Black Friday 2008 A Tragic Day in America

For years, the light side of media has shown over-exuberant shoppers camping out days before the biggest shopping day of the year in hopes of getting first divs on the best-priced merchandise usually sold at some wee-hour of the morning like 4 a.m. I'm always astonished at the lines wrapped around toy-store buildings and big box stores selling electronics at deep-discounted prices. I admit I have gone into stores to catch a sale from 7 - 9 a.m; but, learned early on that what was advertised had such limited quantities that the sale would often end five minutes after it started; as ambitious shoppers got their hands on the advertised items. I learned that a complete day of rest is far more precious than any sale. But this year, Black Friday had an ominous twist to it that had nothing to do with the color of the economy. I stood in astonishment at learning on the news that a Wal-mart employee had been trampled to death as the doors opened, by determined shoppers on a mission. I was even more dismayed on learning that an altercation, possibly over a toy in a Toys 'R Us, left two people dead after a shooting. I could only shake my head as I asked myself 'What in the world is this world coming to?' Most people were still appreciating their leftover turkey; only to learn that a day that is most often looked at as one where people get to walk off the heavy meal of the day before; was marred by such a futile tragedy. No doubt, lawsuits will cost these companies a lot more money than the pennies they possibly lost offering these mega sales. All of a sudden, Black Friday took on a whole different look. Obviously several families' lives have been permanently altered by events that seem so frivolous in the big scheme of things. I have to admit that the crisis in India that began the day before Thanksgiving only served to make the incidents of Black Friday even gloomier. After all, Americans were among the ones targeted in this terrorist attack on foreign soil. I'm sure in the days and weeks ahead the spirit of the season will grow on me. But for now, it's a time to reflect. It's a time to question how a price-tagged toy is worth the cost of a priceless life? America, get a grip. It's really not about the things. It's about making sure you don't take down another while trying to lift yourself up. It's about trusting that what is yours will be there for you; if it's really yours. Black Friday isn't really about you. It's about retailers and big business staying afloat. You're just a mere by-product. I have to admit. If I had a family member in that group that trampled the Wal-mart employee; I really wouldn't have peace about receiving their gift. I'd have to give it to charity. The sad thought is that most of what was bought during this rush will be returned the day after Christmas, or sooner. I'll get past this grim news in time. But, it's sad to think that an upcoming holiday so built around love and peace is tarnished by such verocious greed and violence.


Trash TV

I'm not writing to argue one's conscience of what's right and what's wrong with television sitcoms, dramas, and in-betweens. But I am writing to state a well-known phrase, "Trash in, trash out." Simply put, if you allow trash into your eyegate, your eargate, or any other gate of your body, it will process in some form in your life. I think back to my younger days and watching a certain, very popular, sitcom and basing my decision for a first-kiss on that fictitious character's decision. She was younger than I and I rationalized that I was overdue for this precious experience. In retrospect that was perhaps the most, or at least, one of the most dumb methods of making a decision I've ever used. With the exception of that moment, I rarely felt burdened by peer-pressure. I always knew what I didn't want, and I knew what it took to not bring forth that essence; but a simple kiss seemed oh so innocent.
Maturity does not make one immune from letting trash in. It has to be a conscious decision of what is right and what is wrong morally. It has to be set in ethical stone that if God said it is wrong; it's wrong. Rationalizing and compromising Truth is the beginning of moral demise. I've zipped through enough TV teen shows to know that the characters are mere lures for vulnerable teens who naively believe that no consequence goes with adult actions. It's not just TV that's a culprit of moral decay in our society. I recently had an opportunity to borrow a copy of the movie "Juno." At it's end I was totally disappointed and a bit vexed that such a tragic life-event as an unplanned teen pregnancy was given a primrose gloss. Somehow the word unplanned should be eliminated; because no adult parent of sane mind ever tells their teen child to plan on making a baby. The fact that the character in this movie was portrayed to not only flippantly find an adoptive family prior to delivery; but an affluent adoptive family, made me shake my head at this more often than not, false depiction of reality. If adoption were such an easy task, desperate young girls wouldn't find a need to abandon their babies at safe drops. The depiction that the guy was still around at the end; and they had returned to being back-to-normal young teenagers with undisturbed lives really annoyed me. Many who've given a child up for adoption know far too well of the void and longing that comes with this loss. Most young girls know that guys rarely stay with them after this act, leaving them to fend for themselves and their child if they choose to have it; which brings me to another problem I had with this movie. There was a scene where she waddled across the school field with her huge faux-belly as though there were no stigma, or shame associated with her predicament. The fact that they failed to show her having to sign her baby away and just lying in bed, cuddling with the guy!, really sent a false message. A guy might show up in the delivery room; but, when the reality of disposable diaper costs and formula costs, and on and on, sets in; they usually fade into society recreating their lives, leaving this nightmare behind. This movie, and other TV shows that depict young people handling adult situations is frustrating because they never show the characters as poor, unemployed young person, struggling to get a G-E-D; often hopping buses with a toddler in tow. These actors are always shown in perfect mode, driving fine cars, living in fine homes, not hurting for a dime. They're most often never shown having a gynecologist tell them they have some incurable STD or worse yet; HIV. The FCC leniency of today resembles nothing like the laws set forth during my growing-up years. Hopefully stiffer laws protecting the ever-so-vulnerable teen generation will be near the top of the list of President-elect Obama's agenda for change. I end by saying to the young and not-so-young alike; allowing trashy mediums of entertainment to cloud your moral center will ultimately result in real-life compromises of the most devastatingly costly and irreversible kind.


The Beauty of Hope

There are few things that can make me smile from deep within my soul. November 4, 2008 will go down in history as one of those occasions. I can honestly say that I wasn't interested in the nail-biting vote-by-vote, state-by-state breakdown of the polls. And unlike the overtly jubilant young who'd voted for the first time, I found myself very subdued as the event transpired. As history was unfolding I simply wouldn't allow myself to be built up for the potential disappointment. As the results started to slowly trickle in, I popped "The Pursuit of Happyness" into the DVD player. I remembered the election of 2000, and going to sleep thinking our new president would be Al Gore, only to wake up and see the media circus discussing "dangling chads." While the movie played, I ate dinner, and basically succeeded at keeping the evening as normal as possible. I reflected on what Senator John McCain had said a few days earlier; that win or lose, he and his family would be alright. With a nearby TV on mute, I enjoyed the movie while waiting for the final word. I truthfully didn't expect anything before midnight (central time); and admittedly was quietly surprised when breaking news scrolled across the screen that McCain had conceded. I realized at this point that no one had anything on Senator Obama, nor his family that could sway the vote of the American people. For a brief moment I, for whatever reason thoughts come up from the depths, remembered how President Clinton was publicly denigrated regarding an issue that had nothing to do with the 5-star job he'd done as Commander-in-Chief for eight years. I realized then that it was a filthy tactic to dissuade the American public from voting for a Democratic candidate. Casting those thoughts aside, I stopped the movie and turned up the volume to listen as Senator McCain showed a side of himself rarely seen during the campaign. His concession speech was perhaps the most eloquent and heartfelt I'd ever heard. I was grateful that he didn't allow his pride to keep the working-class Americans awake into the wee hours of the morning, waiting for a decision that had become apparent. I was thankful that he didn't tarnish the election by disputing the count or claiming injustice at the polls, like a toddler in a toy store not getting his way. He responded with a calm and assuring acceptance, as though he were on a basketball court; just two guys shooting hoops and at the end one says, 'game over; good game'. That was somehow refreshing after a very long and taxing campaign not only for the candidates; but, America as a whole. After he spoke, I returned the TV to mute because I didn't need anyone to critique or spin what he'd said. He was transparently clear. And I remembered his words from an earlier interview. He'd be alright. That was important for Americans to hear; because, on saying that, I knew too, that even if Obama hadn't won; he and his family would ultimately be alright. Candidates aside, it was Main Street, USA that concerned me most. And then the moment came. There they were; indisputably one of the most beautifully handsome families of the world. One could only reflect for a brief moment of God's designing two people who seemed glove-in-hand to each other and His gifting them with two children. I remembered the Bible verse, Gen. 2:24 "And the two shall become one." As the ladies left the stage and President-elect Obama began his speech, I realized that not just America, but the entire world was watching. And in an instant, the moment became as huge as it was. As I listened, I heard a little of Dr. King in his speech and knew he wasn't so young that he didn't know the struggle of black America. I watched as tears flowed around the world at something occurring, that many denied the faith and said could never be. I've heard enough of his life-story to know that he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth and that his spirit is more of empathy, rather than, mere patronizing sympathy, for the common man. I couldn't help but note a sense of sadness in his usually beaming spirit and remembered that he'd lost someone special just mere hours before the election. I couldn't help but see his strength increase at Michelle's sincere embrace of reassurance; and I knew that in time, he'd be alright. I noticed that there were no balloons, nor confetti falling from the ceilings as in elections past; and realized the perfect balance of letting America enjoy this momentous occasion; but, also, in a subtle way, serve as a reminder that their family was in mourning. I went to sleep with a sense of peace that the morning wouldn't start with a frenzy of reporters trying to tarnish this rare moment in history. I know evil still exists; but, I realized in this moment how significantly America has matured since the hate-filled yesteryear of the Civil Rights era. There's a beauty that comes with a hope that is not deferred. I always believed if I lived long enough I'd see an African-American as President of the United States. I can honestly say I truly didn't expect it this soon. But I serve a God of suddenlies; and though caught off guard, am not genuinely surprised. I started this new day, as most other days with a morning walk, a cup of java, and brief reflection. And the day progressed on with its usual agendas; though oddly enough, people around me seemed unruffled by the results of this potentially racially-charged election. The good mornings were the usual kind offered on a cool, crisp, fall morning. That felt good in a strange way; to know that a change so huge had occurred; and, no one seemed any different by it. America has turned a page. She's entered a new chapter. May the beauty of hope continue to live on.