Hey, we always knew it was a matter of time before pepper spraying really caught on among the general public. I mean, if a policeman can just ‘casually walk down a line of students sitting down and not doing anything violent and pepper spray them — basically spraying them because he didn’t like them — why can’t citizens do the same?
How long is it before citizens pepper spray each other at the workplace or relatives angrily arguing politics at the Thanksgiving table pepperspray each other (and if none is available just use regular pepper)?
How long before “Black Friday” came to signify the “black” in “pepper” and before a shopper who doesn’t like to be pushed and/or who wants to beat other shoppers to a limited bargain uses pepper spray for competitive shopping?
As of today the answer to the two questions in the paragraph above is: we are there NOW:
Matthew Lopez went to the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch on Thursday night for the Black Friday sale but instead was caught in a pepper-spray attack by a woman who authorities said was “competitive shopping.”
Lopez described a chaotic scene in the San Fernando Valley store among shoppers looking for video games soon after the sale began.
“I heard screaming and I heard yelling,” said Lopez, 18. “Moments later, my throat stung. I was coughing really bad and watering up.”
Lopez said customers were already in the store when a whistle signaled the start of the Black Friday sale at 10 p.m., sending shoppers hurtling in search of deeply discounted items.
Lopez said that by the time he arrived at the video games, the display had been torn down. Employees attempted to hold back the scrum of shoppers and pick up merchandise even as customers trampled the video games and DVDs strewn on the floor.
“It was absolutely crazy,” he said.
Another customer said screams erupted after about 100 people waiting in line to snag Xbox gaming consoles and Wii video games got into a shoving match.
TMV coblogger Prairie Weather’s blog looks at this incident and asks “Are You an Effective Consumer?”
I’m not really on-board with the anti-consumerist movement to delegitimize Black Friday. If people want to do that, I’m fine with it, but it’s not part of my political agenda. Yet, this story demonstrates just how stupid our society has become. Even without the pepper spray, the behavior of this crowd was disgraceful. They were fighting over video game consoles. People were fighting for the right to more effectively anesthetize their kids. Children don’t need better video game consoles. They need a clue. You want to compete with Indian kids and Chinese kids? Read a book. You want your kids to know something? Take them to a national park. Give them musical or language lessons. Teach them to swim. Get them involved in athletics or art.
When you are pepper-spraying people in order to get a video game console, your priorities are screwed up and your kids are doomed.
About 20 people were on the receiving end in all; parts of the Wal-Mart had to be cleared, but the life-giving cycle of consumption was never fully interrupted. “I don’t care. I’m still getting my TV. I’ve never seen Wal-Mart so crazy, but I guess it could have been worse,” Nakeasha Contreras told the Los Angeles Times.
And indeed it could have been. Back east, “gunfire erupted at a North Carolina mall as holiday shoppers gathered.” (As holiday shoppers gathered… at 2 a.m., natch.) No one was hurt, and neither of the shooters has been identified (one apparently escaped into the mall). It’s unclear how the shooting is Black Friday-related, except in the general sense that the world has gone completely, utterly mad, and there is no way to stop it.
And so American society takes another step down in the rung of the coarsening of America. Things once considered brutal, bad manners, unthinkable, or way outside the mainstream surface — and are news And then, later, there are more and more copycat events. Until it’s no longer news.
Any day now I’m expecting my male cat to pepper spray the female cat when they race to use the litterbox.
FOOTNOTE: I wrote this and my computer pepper sprayed me. It’s going back to Best Buy NOW!
Photo via shutterstock.com
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.