Heartfelt sympathies to the family of Jdimytai Damour.

I am absolutely disgusted at the repugnant actions of some of my fellow human beings; how selfishness and greed create such a level of blindness I can’t even begin to comprehend. Black Friday indeed.

Early Friday morning, Jdimytai Damour was trampled to deathtrampled to death – by a stampeding mob of people who apparently couldn’t wait another five minutes to get their hands on cheap goods likely produced in a ethically- and environmentally-questionable manner. How is it that we as human beings can walk over and kill another human being? How can we do it in the name of bringing joy to those we love by having the right gift under the Christmas tree? And, how is it that, when confronted with the monstrosity of what has just occurred, we can callously disregard what has happened because we’re busy and have schedules to keep:

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

And the officials are asking the wrong questions:

“Where were the safety barriers?” said Bruce Both, [Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers] union president. “Where was security? How did store management not see dangerous numbers of customers barreling down on the store in such an unsafe manner? This is not just tragic; it rises to a level of blatant irresponsibility by Wal-Mart.”

Here are the real questions: How can we consider this so-called ritual of Black Friday acceptable? How is it that we continue to consider this idea of releasing all holiday sales, bargains and special merchandise on one day normal, especially with the advertising efforts to whip the consuming public into a frenzy? Why do we allow retailers to bring about the conditions for mass hysteria and mayhem? Are there no laws against raising a mob? Certainly, even the lead investigator, Detective Lt. Michael Fleming, recognizes this was hardly unforeseen:

He called the scene “utter chaos” and said the “crowd was out of control.” As for those who had run over the victim, criminal charges were possible, the lieutenant said. “I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it is not,” he said. “Certainly it was a foreseeable act.”

Events like this only suit to reinforce how I already feel about the lunacy of the entire situation. This whole idea of shopping for obligatory gifts has bothered me for some time, and events like Christmas are particularly quite difficult for me on a moral level. So, if you were thinking about buying me a Christmas present this year and you haven’t yet, please don’t. Donate it to a cause you think is worthy- something that helps the working poor would be really nice.

Better than I have said it

So sometime last week I officially became a “fan of same-sex marriage” on Facebook. It wasn’t too many hours later that I had a message in my inbox about it. It seems that the sender didn’t consider that you don’t have to be gay to support gay marriage.

As someone who was raised in the Christian faith, and who has a minor’s worth of credit hours from university in Bible-related courses, I find it especially abhorrent that Christians would be trying to thwart equal rights to a political freedom. This comes down to the idea of separation of church and state (which is in the best interest of Christians; especially over the long term), and the basic tenet of the Christian faith: Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbour as yourself (which Christ himself said was enough to cover all the other rules we’re supposed to abide by).

I’ve done a fair bit of kicking, screaming, and reasoning with all number of people about the issue, and I must say that Keith Olbermann has really done a fantastic job of leveling with the unreasonable position of the religious fundamentalists:

I have to agree.

Love the Ethicist

I love Randy Cohen’s column in the New York Times, “The Ethicist.” Every week in the NYT Magazine he answers a couple of letters dealing with the sometimes tricky area of morality. I almost always agree with his advice, and this week was particularly impressed with how he took a moment to pull back and look at the bigger picture surrounding a particular falsehood:

Minutes before my first lunch date with a man I met online, he called to cancel because he was hit by a bicycle and was in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. I later called the E.R. to check on him, and a nurse said he was never there. Weeks after that, I heard about another woman with whom he used the same excuse: hit by a bike; in the E.R. Is it dater beware, or is there an obligation to be honest even online? — BETH ROSE FEUERSTEIN, LONG BEACH, N.Y.

While there is scant expectation of integrity in online dating (six feet tall? 35 years old? full head of hair?), the obligation of honesty persists even at JDate or Match.com. As does the duty not to be a goofball: can this guy not simply cancel? Must he concoct so baroque a lie — one so easily exploded? Has he no professional pride?

From my narrow, crackpot’s point of view (my favorite), the real harm here is not to you but to the many tens of thousands of New York City cyclists. This fellow promulgates the canard of the pedestrian-threatening bicycle. Average number of pedestrian deaths attributable to cyclists each year here? About one. (There were 11 between 1996 and 2005.) Yet in 2006 alone, cars killed 156 pedestrians (and 17 bicyclists) in New York City and injured more than 10,000 pedestrians (and more than 2,800 bicyclists) badly enough to be hospitalized.

The still greater tragedy? Some of the dead and wounded might have been men you could date, gents who would not invent ludicrous excuses but would stand you up honestly.

Hear, hear! Thank you for providing a little (and in my narrow, crack-pot opinion much-needed) perspective.