“Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.” — from Woody Allen’s 1986 movie, “Hannah and Her Sister”
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the zombies took to the streets, cashing in on the best deals available to fulfill the true meaning of Christmas. In several instances, they created havoc and fear. This is Christmas in the 21st century. Rather than celebrating the birth of Christ, millions of people turn into prowling reptiles that stalk day and night in the rich hunting grounds of giant retailers like Wal-Mart.
We have been stripped of our humanity, at a time when we need to celebrate with family and God.
But there is a new god in town. It’s a primitive god that placates our pleasure centers and drives our unquenchable thirst to own and collect more, the tradition and spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas be damned.
The Seattle Times reported: “More than a dozen major U.S. retailers stayed open for 24 hours or more on Thanksgiving Day through Black Friday, and crowds formed early and often over the two days.”
As a result of stores opening early, multitudes lined up like zombies on Thanksgiving Day to feed on the deals first. Judy Espey proudly bragged to The Times that she snuck out during the family Thanksgiving dinner to nail a purchase at Wal-Mart near Clifton Park, N.Y. She paid $288 for a 50-inch flat-screen TV. That said, Espey admitted she doesn’t “really dig the Thanksgiving night thing.”
There’s no report on how Espey’s family felt about the aborted turkey dinner, but to hell with the hubby and kids. Zombie Judy has her TV! Best of all, she escaped the many fistfights, mass tramplings and, in the case of the video below, the use of a stun gun:
This year, Hanukkah began the day before Thanksgiving. It ends Thursday. In “Hanukkah, Christmas & Black Friday Presence,” Rabbi Baruch HaLevi wrote beautifully of his Hanukkah memories for The Huffington Post:
Thinking back upon my past 328 days of Hanukkah, I can only remember a handful of presents. There was the Atari (what a blessing), the Apple II (what a curse). I vaguely remember a Walkman, a Red Rider BB gun (or was that a movie) and for some odd reason Chia Pets embarrassingly ring a bell.
HaLevi wrote about something special that is lost in a world of zombie shoppers:
What our children, our grandchildren, our spouse, nieces, nephews, siblings, family and friends want, certainly what they need, is not only to show up to share stuff but to share soul, not just bearing gifts but bearing our heart, not merely presenting the presents but there, fully, consciously and lovingly presenting the ultimate present of presence.
Black Friday exemplifies why conservatives talk about family values and the accompanying love for God and family. The love we’ve had for each for more than 3,000 years — the love we share with our family and those we love even when they are far away — is being replaced by the blue-light special in aisle 13 in the electronics section.
The liberal progressives can laugh all they want about conservative longing for family values; but inside they must feel it, too. Because in the end, how we love and how we bear pain in others and in ourselves without complaint or malice are what is best in us — not a giant flat-screen TV, a BMW convertible or 48-foot motor home.
I know this to be true because there was a time when we owned a big house, two German cars and a cabin cruiser. The enjoyment that came from these things wasn’t in them but in how our young family was joyful with them. When my wife became incapacitated with pain from lupus for three years, I fell into a deep depression that lasted a decade. We had three great young children, and they suffered terribly because of my wife’s illness and my depression. No longer could our family enjoy our luxuries or anything else. It wouldn’t have mattered if our 27-foot boat was 47 feet or 87 feet. Over time, the enduring love of our children healed my wife and me.
Love, Not Gifts, Makes Christmas Special
I received one of my greatest Christmas gifts when I was 12. My father bought me a single-shot .22 rifle. What made it such a special gift is that he spent many hours teaching me to fire it. We practiced in our indoor range in the basement at our house and outdoors during the warmer months. He took pride as I improved. If he had just handed me a .22, that gift would have meant little.
It seems to me the greatest gifts are not something that can be bought at Wal-Mart, Nordstrom’s or Mercedes-Benz. The greatest gifts are laughter and love, and you don’t have to be rich to purchase them. They should come naturally. If they don’t, then all the cars, boats and vacation homes won’t fill that void.
Such thoughts are blasphemy to retailers. After all, “a diamond is forever.” According to marketers, only a diamond will tell her that you love her. The opposite is probably true. The great movie star Elizabeth Taylor died with one of the largest diamond collections of any private citizen. Late in her life, she confided that she had never really felt loved. I suspect screen star Marilyn Monroe felt very much the same way, and that is why she took her own life. Diamonds don’t tell people they are loved. People tell people they are loved. Or better yet, they demonstrate to people they are loved.
Yet the quest to buy and own more and more only accelerates. I heard one person actually say, “If I can just get that house, I will be truly happy.”
Yet in my life I have been more depressed and unhappy in the largest home we owned than in any apartment where love was present.
Don’t get me wrong. Money is a wonderful thing. It buys things like an education, opportunities and independence. It buys you wonderful little luxuries like vacations. Nobody wants to settle for hot dogs if they want a pork roast. Going to movies and being able to buy a book if you want makes all the difference in the quality of one’s life. It must be heartbreaking to see your child unable to have a basic bicycle when all his friends have one. But no child needs the best bike money can buy.
Case in point was when I was on the high school sophomore football team four decades ago. It was a mixed school, with many lower-middle-class kids and some ultra-rich kids. The first day of practice, a handsome blond kid announced to our team and coach he would be playing quarterback or he wouldn’t be playing at all. It turned out he wouldn’t be playing at all. Rumor had it that this was a big disappointment to him. So on his 16th birthday, his dad bought him a new 1975 red Chevrolet Corvette.
A year later, he was at a rich kid’s party and his girlfriend broke up with him. He drove his Corvette into the garage of the girlfriend’s parent’s house and poisoned himself with carbon monoxide as the party was still going on.
That boy didn’t need a Corvette. He needed understanding. And that’s not something you can buy on Black Friday or any other day.
Yours in good times and bad,