Walmart violence exposes materialism

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December 4, 2008

11:47 PM

After waking up from a turkey-and-stuffing-induced coma the day after Thanksgiving and turning on the news, I was disgusted to read the headline “Man Killed in Walmart Bargain Sale Stampede.” I was shocked, appalled and, more importantly, ashamed of our society. As details about the incident emerged, I started wondering how we had gotten to this point. How could people be lined up outside of Walmart at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night waiting to save $10 on a new vacuum cleaner?

Thanksgiving is one of the few days we have kept sacred, in which being with family and giving thanks for our blessings is even more important than a half-price Weber grill. Just think of the absurdity of people stampeding over a fellow human being to buy bargain Christmas presents. Has the true meaning of the holidays been eroded by consumerism?

I don’t mean to sound too bleak, but how many children now associate Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas with chocolate bunnies, football and presents instead of sacrifice, thanks and giving?
At first I felt lost: I felt betrayed by the society that is supposed to be the model of modernity, standing for the greater good and providing liberty and justice for all without discrimination. I returned to campus Monday still trying to make sense of the situation, and I started to find answers. As I walked to my first class I was about 10 steps behind the girl in front of me, and, although it was unnecessary, she held the door open for me. A little later at lunch the pasta guys at the Caf joked with me about how break wasn’t long enough.

Although these events seem relatively insignificant, it reminded me of the warmth that we share here on campus. In our mini-society on campus I don’t know anyone who would even push someone out of the way to get through a door, let alone trample them to secure a bargain. It made me proud of where I am and the people who are in my community here at the College of William and Mary.

When faced with the contrast between our community and the one that trampled the Walmart employee, I believe I found the intrinsic value and lasting purpose of our education here. I believe that our time here is teaching us not only civic responsibility, but also is showing us that life is so much more than forgoing Thanksgiving to secure a bargain on Black Friday.

Being surrounded by fellow students and professors who feel convictions to change things for what they believe is the greater good is such an important benefit to our education that is often overlooked. Whether we are promoting eco-friendly housing, tutoring local underprivileged middle schoolers or building houses in Mexico, the effect is compounded — not only does it directly help others but it promotes the environment of engagement that is an essential part of this campus.

Therefore, I believe it is vital for us to carry this spirit of engagement and ethical understanding past graduation and into the community that we each end up in. If we can prevent atrocities like the Walmart stampede by promoting the type of community that we share on campus, then we have done justice to our College and the ideals that we share.

Michael Taylor is a sophomore at the College.

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