By Daniel Chejfec
The Webster's New World dictionary defines "trample" as "to crush, destroy or hurt by trampling" or as "to treat harshly or ruthlessly; to domineer over". So when we trample we do make a statement, and the statement is that we are in control and it is us who define the rules of the game. One fine example of such domineering behavior is the recent incident in which a herd of shoppers trampled a mall security guard to death, clearly establishing the preeminence of bargain shopping over Human life.
Yes, I know I sound cynical, but as Seneca himself would have pointed out, sometimes cynicism is the best weapon we have to wake people up. Not only did the bargain shoppers trample over a living being and left behind a lifeless corpse, but they also trampled over the meaning of the very Holiday(s) they claim to be shopping for...
How did we get here? Thanksgiving was a created Holiday in the 1940s intended to institutionalize the informal celebration of the survival of the Mayflower Puritans during their first winter in the New World. It was suposed to be a symbolic celebration of the values that sustain American society. In that context, it would have to be a reflection on the Freedoms we have, and a big thank you to the Native Americans who had compassion on the useless Europeans who did not know how to live off the land. But Thanksgiving had the misfortune of being established a month before Christmas, so it became the kickoff day of the bargain hunting season, to the point that the day after Thanksgiving received the moniker of "Black Friday" - where Black stands for black ink, as in profit (????)
The funniest part is that the Holiday Bargain Hunting Season is, in itself, a trampling of the values represented by the holidays we shop for. Let us push the reset button...
Christmas is, in the Christian religious context, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God and the awaited Messiah; it should therefore be a time of introspection and rededication to the teachings of Jesus as reflected in the Christian texts. So did Jesus go to the Mall?
Hanukkah is, in the Jewish religious context, a celebration of the end of the war against the Greek and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem to the worship of the One God. This is reinforced by the retelling of the miracle of how the Menorah at the Temple remained lit for seven days with an amount of oil that was only enough for one day; it should therefore be a day of celebration of religious Freedom and a Divine Miracle. So did the Maccabees go shopping for oil?
Kwanzaa is, in Africa American cultural context, a holiday intended to reconnect the descendants of slaves with their lost African roots by celebrating the simplicity of the connection with Nature and the communion with community and environment; it should therefore be a time to reflect on our role in our community and how we relate to our Planet. So we join the mindless herds at the mall to create community?
So when mindless herds of shoppers stampede through the opening doors of malls and Department Stores across the country in the pursue of the elusive perfect bargain, covering the aisles in the stores as the Buffalo once covered the plains, it is indeed time. Time to stop and reflect and reconnect with the meaning behind the Holidays.
Because you see, when those shoppers stampeded over the security guard at the mall and kept trampling over his lifeless body, they were also trampling over the very values they were supposed to remember and celebrate. Let us not be part of the herd. Let us celebrate Community, and Freedom, and each other.