Herds of people give up family time to shop

I have a confession to make. While many Americans look forward to Black Friday shopping deals, I experience a moment of schadenfreud reading about people getting trampled and violent frenzies that break out.

While the image of people injured from herds of their own species disturbingly entertains me, what drives people to such primitive behavior – extreme consumerism – is appalling.

Christmas was long ago hijacked by consumerism – before my birth even, so I won’t bother arguing the merits of returning to the true spirit of that sacred holiday. But, Thanksgiving is where I sharpen the editorial pen and draw a line in the sand. It’s a celebration worth defending against the creeping consumerism that continues to hollow out meaningful human experiences.

Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of family and loved ones from multiple generations sharing stories over a great meal. Although it’s only about 350 years old – far too short to be considered traditional for some, I guess – the idea of congregating for a festive meal with inner circles is thousands of years old. Enter extreme consumerism.

Empty chairs have replaced conversation. Relatives save their breath for sprinting towards sales and threatening fellow shoppers. Empty dishes are left twirling in circles like tops. So much for the spirit of gratitude.

Yes, rather than spend a single evening with an aging family member or visiting sibling, this flavor of shopper chooses to spend it with like-minded ravaging consumer beasts looking to gobble up savings on material goods.

Huffingtonpost.com reported that several consumers camped outside Best Buy in Ann Arbor because “a $179 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.” Right, because we can always spend time with our sick, aging grandma. But a deal to save a few bucks on a TV we don’t need, well that’s just too rare. Loved ones will always be around and if they’re not, there are always the memories.

Unfortunately for these rabid shoppers, while others are sharing stories at the funeral about a funny moment with grandma after Thanksgiving dinner the previous year, they will only have memories of waiting in long lines in the cold and enduring short, hot tempers for a product they can’t remember.

Perhaps I’m being harsh on this strain of shopper. I mean, there is spirit in shopping on this special day, right? There was a girl trampled at a Wal-Mart in Fruitport Township, Mich., according to Mlive.com. In San Antonio, Texas a man pulled a gun after being punched in the face for confronting someone cutting in line. And let’s not forget the Wal-Mart employee trampled to death in 2008 by a herd of crazed shoppers.

The only spirit apparent here is a mean one. Perhaps shoppers can be a bit more courteous next time and wear cleats.

Am I disregarding the amount of money consumers save from the deals offered on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day? No, however, I’d suggest a re-examination of what is important in life.

Ask yourself this: At the end of life’s journey, what’s more valuable, dollars saved from another TV purchased 30 years ago, or a fond memory that makes you laugh even during your last moments?

For me, exploding fireworks and light-hearted mischief after dinner with my 10-year-old nephew is much more meaningful and memorable than stampeding with the herd, if not for me, then hopefully for him.

Purchasing gifts for others is fine, however, we shouldn’t allow the brand of consumerism that incites the violence typically reserved for European soccer matches and robs us of tradition to continually encroach on Thanksgiving.

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