Monday, December 1, 2008

Blackest Friday Of All

In Mumbai, India, terrorists armed with grenades and automatic weapons ruthlessly and systematically carry out the slaughter of nearly 200 innocent people in luxury hotels, hospitals and train stations.

In Jos, Nigeria, an election dispute sparks ethnic and religious violence that will leave nearly 400 dead before the weekend is through.

In Al Musaieb, Iraq, a town south of Baghdad, a man wearing a vest packed with explosives walks into a mosque and blows himself and twelve worshippers into oblivion. Nineteen more are injured.

In a Walmart parking lot in Valley Stream, Long Island, 2000 shoppers wait in the dark, shivering in early morning cold. It is 4:55 a.m. and they are tense, wondering if they will be able to elbow their way past the pregnant women and grandmothers to snag a 50-inch Plasma HDTV on sale for $798. There is shoving. Shouting.

On the other side of the glass doors, a thirty-four year old temporary maintenance worker named Jdimytai Damour is among a handful of underpaid employees who vainly attempt to hold the doors closed against the bargain-hungry crowd. The glass shatters. The doors crumple like an Oktoberfest accordion. Damour is knocked to the floor and trampled. Shoppers bent on scooping up “Incredible Hulk” DVDs for nine bucks step over the dying man. The holiday season in America has begun.

What sets America’s senseless violence apart from the savagery in the rest of the world is the speed and ease with which it is dismissed. Walmart shoppers who, when told the man’s death would force the store to close, complained that they’d “been on line since yesterday morning” were only briefly inconvenienced. A little yellow caution tape and a hastily repaired window were the only signs of anything amiss when shopping resumed just a few hours after the body was removed. A visit to Walmart’s website in the days following was equally reassuring. All is once again sunshine and super deals on CyberMonday. (Their “Unbelievable Online Specials” are presumably a safer way to practice your inalienable right of consumerism.)

But for some, an unpleasant somberness still lingers.

"The line was sad," Elaine Ryans, 38, from Elmont, Long Island said while shopping a day after the incident. "It was like, 'Are we going to a funeral or are we going shopping?' It was sad, it turned me off…”

Sorry, Elaine. Hopefully, the thought of Damour’s family planning his funeral won’t interfere with the enjoyment of all your cheap, new electronics.

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