The day after American Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday is the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Stores open extra early with deep discounts on dated items and good discounts on many current items. People line-up two or three hours before the doors open to buy the deeply discounted items. When doors open there can be for some box stores a thousand to two-thousand people in line. For the Canadian reader, Black Friday rush is similar to the Boxing Day rush and sales.
This year, one week ago today, a Wal-Mart employee on Long Island was trampled to death. I do not know how widely the story has been covered so let me give a quick synopsis. When the doors open one of the employees who was assigned to the doors was knocked down by the frenzied crowd out to fight each other for the bargain items inside. No one stopped to help him up. No one stopped to guide others around him to allow him to have an opportunity to right himself. Instead, as the employee lay on the floor, the heard kept pushing forward over him to literally trample him to death.
In the coming weeks lawsuits will be filed against Wal-Mart…and rightly so for not giving the proper training and having employees work in pairs. There is some general faulting in the press of the nebulous “hoard” and how shameful that group of people acted. That said, what bothers me the most is that little attention is being given to taken moving beyond the general group.
This group of people, the hoard, are not rabble rousers. They are our neighbors, those we worship with on Sunday, our family and co-workers. They are me. They are you. Our press and our society not willing to acknowledge that reality scars me as it is a failure to recognize the acts to which each of us is capable. In a sense, this event in New York, we see dynamics at play that have put in place the foundation for normal good natured individuals to behave differently in a crowd and thereby engage in destructive acts. It reminds us that within each of us rests selfishness, greed and a mindlessness that can cause us to turn a blind eye to cruelty or to helping one who is need.
It reminds us that when a Good Samaritan is needed most that such a compassionate individual is not as common as we would think. It reminds those who like to think they would be a Good Samaritan and love their neighbor that they may not act that way if they allow themselves to be carried along by the crowd. They too could readily be carried along by their own selfish goals or acquiesce to the hoard mentality.
I like to think I would stop to help, that I would break with the hoard to help my neighbor. Yet this incident causes me to wonder, to look inward and question. I am forced to conclude that the seed of what happened at the Wal-Mart does not rest in the distant “out there” or with the nebulous “them.” Rather, it rests in me…that is sobering to say the least.