Holiday meaning overshadowed by retail frenzy

Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:31 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jdimytai Damour, 34 years old, 6 feet 5 inches tall and 270 pounds. Dead.

There is a religion in the United States that transcends all others. In retail since birth, I always knew it existed, removed from cult status when recognized by President Bush in September 2001. The morning news shows have segments dedicated to the tactics and strategies that can make you a martyr by staying ahead of the Joneses. Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble exemplified the cult, indoctrinating children and adults alike. Their cry of “Charge it!” is the prayer of all. We are a nation of shoppers. Our temples are the malls and box stores, small specialty shops and, now, the Internet.

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Like all religions, there are pros and cons. When you shop, you support local and national businesses, increasing employment. You pay taxes supporting local and county governments. Shopping is a symbol of your patriotism.  

Like other religions, shoppers range from reformed to orthodox to extremist. It is the last that some mega temples seek to take advantage. They use other holidays, Easter, Halloween and Christmas among them, to exploit the faithful. But the holiest of the holy days is Black Friday.

With anticipation of recognition of the patron saints Rowland H. Macy, John Cash Penney and Sam Walton, shoppers plan months ahead for the great celebration.  Amid turkey bones and the ruminants of apple and pumpkin pies, they search papers, seeking “the word” to determine a strategy of tributes. Kohl’s at 4:00 a.m., Target and the mall at five. Breakfast at nine and then Lowe's.  The order is not important, just the tidings.

Extremists start their rituals the evening before, camping on the sidewalks to prove their worthiness. As the crowd swells, frenzy increases and a mob mentality overwhelms the shoppers. Doors open and they surge as a single entity.  

Such a scene took place at the Church of Walmart in Valley Stream, N.Y.. Damour, by no means a small man, was assigned to protect the faithful and the church. In their frenzy, the shoppers broke through the doors, trampling Damour, causing his death by, officially, asphyxiation. His chest was crushed while he was protecting one of the faithful, a woman eight months pregnant. Others were injured. All were ignored.

The extremists did not stop and aid the fallen man. As the guard lay dying, the extremists continued to pay tribute to the saints. They maneuvered carts around the rescue workers administering CPR. They stood in queues waiting to be blessed by the cashiers as ambulance and police arrived. They complained that further tributes were being delayed because of rescue vehicles entering the parking lot.

Damour’s family is suing Walmart for wrongful death.  The Associated Press reports the family believes Walmart created “an environment of frenzy and mayhem and was otherwise careless, reckless and negligent.”  That Walmart was responsible for “an atmosphere of competition and anxiety” leading to “crowd craze” and Damour’s death.

For those, such as myself, who are seen as heretics, Damour is not a martyr but a tragedy. That too many have forgotten what the winter holidays represent. Black Friday is the celebration of the continued life of free enterprise.  Hanukkah of the rekindling of the Eternal Light in the Temple. The winter solstice of the return of the sun and the rebirth of the  Earth. Christmas of the miracle of birth and salvation. These holidays are about birth, life, joy and good will to all. Not shopping and death.

This does not mean that you should stop shopping or that heretics do not spend their money during this holiday season. That would be, well, sacrilegious.

I pray that the Damour family triumphs on behalf of their son and brother.  That shoppers now step back before making our tributes and ask if we really need to buy the Wii or if there is a family that needs help in this time of fiscal crisis. I hope that the shrines, temples and churches of Shopping temper their annual exploitation of the faithful and that crowd control becomes part of the annual ritual so we can celebrate life, not death. Amen.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at

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