The Friday after Thanksgiving is the official beginning of the Great American Shopping Spree, that lasts until Christmas Eve. It can be a happy occasion–a day when people full of turkey and pumpkin pie scamper from their beds in the wee hours of the morning in search of good deals, to maybe save a little money and make sure their families have a “merry” Christmas.
Unfortunately, like many good things, people just take things too far. This time it happened, not surprisingly, at a Wal-Mart in Long Island.
Were we transported into a twisted Lord of the Flies sequel without knowing it?
It is troubling to think that the culture of consumerism has made our material toys more important than a human life. Accidents happen, you might say. Those hundreds of people didn’t notice the human body being trampled beneath their feet as they raided the Wal-Mart entrance. They were too tired, too focused, too intent on their goals to notice someone in trouble. If that is a definition of an accident, then why did the shoppers show no sympathy when the death was announced and they were asked to leave? Why did they clutch to their new iPods and DVDs and queen sized sheet sets and refuse to leave without their promised purchases?
Some of this behavior is blamed on the fledging economy, the scare tactics of high unemployment rates and floundering businesses. But we are not quite to the state of bread lines and the Dust Bowl. People are starving, yes, but there have always been starving people–the ones easily ignored in a bustling economy. Yet we are not rushing out and trampling Wal-Mart employees to feed the starving and heal the sick–we are sprinting in our Nike tennis shoes to buy a flat-screen Sony TV with our American Express card for under $400.
Whatever this incident was really a result of, it is still a reflection of the priorities in our consumer culture. I believe in capitalism and enjoy shopping as much as the next person, but as with any good thing there is a line that should not be crossed. There are some things in life that will always be more priceless than any amount of goods on the Wal-Mart shelves. I am ashamed of this story, partly because I feel somehow connected and responsible for the heart of the problem.