The reports from around the nation suggested the crowds were big, if not entirely profitably satisfying for our retail merchants. Still worse, the predawn rush in a Nassau Co. New York Wal-Mart was so violent that a worker inside the store was trampled to death. Such savagery is not the wholesome side of the fa-la-la season.
As a small-town product, I don't recall a single pre-Christmas season sale (nor, for that matter, a post-season sale. The owner of one of two men's stores in town simply packed up the surplus holiday inventory of shirts, ties, etc., and stashed it in boxes to reappear the following year. And that was during the Great Depression! Still we are asked to believe that America travels on its retail excesses and patriotism requires us to cripple our credit cards with debt.
Don't take my word for it. In one of the most perceptive books that I've read this year, the Boston University historian Andrew J. Bacevich (a conservative who can be as grumpy as I am)
is critical of America's dependency on spending to colonize the world. His thesis in his The Limits of Power is simply that Americans are conditioned to spend their earnings with unchallenged conscience because, as the first President Bush asserted: "The American way of life is not negotiable." Even before that imperious thought, Bacevich leads us to previous free-spenders, citing Ronald Reagan as the "modern prophet of profligacy. The politician who gave moral sanction to the empire of consumption."
So now we are asked to buy Christmas cards with Biblical verses made in China (honest!) as the dollar discount stores knock a dime or two from the stuff they have been selling all year for a cool buck. It's for the cause. If you think so, too, then you ought to do the patriotic thing, as they say, and "shop 'til you drop." I won't, and it's not negotiable.