Sunday, December 7, 2008

Duncan: Black Friday Now An Ominous Symbol

By Courtney Duncan

The typical holiday season is supposed to be a celebration of faith or of relationships with friends and family by participating in traditions such as decorating, singing, cooking and of course – shopping. Although spending time with those around us should be the most important part of the holidays, many of us have lost sight of the importance of the break from everyday life we get during the winter months.

This year, for many, Thanksgiving was spent around the dinner table, and it was most likely a great start to the holiday season: Filling up on turkey, potatoes, pie, or whatever else is enjoyable, followed by a football game, nap, or more turkey of course. The unfortunate part of this seemingly good story is what happens when Thanksgiving ends and “Black Friday” begins.

Black Friday was originally named for the heavy amount of traffic cities experienced on the day after Thanksgiving, and continued to be referred to as black because this period of time is when companies are in the black, or are turning a profit. Perhaps after this past Black Friday, we should consider the name to be a bad omen; after all, black as a symbol is usually equated with death, and death is exactly what we got this year.

When a Long Island, N.Y. Wal-Mart opened this Black Friday, Jdimytai Damour of Jamaica, a worker, was trampled to death as customers rushed in to save a few dollars on hot ticket items. In this same stampede, a pregnant woman had to be hospitalized because of potential injuries. Across the country in Palm Desert, Calif., two men possibly fighting over gifts shot and killed one another in a Toys R Us store.

Many have blamed these incidents on bad security and crowd control at stores; there is proposed legislation that would require malls and shops to heighten security and crowd control on days such as this. While stores should be held responsible to some extent to ensure safety and order to their customers, it is important to remember that no one has to act like a primitive animal to save a few dollars. How about we consider a bill that requires each person to treat his fellow citizens humanely?

When referring to this year’s stampede, one reporter stated, “There’s no question the people in that New York crowd lost their humanity in the quest for a bargain.” Another equated holiday shopping with a “blood sport.” Both of these references are undoubtedly true. We have essentially lost respect for our neighbors, our species and ourselves. It is time to realize that saving a few dollars (or even a few hundred) is not worth the mistreatment of those around us.

Essentially, we have lost sight of the ever-so-highly-held Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It all seems so simple. The rule each of us learned prior to beginning our school careers, or at the very latest during kindergarten, is what we are now failing to remember during a time when life is supposed to be filled with love and enjoyment. 

My guess is that none of us would like to die in the next stampede for a Hannah Montana doll, but then again, that’s just my best guess.

Of course, I understand that saving money during the Christmas season to please those we love with incredible gifts is important, especially during the current financial crisis, but as a culture, we have taken things too far. We, as Americans, have become greedy animals. 

It is time to take a step back from what we have made the holidays to be and remember that there is more to life than expensive gifts. Take part of the decorating, the caroling, the eating, the movie watching, the sleeping in, and all of the other festivities this season. It is almost guaranteed that memories of these experiences will far surpass remembering the sweater your mom got for you for half price on Black Friday, unless of course she killed someone on the way to get it – then, I’m sure the memory will live with you forever.

After exams are over at the end of this week, take time to enjoy those around you, and don’t get too caught up in what we’ve made the holiday season as an American culture.

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