Consumer Nation

Genuflecting to Our True Leaders

Violence! Massive crowds! Police brutality! Terror! Injuries!

It's not an Occupy protest or another nation demanding freedom from oppression. It's Thanksgiving night at Walmart.

Naturally, Americans can't be dignified and civilized about our obvious consumerism. Every year, we embarrass ourselves by suiting up in sweatpants, sleeping bags and sports-logo ballcaps, and we congregate into unwashed, freezing herds for an opportunity to buy lots of useless crap just because it's on sale.

We're not just buying cheap stuff, we're selling our collective dignity. Yes, I get it, we're a consumer society now. I'm just as guilty as most. But I wish we could exercise our need for things in a way that didn't telegraph to the world that Americans are mouth-breathing zombies who are only willing to unify behind a Cause whenever Best Buy summons us to its blue and yellow cathedral.

I know, I'm being a Debbie Downer all over Black Friday. In this case, however, we need more Debbie Downers. Too few people are shocked by the midnight (or earlier) insanity -- specifically, the participants. Anyone who can review the morning-after photos of crazed, bug-eyed crowds and stampeding violence without being repulsed and overwhelmed with a sense of loathing have totally sold their souls to the consumer gods who thrive on thoughtless gluttony. But if we're still able to muster some shame and embarrassment for our fellow Americans who just had to "do Black Friday," then we might be okay.

What I'm saying here is, yes, we all buy things. We buy things we need and we buy things we don't need. We own lots of stuff, and, in the Tyler Durden sense, too much of our stuff owns us. All I'm asking is that we try to worship with some civility and self-respect.

(Updated for clarity.)