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Ready, set, mob!

December 8, 2008

by Beenie

As 2008 draws to a close, we find ourselves knee-deep in the holiday season. Whether you celebrate any of the highly commercialized holidays or not, December is a month to celebrate family and friends, the triumphs and losses of the past year. It is meant to be a month filled with joy and love, of charity and an appreciation for what we have and those around us.

Here in the United States the last leg of the season is started off with a bang (this year, literally). The day after a national holiday of thanksgiving, some of us descend into a savage pack mentality and a depraved “every man for himself” disposition. I am referring, of course, to Black Friday.

Beginning on Thursday night, crowds of hundreds form outside major retail stores.  Some camp out all night to reserve their place in line and the right to enter the store before everybody else on Friday morning, the first official day of the Christmas shopping season, in order to seize the “incredible bargains” and “low, reduced prices” offered only once a year.  As a testament to the general ambiance of the season, in many cases there is a sense of camaraderie and good will. People share blankets, hot cocoa and soup. Some make coffee runs for others (granted their place in line is saved for them, of course). When the stores open, the huddled and partially frozen masses file into the stores and head for their target sale or gift items. If only it was always so civilized.

Each year on Black Friday, we are always treated to a display of the uglier side of the human animal. I must admit, I laughed when Tickle Me Elmo first came out and fistfights broke out between soccer moms over the toy. I was overwhelmed by the absurdity. This year, however, I found nothing to laugh about: Black Friday of 2008 was, without a doubt, the worst I have ever seen.  Manic crowds, practically foaming at the mouth to get inside a Wal-Mart, killed an employee and trampled many others, including a woman who was eight months pregnant and even those who were trying to help the fallen.  A man was shot and is currently in serious condition in a separate incident after his girlfriend, a store employee, got into an argument with a customer whose boyfriend was packing heat. Two men in a southern California Toys ‘R’ Us shot each other to death after their girlfriends began a fistfight near the check out. Pushing and shoving, knocking people down and crushing the fallen in a mad rush for whatever product they were unwilling to allow someone else potentially buy: where’s the holiday spirit in that?

And then there are the vultures, the ones who don’t bother actually buying anything in the store. Instead, they watch and wait as unsuspecting customers buy that new X Box 360 or flat screen TV, follow them to their car and either attack them there or follow them home to steal those highly prized purchases. Watching the news, one would almost think you need an armed escort or bodyguard to shop a sale these days.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Why is it considered ok to shove, assault and start minor skirmishes with complete strangers? When did it become necessary to carry a concealed weapon to a Toys ‘R’ Us? Is getting that new video game system or doll really worth assaulting a complete stranger, or worse yet, killing someone? On this one day we manage to temporarily undo centuries of social development and revert to primal, instinctive behaviors. Our parents didn’t raise us to behave in the manner. My family would be appalled if I ever acted this way.

Granted, this doesn’t happen at every store. They are somewhat isolated incidents. The trend, however, is growing, and the extent of the violence escalating. Tis’ the season of giving, not of civilian warfare.

It’s time to take a step back, America, and remember why you’re standing in line at 4am waiting for Best Buy to open. Even if you’re not buying a gift for the holidays, try and remember that is what this sale is for, and try to revive the spirit of the season, because right now it’s on life support.

Links

2 dead after shooting in crowded Toys ‘R’ Us

Black Friday across the country not without tragedy

Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store

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