Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Wal Mart Death in All of Us

His name was Jdimytai Damour. He worked security at a Wal Mart on Long Island. He was 34, and now, he is dead, because, well, we need to have our stuff.

I have been haunted by Mr. Damour's death ever since the day it occurred, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when a mass of "Blitz Line" shoppers crushed him under the weight of their greed, lust for consumption, and lack of concern for others. Crushed by our sick culture, one that values material things over souls.

And then, several weeks ago, the LA Times ran a Column One Piece about this event, that got my attention again. I cannot get this out of my mind.
Crowds are a strange thing. They have a psychology all of their own, and it can be a scary thing. But this event at WalMart was, to me, just about the scariest thing I have heard about in our country in a long time. If people are worried about taking God out of our schools, or gay marriage, this event, to me, deserves equal, if not greater attention. I think our souls are sick, not just those WalMart people, but all of us, me included. Let me tell you why.

Our Stuff
The WalMart waiting people had started lining up at 9PM on Thanksgiving night, in order to take advantage of holiday savings. Why did they do this? So they could get a $25 microwave, or a $5 blender, or a flat screen TV for half price. So they lined up ALL NIGHT, in order to save a few dollars.

Here is a novel idea, all those shoppers could have stayed home in bed. Then, they might have arisen late, to enjoy that extra Friday with family, or friends. But they chose to get up early and line up outside WalMart. So they could get more stuff.

Our nation is littered with self storage facilities - places we store our extra stuff. We have so much stuff, we need extra space to store it. A number of years ago, I was attending an investment conference where an executive of one of the largest self storage firms spoke. All of us commercial real estate analysts were interested in what shrewd things he would tell us about this interesting investment opportunity. He got up to speak, and this is essentially the entirety of what he had to say:

"Let's face it, the American people have a lot of extra crap. They come to us, and tell us they need a place to store it. But they also tell us they will be back in a couple of months to pick it up, and move it someplace else. Truth is, they never come back. And we just keep collecting their rent money. Every month. Thank you."

That was probably 20 years ago. We are not any different now, except that we have maybe two or three times as much self storage space.

What We Really Need
It has been said that the Temple of America is....the mall. I think it might be true. And then, perhaps is the self storage facility the graveyard? These are sad and bizarre edifices to our way of life. What have we created here?

The death of
Mr. Damour has left me feeling as if we are a people without meaningful relationships, with broken souls, if you will. We are lost in the midst of our consumption, and we cannot find our way home. We trample those who get in our way.

Mr. Damour is a casualty of our American way of life. He is gone. I will pray for the family that he leaves behind, and hope that in a significant way his death will not have been in vain.

We need to stop all this shopping, all this consuming. We need to revisit our priorities.

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