This time of the year saddens me more than regular times of the year. It all starts with black Friday, a day that has become synonymous with people getting trampled, sometimes to death, just to get into stores. This past year, 2012, a man was killed by Wal-Mart employees for trying to steal a DVD player, two people were shot over a parking space in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Florida and I remember reading about a pregnant woman who was injured and lost her baby after being trampled trying to get into a Wal-Mart. There is also the story about a senior citizen who worked as a Wal-Mart greeter and was also trampled to death though I don't know if that one is true. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be a surprise if it turned out to be true. Black Friday: people frequently die, always get hurt and it’s always senseless.
After Black Friday, the amount of advertising and shopping escalates with more and more fervor each day up until Christmas. To children, this isn’t a holiday about the birth of Christ, who incidentally was actually born around March, it's about Santa Claus. The child I babysit for has an advent calendar and has been taught to believe that because he attends church, the “advent fairy” will bring him a present for each day he opens one of the little windows of his calendar, again, making it not about the advent but rather about what present he will get that night. American consumerism is a disease, one that is actually proving deadly and I weep for the future, no…correction, I weep for the present as well as the future. I don't mention America to pick on it, it's just that I live in America so I am familiar with it and I wouldn't want to make baseless assumptions about countries I don't live in.
My own opinion has me pausing now and again to take a step back and make sure I am careful to hold my tongue, my opinion certainly isn’t the popular one. I’m not just referencing the holiday and the madness that accompanies it, the point is that I can’t relate to any part of it any time of the year. The society I live in, American culture, is like this all the time, not just this time of year, although it does get worse during the Christmas season. As to the issue of consumerism it’s as though I am some kind of social pariah, like I’m the strange one. I look around me and I see people with dollar signs for eyes and children holding out there arms awaiting gifts, the more the better. Then there is the fact that people bringing guns with them to go Christmas shopping has become par for the course and I'm the odd one?
People pretend this time of year that Christmas spirit is everywhere, that their children’s eyes are lit up with something other than the promise of presents and that they spread joy by competing over how decorative their homes are. Pretending their intentions are honorable justifies for them the fact that while one moment they are baking cookies they might spend the next moment trampling someone to death to get into a Wal-Mart. Oddly, these very same people pretend to be disgusted by the very behaviors they themselves participate in. It’s a time of year for fake joy, pretend family values and hypocrisy wrapped in hypocrisy and tied with a bow of bullshit. Too much? Perhaps, but then, I'm not shooting anyone over a parking space either.
I’m not totally bitter about it, there actually is something in the air this time of year even if it is only that glimmer of hope that it could be something more. The feeling is palpable, it really does exist, it’s the feeling of hope and of the potential for any of it to really and truly mean something other than what it has become. In truth the feeling is better than the reality, the feeling of hope and of the potential for real connection that a holiday like Christmas is meant to bring. It’s like electricity in the air, unfortunately, it’s more akin to the electricity in the air one might feel right before getting struck by lightning. A running theme in most of my writing is connection, and there is connection. People are connected through their devices and some connection is better than no connection at all. Unfortunately true and meaningful connection cannot be purchased and the average American doesn’t understand the concept of something worth having being something that cannot be bought.
I think the thing that is most bothersome to me is that people aren’t stupid. As much as this piece makes it sound as though I think the average Americans is totally lacking a moral compass and is driven mostly by greed and ignorance of what is truly important in life, I know better, and so do they. I do have faith in humanity. People know somewhere deep down that there is more, that there is something real out there. It’s like that feeling people feel during the Christmas season, an underlying hope that there is potential for that something. Well, that something is connection and it is possible. People know it, they even want it, yet they just don’t know how to attain it since it isn’t on sale at Wal-Mart.