First I saw an Associated Press article. Jesse Washington, the article’s writer, described Black Friday shoppers as “those who flocked to capitalism’s temples for the consumer equivalent of genuflecting.” One shopper told Washington, “You have to have these things to enjoy your children and your family.” Another shopper said, “I wouldn’t say Black Friday has taken over. Shopping IS the holiday. That’s all people care about – what are you gonna get?”
Then I saw a BBC article. This article captured another aspect of Black Friday: shopping-related violence. While two people were waiting in a line at a San Antonio store, according to the article, a man reportedly pulled a gun on another shopper who punched him in the face. A large crowd of people in Moultrie, Georgia were pushing, yelling and grabbing mobile phones off a Wal-mart shelf. So this is the image people have of Americans? Greedy, arrogant, self-centered so-and-sos? Lord, have mercy.
Washington asked the questions that continue to run through my head.
“Why must we buy? To demonstrate our love for others? To add a few more inches to our televisions? To help America recover from a vicious recession that itself was born of the desire for more?”
Since the Christmas that many celebrate in the U.S. has little or no connection with the religious observance of Jesus’ birth, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the crass consumerism, violent shopping and overt greediness that marks the weeks leading up to December 25. And it’s not just what Washington described as the “consumer equivalent of genuflecting.” There’s the crazy, over-committed party schedules and excesses of all kinds that mark the way many celebrate Christmas.
As for me and my house? This coming Sunday we’ll make an Advent wreath and begin four weeks of mindful preparation for Christmas. We’ll do our best to keep the days quiet as we observe the discipline of Advent waiting, lighting candles, saying prayers, preparing for Christmas. And unlike many, we won’t be ending our Christmas celebration on December 25th. We’ll just be getting started.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.