An explosion of sales! We drop bombs of value onto your shopping village! A shock and awe campaign of savings!
A bit extreme, isn’t it? I know. But pretty much, these are the messages we’re being bombarded with in our holiday sales ads. And I’m staring at the television screen, or listening to the car radio slack jawed, and wondering, “What the front door does shopping have to do at all with honoring our soldiers fallen in the field of battle?” A whimsical part of my thinking takes me to dead Vikings breathing their last while the Valkyries descend upon them from the heavens with cash registers. Instead of taking them to Valhalla, they are instead whisked away to Macy’s.
What is wrong with our culture when we allow our collective intelligence and sensibilities to be so taken for granted? When did we allow the merchants to dictate to us our priorities? An excellent documentary, The Century of the Self, explains a lot as to why America was intentionally transformed from an economy based upon saving one’s earnings to one based upon spending them as rapidly as accrued, mad consumerism.
We say (tout under the same war banners even) that we are a nation based upon Christian ideals and values, but are we? Really? I’m not a believer, but I have read the Bible – a good percentage of it – and the only time Jesus reportedly lost his shit was when he saw that the merchants and money lenders were taking priority over the Holy. As I said, I’m no believer, but if one thing is indeed sacred to me, it’s the deaths of our soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines who died fighting for what they believed to be the preservation and safety of this nation.
I would hope that their honored sacrifices were for the core values, the ideals of the forefathers, and the promise of America to be the beacon of humanity, its innate optimism of being the country behind a positive evolution of mankind, and not for the bargains of merchandise brought down from a price that was already too high before the sale.
Seriously, there is something very, very wrong with the entire concept of a Memorial Day sale. If it was just about barbeque grills and discounts on travel, then this I could probably be okay with, as it would be applicable to what the holiday activities entail, families getting together to remember their fallen loved ones. But for department stores, clothing and, for goodness knows, all else?
Hey, maybe it’s just me. But it just feels wrong.
In the old days, back in the time of pay phones, when large and influential groups were displeased with a product, or even the contents of subject matter of a television show, (even though these groups may have been conservative and restrictive in their innately non-American ideals) there would be large boycotts of that product until the merchants or networks would have to capitulate and change their course, either pulling the product or improving it.
Who should be shopping on Memorial Day? Maybe if I put it like this: After a funeral, if you were to then go on a buying spree, then you are the one who should be out and about hunting for that bargain.
Let’s honor our fallen by respecting the value of their costs. Our self-indulgences (though part of this illusion of freedom) should not be about what new athletic shoes we can purchase.
Especially when, chances are, those shoes weren’t even made with American hands. Especially when, chances are, American livelihoods were disenfranchised because that corporation took those jobs from our soil to be made in another country for a profit, at the expense (pun intended) of the same Americans who will now be overpaying for them.
I doubt any of our fallen military would have given their lives for a disenfranchised middle class so oblivious to the fact that they are eating their own, that they’d be so deceived as to allow themselves to spend their hard earned (very hard earned) money on inflated goods taken from their own manufacturing hands to be sold back to them at some illusory bargain from another country where our corporations decided to plant the American flag for a profit without any care of the homelessness it would cause, or the despair and hopelessness resulting from our own citizenry who now had no means with which to earn a living.
Perhaps it’s easy for those still with their money to ignore such things because they aren’t experiencing it firsthand. For them, until the saturation of the software and tech industries reach its peak, (and it will, it has to) there is still disposable income. Perhaps for them, the idea of a fallen soldier is as cavalier as running water in the toilet or bidet, a quick wipe and it’s business as usual.
But that doesn’t sit with me. It should not with any of us. Not only should our ideals be held to a higher standard, so should the recognition of our fallen. And though it’s your American privilege to do so, if you’re one of those out shopping today, or have already gone, then you are in fact enabling this superficial and vapid system to thrive. Yes, you have the “right” to shop. You have the “right” to shop today. But this advantage is yours every day, isn’t it?
Why can’t today, be a time for quiet reflection on the horrors of war? Why can’t today be a time to consider how we allow ourselves to get into wars? Why can’t today be a time to hope that one day the very concept of war would be as appalling as rape, or incest, or pedophilia?
I hope that one day our Memorial celebrations will be about recalling a period when humanity was once short-sighted and primitive enough to sanction the now ancient concept of killing other humans, an archaic concept called: War.