Saturday, November 29, 2008
Walmartyred in the name of Christmasism?
It is said that the devotees of Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, would tear apart the flesh of a sacrifice in their frenzy. Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, as well as Mithras and Baal--all shared the same birthday--the winter solstice. So, give or take a few days, does the baby Jesus. But the young retail-worker in the above news-story wasn't exactly a martyr for any of the named deities.
No. He was a victim of chance and poor planning by the store, and perhaps the lack of a back-up by the local police, and the injudicious, unthinking mentality of a mob. But superficially, there is a parallel in this tragedy with the age-old tragedy of belief gone awry.
This story occured on one of our new holidays--Black Friday, so-called because it is a day that retail businesses in the red, meaning that they were behind on earnings, would be in the black, meaning showing a profit. This is very meaningful in the case of our current finincial situation. Many retail chains were very much in the red, and even ready to close stores, and lay off workers. The current economic crisis is at fault, but part of the blame lay in something called lack of "consumer confidence." That happens when people aren't sure enough of their economic footing to blow some bucks on purchases they may or may not need. It is said that businesses are failing because people aren't buying--which makes sense. That they aren't buying because they haven't the money is besides the point. They aren't buying. Unless we have a Black Friday miracle.
The "stampede" of humankind responding to the call of the Black Friday holiday ads for that Long Island Walmart, represented the millions of other people who also ventured out that day in the hopes of bargain prices and a belief that they could help create a "Merry Christmas" by way of this spending. And they economically speaking, delivered, with sales 3% greater than last years'. They were coming in their legions to find bargains that might be in limited supply. They waited a long time outside of those doors whose hinges they strained. And what they wanted was so natural in our society--electronics. TV's, DVD's. Game Systems. Things their families would enjoy. Things they saw as making their loved ones entertained and happy for the holidays, and beyond.
The body of a night-shift retail-worker stood in the way of the throng. He was caught up in a moment, that magical moment when the doors of the temple of consumerism are opened, and the shoppers are welcomed in. As with many retail stores once Thanksgiving is over, I wonder if Christmas Musak played in that Walmart store.
It is thought that the secular left--like, well, me--have made a war on Christmas by such small gestures as the multicultural nod given by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." The stripped-down Pollyanna of handmade organic whatnots strikes at the heart of the spirit of Christmas--and allegedly causes a breakdown of all society thereby. The resistance to Santa-worship and even the eschewal of Mass (the Xmas and Easter mandatory masses, barring a family wedding, communion, baptism, or funeral, your lazy Christian ass is likely to go to) promotes a decay of fellowship within your particular religious enclave and a questioning of time-honored mores, like, um, believing in beneficent fat men who want to give presents to only well-behaved children, or a dampening in acceptance of myths relating to rhino-luminiferous levitating ruminants pulling sleighs full of toys.
But Christmasism--the celebration of things "shoppy" and "consumerist" and Santalicious and "ho-ho-ho'd"-out-has a poisonous side, too. Past the corny carols of unlistenable saccharine songs, and the inedible candy-canes and gingerbreads and blood-sugar levels a-leaping, there is an urgent desire of many people to get back to some nostalgic Christmas past, and find that little warm spot under the Christmas tree, where they once found that perfect gift, and they will sell their so-called souls to find it. Even trample some warm-blooded fellow human. And the commercials on tv try and get you there too, even selling cars by relating the thrill of your special favorite toy, with a new car.
But you can't help but know better. No amount of shopping takes you back to that place. There is no dollar value on that communal spirit--of family and friends. Of time well-spent.
It never was right, people stepping over someone, and even failing to leave the store once that poor man was dead, on the grounds they had spent their time in line, and complaining on the way out. It's wrong that anyone values a bargain over a person.
But that was what basically happened.
That perfect gift was never wrapped up under any tree. It was never bought from any store. If you think back, that perfect gift, that Christmas highlight, that memory you always carried, was of being loved. Of having someone watching you unwrap those things. Or knowing they cared enough to try and make things special for you. And the value was in their eyes, and not the dollar value of the gift.
The family of that young man will miss the value of his company this Christmas. But he was a temporary worker, and maybe he took that job to get his own people a little something for the holidays.
And now he won't.