As much as I abhor the increasingly nasty vitriol that has become the basic requirement for online commentary, sometimes I hear something and I just have to pause to say "Are you kidding me?". Today just happens to be one of those days, so I beg your forgiveness for breaking one of my own rules.
While listening to the morning news on the radio, I stopped in my tracks in what can only be described as an audio double-take. Today's astonishment is provided courtesy of Big Box commerce and a group of individuals who clearly have nothing better to contribute to society. It is only the Monday before Thanksgiving (remember, that's always on Thursdays) and there are already lines forming and tents rising in an effort to be among the first to take advantage of irresistible bargains starting Friday morning at 12:01AM. Really?
The ancient Roman satirist Juvenal first coined the phrase "bread and circuses" (well, an approximate translation thereof) to describe a populace so self-indulgent that controlling them is just a matter of government providing food and mindless distractions. True, my example of the intrepid shoppers has nothing to do with government, but the point remains the same. Are we so materialistic, commercially focused and, frankly, desperate, as to leave all common sense aside and camp out in front of a store for four full days to save $50 on a GPS or laptop? Apparently the answer is "yes".
I'd love to be able to lay blame, but it would be shortsighted at best. We all share accountability for this devolution of priorities and maturity. We have made it commercially attractive to retailers to have them open at the stroke of midnight on "Black Friday". This year, for the first time, a number of them are opening on Thanksgiving night! So much for family togetherness and grateful reflection on all that your Creator has provided you. We have all contributed to the economic carnival of stores open around the clock--encampments, long lines, short-tempers and bargain hunting that makes Filene's Basement a posh desitination.
Heresy though it may be, I'd support a return to some form of "blue laws" that limits the days and hours of commerce. I know, I know; the loss of convenience would be devastating to us, not to mention all of those midnight shift retail jobs that might be lost. Still, I must rhetorically ask "Do I need to stay up that late to go shopping for Christmas presents that I can't really afford for people I'm not sure will appreciate the effort?".
Watch out for the elephants, the circus is in town.