Wolf wrote the below piece as an editorial for a small rural paper that regularly publishes his forthright take on politics, culture and other timely topics for a very conservative audience. I thought that ya’ll, while being a more varied readership, would still enjoy this meaningful look at holiday season shopping hell.
Shop Local – Avoid The Stampede
By Jesse Wolf Hardin
I confess to being moved by news of the death of a N.Y. Walmart employee, trampled beneath the hurried feet and unfeeling hearts of stampeding customers. I obviously don’t know the young man, nor have I even seen any pictures of him or heard stories about his girlfriend, spiritual beliefs and hope for the future like we hear about American soldiers who have died in the line of duty fighting for other equally dubious causes. If he was thinking about anything at all right before the glass doors were smashed open and he was knocked onto the store’s cement floor, he was likely regretting that the only job he was able to find was minimum wage one welcoming riotous customers at 5 in the morning in a little blue vest.
Particularly disturbing to me was the fact that the clueless and ultimately murderous mob were not rushing to get to the food section such as in the bread riots occurring elsewhere, desperate to obtain nutrition for starving families. Nor were they making a statement of protest, risking arrest to make a point about the ways that “big box” stores are increasingly destroying the small business culture of Main St. America. What those shoppers got up hours before dawn to obtain, elbowed each other to get to, and then paraded over the helplessly screaming employee to purchase, were primarily plastic, disposable and often useless items produced by underpaid Chinese and imported at unrealistically low prices sure to drive many U.S. manufacturers out of business. The higher cause that that employee died for was not the protection of his country nor the defense of liberty and other crucial ideals. He, somebody’s only begotten son, gave his life so that others might obtain the promised reward of beeping and flashing electronic entertainment systems with built in obsolescence, and stocking stuffer toys coated with cheap toxic paint.
Perhaps I’m being just a tad cynical? After all, it was the soon to be ex-President of our country who asserted that the most patriotic thing we could do in times of economic downturns was to get out the plastic cards and shop. But even if Bush’s proclamation is proven by future historians to be a piece of administrative genius, it still makes no sense to me that most of the money ends up going to global corporations whose products are with few exceptions produced in the worker-exploiting, resource-depleting factories of Southern Asia. This morning it was reported that one of the only large retailer in America to show a profit this Fall was Walmart, up 3% while thousands of mom and pop businesses are going under.
Don’t get me wrong, my family heads to Walmart occasionally to get certain food staples at a discount over what we pay for groceries in our little town, and like most other people, our low income means I tend to look for the lowest price when it comes time to purchase a big ticket item like a stereo. The rest of the time, however, we do our best to mend and maintain what we already own, rather than replacing things with the latest fashion or trend. Come the holidays, we make many of the gifts we send out, recalling that this is called the “season of giving” rather than the “season of spending,” and our friends are all the more touched sensing how much time and thought we put into each handmade present. When we do spend money to buy things, we look for products that are durable and lasting rather than disposable and quickly made obsolete. And we try to make it a point to get regional crafts or American made goods from local businesses, knowing how it contributes to employment in our precious communities.
When it comes to stocking up on goods or gifts, I suggest you look first to what you can make and give, and secondly to the many stores owned and operated by neighbors whose values, ethics and methods you can support. Forget that the majority will continue to shop at the lowest common denominator, vote your values and beliefs with your hard earned dollars. You’ll feel better about yourself if you do. And unlike with that poor, crushed discount store employee, all you have to do is to step out of the herd if you want to avoid the stampede.