Today, we went to the Westlake Mall to take our kids on the carousel and Monorail. While taking a breather at one of the mall stores, a shop clerk wished my four year old a “Merry Christmas.” He dutifully replied: “We don’t celebrate Christmas. We’re not Christian.” Whenever this type of thing happens I momentarily catch my breath. First, because yet another Christian has made yet another assumption that we’re just the same as the 95% of Americans who are also Christian. Second, because Jews just don’t like to call public attention to their “otherness.” You just don’t know what will happen. But my third reaction toward my son’s response was: “Good for you. Give ’em what for. We’re not the same as the rest of you and proud of it too.”
It seems that every year around this time I write my anti-Christmas post. And today is that day. All this by way of introducing what is likely to be one of the strangest stories of this holiday season. This isn’t really meant to be a Christian-bashing post as much as a Christmas-bashing post. And not bashing Christmas as a religious holiday, but rather as a holiday of rampant consumerism.
No doubt you’ve already heard this bizarre story. If not, it will shock and horrify you. I simply don’t understand how 2,000 can become a frenzied pack of animals–and all in the search for Christmas bargains:
Shoppers started lining up late Thursday night at the Wal-Mart, at the Green Acres Mall on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream…The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order.
Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared.
By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.
Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said
As if the story itself isn’t callous enough, the report continues:
Some shoppers who had seen the stampede said they were shocked. One of them, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers behaved badly even as the store was being cleared, she recalled.
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”
We all know that human beings are basically civilized animals and that at times the civilization is but a thin veneer. But even that knowledge doesn’t fully prepare us for animalistic savagery like this. How in heaven’s and Christmas’ name, can human beings behave like this? Don’t we have a soul? Where was it? It’s not like this was a European soccer match where people were killed in a mass stampede in narrow stadium hallways. These were people who deliberately mowed down the store doors and anyone who stood in their way.
It’s practically incomprehensible and makes me appreciate that as Jews we’re not part of this shopping frenzy. Yes, we do buy toys for our children. But we buy a lot less because we’re not buying for every family member as Christians do. I’ve always thought of this element of Christmas as slightly insane and these people have only confirmed my original impression. To kill someone for a Christmas bargain…what can you say?
And lest you think the shoppers alone were at fault, Wal Mart didn’t respond very admirably either. A mere eight hours after the horrible death of one of their employees they reopened the story so as not to miss out on an entire day of Christmas shopping season sales. Gee, you’d think they could, as a sign of respect, close down for an entire day. No, not Wal-Mart for whom the God of sales seems to reign supreme.
And don’t you just love a company which, when faced with a PR disaster, rolls up into fetal position and denies any culpability for the laxness of its procedures:
Hank Mullany, the senior vice president of Wal-Mart’s Northeast division, said in a statement that the company had hired extra security officers and installed barricades before the store opened, but “despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred.”
I guess he’s implying Wal Mart did everything any reasonable person would’ve expected of them and that this was just a random crazy accident. 2,000 people could line up in front of any store and turn into a frenzied mob and mow down every employee in sight. Who could’ve foreseen it?
This is pure lameness. Exactly how many security guards WERE on duty at that store that night and where were they? Why wasn’t the police called when the mob-like violence began. If they were called, why weren’t they there?