by Emmett R Smith
Today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, a mob of early shoppers stormed a WalMart in Long Island, trampled to death a store employee in the rush for the entrance and injured four others in the crush. Their purpose was an early start on some Christmas shopping. For a good long time, certainly since I was a small boy in the 1950s, the holiday shopping season has been deemed to begin on the day after Thanksgiving. That this retailing “custom” and accounting trick has been parleyed into an actual American family tradition throws into sharp relief the late historical degradation of Americans. Formerly, we were a free people. There weren’t many charge cards in play in those days. Now, however, we are become consumers and the quondam recipients of intermittent stimulus checks from off of the government. When Nazi bombs rained on London in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered his people “blood, toil, tears and sweat.” It was a final call to desperate zeal and glory for a slummy dying empire that nonetheless held the ring until an America then actually rich and truly powerful in spite of slums of its own could come to the rescue. In 2001 as the highrises in New York rattled with their doomed blazing occupants into the derivative streets below, all the Texan G W Bush could think up to do was to tell the American people to go shopping. Now, President-elect Obama, in some kind of intended honor of the dim memory of FDR three generations ago, promises to avail even more, bigger, stimulus checks. Implicitly as many as needed and can still (maybe?) be borrowed from off of China. The latent contempt for us of “our” political leaders of both parties in all of this surely must be obvious to many others besides myself. And then again, perhaps it is not. There is only one thing worse than the insulting belittlement that implicates all involved in this overdone and gummy, posey, government “concern” with both the homeland security and, now, the economic wellbeing of the common people.
And that is the no-end depressing fact that we, this same people, today commonly think of our own selves first of all as spenders and buyers who have to be protected and farmed by others, and at the same time by a kind of mental trick as a still-free folk “just now” rather badly in need (again) of a free handout.
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 28 November 2008]