Eugene Cho

being trampled to death on black friday and thoughts about buy nothing day

from NY Daily News

“Black Friday” claimed it’s first victim when an employee at a Walmart store in Long Island, New York was trampled to death right as doors opened.  This is disgusting and I’m feeling sick to my stomach.  I’m not trying to sound righteous here.  People that know me know that I love bargains.  Who doesn’t but what a way to die?  And all this happening in the same time of the global tragedy of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.   

And sadly, even a person being trampled to death by hundreds isn’t going to stop this “cultural expression.”  Look for a big lawsuit and then, business as usual.  I’ve reposted an entry I shared on Sojo last week about Buy Nothing Day.  I want folks to clearly know the entry isn’t coming from the angle of “bash White folks” but rather a call a reflection on privilege – which certainly includes me.  While I support Buy Nothing Day, I also understand the complex nature of our world economics.  Buying Nothing isn’t the answer but I love what the cause stands for: Re-examine our consumption. 

If that’s one of the natural results of the economic downturn, it’s a significant plus.

Here’s the news from NY Dail News:

A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”…

Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk’s life.

I posted this on Sojo last week:

All of you who have a pulse know that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the single most crazy shopping day in the United States.  It is simply called “Black Friday,” and the lines to get into most places are ridunkulous.  And is it just me or does it seem like there’s a lot of posts on the blogosphere recently about Buy Nothing, Make Something, or simply Do Something – so I thought I’d write something.  I got in line on Black Friday once seven years ago to get a digital camera for the church in hopes of saving our church a few dollars and I will NEVER do it again.  Heck, I love the church but not that much. If it was a camera for Jesus, I’d do it, but not for the church.  To give you a glimpse of how crazy things can be, check out this Wal-Mart stampede clip on YouTube from a recent Black Friday.

So, I’ve been a fan of the Buy Nothing Day movement for several years but have had some recent reservations, or at least reflections.  If you don’t know what BND is, it speaks to the issue of OVERCONSUMPTION:

Buy Nothing Day is an informal day of protest against consumerism observed by social activists. In 2007, Buy Nothing Day falls on November 23rd in North America and November 24th internationally. It was founded by Vancouver artist Ted Dave and subsequently promoted by the Canadian Adbusters magazine.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Vancouver in September of 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, which is one of the top 10 busiest shopping days in the United States. Outside of North America, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated on the following Saturday. Despite controversies, Adbusters managed to advertise Buy Nothing Day on CNN, but many other major television networks declined to air their ads. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. Participation now includes more than 65 nations…[from wikipedia]

So in years past, I’ve attempted to do my part — not just on Buy Nothing Day but to simply consume less. I know numerous folks — friends, neighbors, churchgoers, and fellow bloggers that are supporters of Buy Nothing Day.  I get it, support it, and stand with them — sort of.

Why my reservations?  I’m still moved by a conversation I had with a friend a couple years ago that challenged my support for Buy Nothing Day.  This friend who is African-American said some interesting stuff [paraphrasing]:

Buy Nothing Day is basically a thing of and for white folks and comfy middle class and rich folks who have had the privilege of consumption their whole life.  And now, they can afford to start things like Buy Nothing Day.  True, it speaks to the issue of overconsumption, but how much of it is to appease their guilty consciences?  I’m also very skeptical and cynical of Christians who’ve jumped on this bandwagon — the “enlightened evangelicals” who also come from a place of privilege.  Stuff like this sickens me because it has completely no idea about the plight of the poor, low-income folks, and some minorities that are just trying to survive.

The thing that got to me was the story he shared about some of his family and friends from different racial backgrounds who simply need to make many of their major purchases on that day.  Specifically, he shared about his uncle and aunt.  They get in line every year in the frigid cold in the Midwest hours before the retail store opens at 5 or 6 a.m. because it’s the only way they’re able to get their kids the necessary technology gear to keep up.

I’m not dismissing the cause behind Buy Nothing Day, Make Something Day, and [insert cause] Day.  We need to speak to and address this because us Westerners, and particularly Americans [including me], are just plain gluttonous.

But let’s be real here.

Black Friday shopping means different things for different folks. For many of us, it’s a game, a sport, a blog topic, and an event we mark, but for others it’s a matter of necessity.  This is why I have reservations about Buy Nothing Day.  Perhaps the majority of us should sincerely adopt Buy Nothing Day and let those who truly need the “doorbusters” be the first in line — for a change.

Filed under: politics, religion, ,

20 Responses

  1. Carl says:

    It makes me sad that our consumerism is so pervasive that it makes people (rich & poor) find our self-worth in our ability to buy stuff we don’t really need.

  2. Katherine says:

    This portrays a window to our sick state of our society.

  3. Aaron says:

    It is ironic to me that the day set apart to give thanks is followed by a day of gross overconsumption. I have decided not to buy gifts/go shopping today (I can not say buy nothing since I need to get gas)… I am also considering spending about 1/2 of what I did last year on gifts and giving the other 1/2, as this challenge was presented to me.

  4. Wayne says:

    my sentiments exactly. BND is tinged w/ a sort of fashionable elitism that doesn’t understand that this is the one day some folks can actually afford to buy some stuff we privileged enjoy any time of the year. whoever offered that critique of the BND phenom is spot on – and i’m guessing I know who it might be; but it’s easy for us who have “things” to feel smug and self-righteous about buying nothing for only one day a year.

    in the end I know Long Island. I know the folks there. It’s a tragedy but it’s also disingenuous for us to criticize a cultural phenomenon we don’t fully understand in its contexts. My question is if any Long Islanders have even heard of BND? I don’t mind being proved wrong, but I’m willing to wager that most of the BND buzz is coming from a whole lot more affluent towns than (Long Island).

  5. Mike Todd says:

    The first recorded human sacrifice to our deity, the God of Consumerism.

  6. […] And some good thoughts and reflections on the subject from Eugene Cho at Beauty and Depravity […]

  7. Milan says:

    ‘Buy Nothing Day’ strikes me as a pointless tokenistic gesture. Everyone who participates nonetheless uses things they bought on other days. In the end, there is no significant impact, and no meaningful statement made.

  8. danw says:

    I was once reading a book on anabaptists and pacifism, and the author made the comment that “when you are being attacked is not the moment to decide whether or not to be a pacifist.” In other words, being a pacifist isn’t something you do every once in awhile, when the situation calls for it. Instead, if your whole life revolves around peace-making, then when you’re attacked, non-violence will be the only natural response. I think there’s a parallel here. If you’re guilty of over-consumption 364 days out of the year, but choose BND to make some kind of social statement, then it’s worthless. Those who really want to make a difference will already be fighting consumerism and consumption in their lives, in which case BND is a no-brainer; you wouldn’t go shopping that day anyway, because you’d already know it’s more important to be with family or friends, or seeking to be a blessing in the world. Otherwise, it’s a silly token gesture.

    otoh, my choosing to avoid shopping on Black Friday is my way of denying those on Madison Avenue who have created this mess in the first place. Their priorities are perhaps more screwed up than the shoppers – they’re the ones who have created a “you must have more!” culture, convincing us all we’re worthless low-lifes if we don’t buy a new XBox every year for Christmas. Or a car. Or a diamond necklace. So my “protest” has less to do with “the masses” as it is a protest against the marketing machine behind it all.

  9. Maxine says:

    That is so sad. I can’t imagine what that family is going through. Thanks for providing another, sobering, perspective on Black Friday.

  10. diane says:

    I’m just speechless. I feel two types of pain – for the victim and for the killers. We are so self-centered it’s a wonder that any of us will make it out of this era of over consumerism.

  11. Tom says:

    Something to be said for organized public protest as a tool of social transformation, including Christian efforts to make life better for others.

    Milan’s comment may reflect a fairly widespread current American rejection of public protest, though it’s hard to understand why that kind of thinking has taken hold among so many Americans. If you look at the historical record and the current record of public protest in the US and around the world, its pretty impressive as part of a useful tool box for eventually changing hearts and minds.

    No room here, obviously, to go into the details, but if you think back on almost any significant movement for social change in the last hundred years in any part of the world, ‘symbolic’ public protest has played an important role as a part of a larger and varied approach.

    I liked danw’s comment because I think it points in the right direction. If you don’t have a community of people committed to being the change, public protest can often be an empty gesture. My guess is that Milan understands that too but may not know any alternative community like that.

    Movements for social change probably don’t work without some basic conditions.

    Gotta have a coherent and compelling intellectual and moral alternative to whatever you’re trying to change.

    Gotta have dedicated leadership willing to suffer to bring about that change.

    Gotta have networks of ‘alternative communities’ where people can live out the change in loving defiance. Those communities become ‘labs’ where change agents get to experiment with a new way of living since they have to shed the old ways like everybody else.

    When those conditions are in place, public protests can be very effective in reaching new people and spreading the message of change. No matter how individualistic we might be, we’re all moved on some level when we see lots of people taking a public stand, particularly when they’re willing to suffer for it and can back it with well tested experimental examples of a new way of doing things.

    I guess the question is whether Christian communities are in any place to back up public protests against consumerism (and let’s be honest, relatively unchecked current capitalism) like Buy Nothing Day.

    I think some are.

    Are enough Christian communities ready to get into the change mix so that public protest makes sense?

    I don’t know. That seems like a judgment call for Christian leaders leading alternative Christian communities who want a new economics.

  12. VA says:

    This is intolerable. Human decency and regard for life is apparently secondary to the need for consumption and greed. My thoughts and prayer are for the family of this young man. Let us all pray and proclaim a prophetic Word!

  13. CH says:

    Tragic and an unseemly reminder of the depravity of which our society is sometimes capable.

  14. Joe says:

    It seems that, sadly, disgustingly, tragically, this happens every year, somewhere. Something is wrong, very wrong, with this picture.

  15. prfx says:

    I see the words “appalling”, “intolerable”, “disgusting”, “depraved” and “tragic” and I share in the sentiment but not in the shock and outrage. After we finish stuffing our faces we go purchase a bunch of landfill, what else is new? It’s very Pahlaniukian.

    to Mike Todd who commented: “The first recorded human sacrifice to our deity, the God of Consumerism.” This happens almost every year dude. Where have you been?

    and to all the people you brought up Christianity: can you please step out of your indoctrinated, egocentric heads for one second? do you really need to partake in symbolism to establish right and wrong? grow up.



    on a lighter note here’s a joke:
    What does a Christian hipster call their blog?

    (page up for answer)

  16. Michelle says:


  17. ajlouny says:

    It’s crazy how so many people can trample a man and not feel that they are stepping on him…all this for a flippin deal.

  18. brie says:

    ive gone black friday shopping and been in the front but i have yet to push someone over to get at a cheap computer.

  19. CS says:

    A terrible, senseless death….sadly, isn’t the first, won’t be the last, and not just an American phenomenon….

    Ikea’s in Saudi Arabia and England

    Carrefour in China

    Not to mention the hundreds of equally senseless stampede deaths that’ve occurred from the blind, mad zeal over a music band, soccer match, or religious ritual….

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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