jingle All The Way (1996).

Yes, Walmart, the same company that this week is mourning the violent death of one of their associates, trampled by overzealous holiday shoppers on Black Friday. This time, the sense of irony I felt as I watched the scene overwhelmed my sense of humor. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh.

Actually the term “overzealous” seems a bit tame to describe the actions of the mob at the Long Island Walmart. Terms like “savages” and “brutes” seem more appropriate for the mob that stormed the Walmart. I know my tone is harsh, even brutal, but we must face the certainty of this idea.

Fellow American consumers, we have finally crossed the line from modern civilization to utter chaos. We have abandoned common decency and sense in our frantic — and now violent — efforts to worship at the altar of materialism. Of course, many of us will say, “But we don’t want to disappoint little Johnny or little Susie on Christmas morning,” but are we really willing to kill just to avoid seeing the child’s sad face?

No, I don’t like letting little children down either, but disappointment is an undeniable fact of life. The sooner they learn to deal with it, the better off they will be. Even if they can’t deal with it, there are always child psychiatrists available to help them through the rough patch. Little Johnny and little Susie will grow and mature, and realize that their problems can’t compare with larger crises facing the world today.

The stores themselves are not blameless in this tragedy. Do we really need to open at midnight, and encourage people to break local loitering laws just so they can be the first ones in the store? Aren’t a few terms in the store ads (door buster leaps to my mind) likely to incite people to abandon their sense of acceptable behavior?

The family of the victim has already raised this latter issue in their wrongful death suit against Walmart. Oh yes, here come the lawsuits. One couple, who claim they suffered neck and head injuries in the stampede, are suing for $2.5 million. How did they come up with that figure? Did they pull it out of their lawyer’s ass?

Why should they profit from this tragedy? The last time I checked, this type of incident rated at least a charge of manslaughter. Can’t the members of the mob be held accountable in the commission of this crime? The local police are trying to identify individuals from the store security cameras, but no one has been charged yet.

It is incidents like this that make getting in the holiday mood that much more difficult. It is supposed to be a joyous holiday, people, not an occasion to increase our stress levels to the point where we commit acts of insanity. We should remember this in the remaining shopping days of this holiday season: keep calm, keep it simple, and don’t blow up the holiday into a major war operation. Perhaps we should heed the words of the late Michael Conrad, who would regularly tell his police colleagues on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” Amen.


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