I hope everybody enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend and that you all were able to stuff your faces full of turkey alongside family and loved ones.
I also hope you were able to avoid pepper spray and jail time if you were among the millions of shoppers brave enough to take part in Black Friday.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest shopping day of the year and has been known to get more than a little out of hand (in 2008 at a Long Island Walmart an employee was killed and a pregnant woman was hospitalized during what was described as a stampede).
But this year was unusually nuts with accounts of shootings, a stabbing, looting in NYC’s Soho neighborhood and a woman in Los Angeles pepper spraying 20 other shoppers at Walmart to get a XBox.
I can’t help but wonder if the craziest Black Friday ever and the historically bad economy are related to one another. We live in an age of contradiction in 2011. We are the generation of MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” and the generation of “The 99%”; the worst economy in decades and off-the-charts materialism.
In these times the American Dream of big money, and the peace of mind that’s supposed to come with it, is as attractive as ever. And, like for the parent who wants to give her kids a fairy tale X-Mas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus (and any others I failed to mention), the pressure to appear to be achieving that dream is high. But the reality is that right now the American Dream seems like a fairly tale for a record number of us.
When I see the massive crowds on Black Friday I’m reminded of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s famous quote that in the U.S.“the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat [lowest class in a society] but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
Combine a bad economy with 1) a pop culture-fueled desire to B.M.F. and out-stunt the next man/woman, 2) a ridiculous fake holiday/excuse to ball out and 3) those irresistible Black Friday bargains (“who could pass up a sale, son?!”) and you have a recipe for disaster.
The kind that could have Ma Dukes wielding a samurai sword in Walmart next November. I think Commissioner Gordon warned against something like this at the end of the first Batman movie.
All jokes aside, the holidays ought to be a time when we give thanks for what we already do have and treat one another with the love and respect you would give your own family.
With all the issues our generation is facing that love is needed now more than ever. Here’s to a peaceful holiday season.