A Reflection on Thanksgiving

We here at Abnormal Use hope that you and your family had a happy Thanksgiving. I certainly did. Turkey Day is my favorite holiday, and just like many others, this past one was great. There are many reasons why I love Thanksgiving. But one of the most important is that it gives me an opportunity to step back from my life, stop worrying about all the stuff that doesn’t matter (which is almost everything), and be appreciative for the few important blessings in my life. I don’t do that nearly as often as I should.

Now, you may be thinking that I have the same attitude toward Christmas, and therefore, that I’m looking forward to the next four weeks. You would be dead wrong. I approach Christmas the same way that I do Alabama football: I know it exists, and in theory, I have no problem with that; but I cannot stand the fans. They are loud. They are obnoxious. They run their mouths about how great it is all year long, regardless of whether it’s in season or not. And at the end of the day, it just brings out the worst in all of us.

Case in point: Black Friday, the “official” beginning of the Christmas season. (I put the word official in quotation marks because this is a lie. It’s outrageous, but Christmas music has been playing on the radio since November 1.)

For many folks, Black Friday begins on the preceding day, also known as Thanksgiving Thursday, by camping out in front of big box retailers. Just so you know, if you ever see me sleeping in front of a Wal-Mart, please, give me a dollar. I am not observing Black Friday. I am homeless and probably very hungry.  But back to the matter at hand.  At the stroke of midnight, the big boxes open their doors to become the Ellis Island for the tired, the poor, the huddling masses yearning to spend freely. For stuff they don’t need. For people who will not be appreciative.

This sounds perfectly awful. And yet, somehow each year, we find some way to make it even more perfectly awful. This year, the tool of choice for dragging humanity to a new low was pepper spray. In case you missed the news, let me run it back for you. It was Black Friday at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles. As seen in this video, the store was packed from wall-to-wall with people. A stampede broke out near an Xbox display. As the herd of people began their charge, you can hear people start to scream and cry. This is because they — the twenty or so victims — had been pepper sprayed. Allegedly by a woman who is 36 to 38 years old, which scientifically, is old enough to know better. Over video games.

That is certifiably insane. But the crazy train doesn’t run out of track there. The prime suspect turned herself into police that night. After talking with her, they let her go. As of the time of this writing, it is not clear whether charges will be brought.

That is absolutely preposterous. Pepper spray has many intended, foreseeable, socially responsible uses, including (and pretty well limited to) providing personal protection from the threat of imminent violence and, when used by law enforcement, riot control. Using it as a competitive advantage to disable other shoppers is not an appropriate use, obviously. I hope to God we do not now live in a world where that will have to be added to the product as a warning.

For those of you who are devil’s advocates, perhaps you’re thinking to yourself that the perp (who we’ll call “Molly Mace”) felt like the crowd presented a danger to her safety, and therefore, she used the pepper spray for personal protection. Fat chance. The crowd was not there to threaten Molly Mace specifically. Consequently, if it were reasonably possible that she could have escaped the perceived threat to her safety by leaving, why shouldn’t she have? Was it really necessary that she discharge pepper spray into a crowd of people whose only crime was that they were at the same place for the exact same purpose as she was? And let’s not overlook a material fact here. The information available suggests that after Molly Mace pepper sprayed the crowd, she grabbed a few Xbox games, paid for them, and ran for the door. Is this the conduct of a woman who was really perceiving a threat to her safety, or the act of a determined bargain shopper trying to escape from the bowels of hell itself? The answer speaks for itself.

Regardless, Molly Mace’s actions are offensive to civility. They’re atrocious when you remember that she was probably buying Christmas gifts. Is there really a Christmas gift that is so important it is worth hurting someone else for? Of course not. It is alarming to consider that now, there are people among us who don’t share that sense of common decency, and that those folks are not punished for their wrongful conduct.

I know we’re technically into the Christmas season. But I’m not ready to let the Thanksgiving season slip away. In addition to being thankful for what we have, ladies and gentlemen, let’s also be thankful for what we had: a society that would be disgusted at the thought of deliberately causing violence to others at any time, but especially during the holidays; as well as a society that was not afraid to take those people who would so willingly do violence to each other and cut them off from the vine. Let’s also be thankful for hope, that what we had once will be ours again.