The true meaning of Black Friday


Buckeye, Ariz.:

In an effort to protect his little grandson from all the unruliness, the man—who reportedly had about $600 worth of merchandise in his cart—slipped the video game he was holding in his hand into his pants waistband for a brief moment so he could lift up the boy and carry him to safety. That's when cops showed up and allegedly threw him to the ground—shattering his face and producing the "personalized holiday blood towels" you can see in Fox's news reel.

Kinston, North Carolina:

An incident involving pepper spray used at a Walmart in Kinston during Black Friday is under investigation. Authorities say the off-duty officer was hired by the store to help with security and was trying to subdue a disturbance and make an arrest when he used his pepper spray A customer told WITN people were standing in line waiting for cell phones when a man fell onto a display. She says security thought there was a fight. The customer says about 20 people, including children, were affected by the pepper spray.

South Charleston, W.Va.:

Family and friends were stunned by the loss of a West Virginia man who died while shopping on Black Friday as fellow bargain hunters reportedly walked around — and even over — the man’s body.Family members told WSAZ-TV that 61-year-old Walter Vance of Logan County, W. Va., had become ill and collapsed while shopping for Christmas decorations inside Target in South Charleston. He later died after being taken to the hospital, family said.

Wellington, Fla:

The Pontiac seen here, half-submerged in Florida's Pahokee Canal, belongs to a 36-year-old Target employee who had just gotten off working the overnight shift after celebrating Thanksgiving and lost control of her car. Sheriff's deputies rescued her before she drowned. "Our thoughts are with the team member and her family for a speedy recovery," a Target spokeswoman said, as company executives patted each other on the backs for successfully interrupting workers' Thanksgivings to achieve higher sales.

Porter Ranch, Calif.:

Yesterday's zeitgeist-iest Black Friday shopper—the California Walmart-woman who allegedly pepper-sprayed a crowd of fellow Xbox seekers, creating the scene captured in this video—surrendered to the authorities.

There's about 5-10 more like these...coincidence? I think not. America's Black Friday madness is exactly what you'd expect to see when the middle-class consumerism of the Baby Boomer era sees its middle class destroyed, but its consumerism limps on. Everyday Americans who've lost their sense of security, lost wages, lost their pensions or their health insurance, etc., etc., etc., are now being told to lose their dignity if they want to have the kind of Christmas tree tableau that was a given in the era of an ancient "Charlie Brown Christmas" that returns to taunt us every December.

The New York Times had an outstanding piece last week -- I doubt many folks freezing out on the line for a $199 high-def TVs saw it -- about what Black Friday tells us about the real story in America these days, that ridiculous gap between the 1 Percent and the 99 Percent:

Those in a more modest income situation are the people who are going to the Wal-Marts and the Best Buys and the Targets at 8, 9, 10, 11 p.m. with little kids in tow because they can’t afford a baby sitter,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultant firm. “It’s a very unpleasant shopping experience, frankly, for a lot of people.” Meanwhile, many affluent shoppers will avoid the scene altogether, he said. “The women who are shopping the fourth floor at Saks are not Black Friday shoppers,” he said.

That's not an excuse for Americans to act like 10,000 maniacs, and let's praise all the good people who didn't push or shove other shoppers last week, let alone pepper-spray them to get a competitive edge or step over a dead body in their path. Still, it's more outrageous to live in a society of corporate consumerism run amok that fosters such behavior and looks the other way when the inevitable incidents occur. The root of people acting like animals traces back to corporations that treat them as such -- both in causing shoppers to drag their kids away from the Thanksgiving table to compete "American Idol"-style for a handful of bargains, and the abused workers who are literally driving into ditches when they try to celebrate the holiday and also show up for their all-night shifts.

And quite frankly, the rot in American society that we saw giving bloom to this American Autumn, that caused thousands of citizens to occupy public space from Zuccotti Park to the Port of Oakland, is exactly the same rot that causes people in similar situations -- but with a different outlook -- to riot over cheap waffle irons. So when we think it's a coincidence, these similarities between Occupy Wall Street and Black Friday -- cops pepper-spraying people after a man trips in the crowd just like they pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters at UC-Davis, cops brutalizing up a man trying to protect his grandson just like that nearly killed a protester who'd protected our country in Iraq...well, it's really not a coincidence at all.

The system of pillaging the 99 Percent that has prevailed for 30 years in this country is falling apart, and the cops thrown out on the front line are pulling out the pepper-spray and the Flexi-Cuffs and the batons and everything else in their Homeland Security-funded bag of tricks trying to hold together a system that is truly collapsing. They can try to rough up the people getting over=excited about vacant consumerism just like they're about to unfortuntaely bust up the folks protesting consumerism down on Dilworth Plaza. But it's not working very well, is it?

And that, Charlie Brown, is the true meaning of Black Friday.