Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death and Life at Walmart

There's not much to say about the central fact of the Walmart worker trampled to death in a stampede of holiday shoppers other than it is a tragedy.

But there is something to say about the surrounding facts - the mentality and the economic conditions that contribute.

Perhaps the most ironic summation was given by another employee at the Walmart store where it happened. He expressed surprise about the trampling death, because "the deals weren't even that good."

It's easy enough to say that this is a consumer society, and people are crazy for possessions, and must lead pretty empty lives, for cell phones and flat-screen TVs to mean so much.

Beyond the emptiness, though, there is desperation. Probably there were no millionaires in that crowd at Walmart at 5:30 in the morning.

Instead, there were people who don't have enough money for basic things. They stand outside for hours in the dark and cold for brief access to things they can afford.

We have a society where it is common for people to work all day, every day, without earning enough for necessities, much less niceties. Where it is possible to work your whole life and have nothing.

We have a president-elect now who grew up amidst racism and poverty. Let's hope he remembers where he came from in leading us into the future. Better yet, let's be active and make sure he does.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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