Coming of the anti-Christmas

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As a society, we often use the misdeeds of the past as a watermark against which we measure our moral progress. We might tell ourselves, “We used to accuse people of witchcraft and burn them at the stake, but we’re more civilized now;” or we might say, “Gladiator fights were barbaric, but people are smarter nowadays.” Wrong! You’re wrong if you think we as a society have advanced beyond the caveman days of bludgeoning each other over the head for a scrap of raw meat. My proof for such a claim lies in a single word: Christmas. Nothing summons forth the evil in your fellow man quite like the giving season.

Our collective eggnog drenched descent into madness commences every year with the torrid spend-o-rama known as Black Friday. Sure, the name “Black Friday” traditionally refers to the financial boon the surge of holiday shoppers provide to businesses, but it could also be argued that “Black Friday” is referencing the color of people’s souls on that day. Stores become impromptu Thunderdomes, where people may literally battle, sometimes to the death, for savings. Recent bouts of yuletide mayhem have been numerous: The “Waffle Maker Riot” in Arkansas saw a scramble for twodollar Walmart waffle makers quickly turn into a one-way ticket to hell; there was also a woman in a southern California Walmart who took it upon herself to pepper spray over twenty people, all for a sweet, sweet Xbox (the authorities, when describing her, actually used the term “competitive shopper”); and then there was the East Bay shooting of a shopper in a Walmart parking lot in an attempted robbery of the victim’s merchandise.

Walmart seems to pop up more than enough times to merit having blame thrown in its direction. It is definitely satisfying because Walmart is one of those big, faceless corporations that are easy to hate, with its loathsome blandness and discount ruthlessness. The corporation is definitely a facilitator to the Christmas carnage, but people are what really make the whole thing a special time of year. Walmart merely sets the table; holiday shoppers are the ones that throw their food and then ask for seconds.

In an odd way, it seems fitting for us as a society that our attachment to the free market turns into, at least once a year, a donnybrook (old-school term!). We are constantly pumped images from the media compelling us to spend, telling us that the nature of our character is based on material goods. It strikes me as apropos that this should come to a head, culminating in our beating each other stupid and using any and all unscrupulous means at our disposal to screw our fellow citizens over, just so that we can buy new things, wrap them in shiny paper, and give them to recipients, who will probably rarely use what we buy (except, possibly, the lady who Maced her way to an Xbox).