Let me go ahead and write that this
post will be even more askew from my usual rants and trite
observations. Nothing really surprising although my eventual point
will probably be a little too abstract for most people.
Over a week ago, I had to make a Lowes
run to once again pick up supplies for yard work. As per my usual
habit, I stopped by the place quite early in the morning while on my
way home from work. That way I didn't have to deal with both the
large crowds that frequent the warehouse-style retail stores and and
the locals who I simply do not like. Yes, that latter part is from my
longstanding inability to fit in with the stifling atmosphere that
engulfs anything to do with modern American suburbia. A physiological
deficiency of mine that still drives my wife crazy.
As most already know, the vast majority
of American retail stores of all types start laying out Halloween
merchandise at the end of August. This is mainly so all manufacturers
of Halloween stuff can make as much money as possible off the docile
masses. I could mention the Pavlovian nature of bringing out all the
cheap and crappy trinkets of the various holidays a little earlier
each year, but what would be the point? American consumers are a
nicely tamed and trained bunch who eagerly drool the second the
proper stimulus appears. Whatever the case, as far as my 50-something
mind is concerned, I problem with bringing out all the horror-related
junk while everyone is walking around in sweaty t-shirts and shorts.
I still associate Halloween with far chiller, autumn-like weather
that required people wear long pants and light jackets. Not that my
childhood memories matter since these days in the American South, hot
and humid summer-like weather stays well into October.
Walking into Lowes that morning I
thought I had seen all the possible excesses that could exist when it
comes to what I will call meaningless holiday bling. The
definition of that term being any item whose cost is inverse to the
time it can be displayed. Because just a few steps inside the store
was a sixteen-foot inflatable Grim Reaper. Strangely fascinated by
this Halloween decoration, I had to know how much that thing cost.
The price tag on that item was two-hundred bucks, technically not a
huge amount when you consider the surrounding area was overwhelmingly
comprised of upper middle class white folks who eat that kind of
materialistic crap like Cheerios. Personally, I was hit with a
feeling of disgust so strong I could almost taste bile in my mouth.
From my own point of view, I can see
the use of new smart phones, new computers or kitchen appliances, and
hundreds of other item that could easily be considered “trendy.”
Newer items generally use less power and have increased functions
that, for me, translates into a justifiable reason to blow away
money. But that inflatable Grim Reaper violated some fundamental
principle in me that superseded the idea that everyone has a basic
right to do what they want with their money.
My nonconforming, anti-community
attitude party comes from the fact that I was raised by my
grandparents. They were people whose childhood spanned the worst of
the Great Depression and the austerity demanded by the Second World
War. It's also worth mentioning that for them being born in the
American South during those years also meant a general level of
poverty, that while was much worse for some, was still around
third-world levels for everyone. So they would never for a second
entertained the idea of purchasing something even remotely akin to
that inflatable Grim Reaper. They were type of people who truly had a
credit card for emergencies. Which I know from first hand experience
because while a busted water heater was enough of an emergency to
pull out the credit card, a broken television was most definitely
something that could wait until after payday.
For those reasons I am what could be
called strongly anti-bling. I abhor anything flashy or what I
would consider blatantly wasteful, which the inflatable Grim Reaper
fits perfectly in that category. I've got far better things to do
with two-hundred dollars than blow it on a piece of seasonal holiday
crap that probably won't last three years before it rips or the
blower fails. Truth be told, one of the ongoing issues I have with my
wife is her three separate boxes of decorations for the Christmas
Tree. Each box contains a different style of decorations ranging from
Disney stuff, my favorite, with the other two made up of Victorian
era-style stuff and “Three Kings” items, which I frankly don't
understand. Growing up, we had one box of standard Christmas
decorations that lasted decades.
On a more subtle level, the inflatable
Grim Reaper reeks of a societal decadency that bothers me more than
it should. I live in an area that when a county referendum was
approved calling for a penny increase in sales tax to fund road
improvements, those that pushed for the measure literally received
various forms of physical threats. Yeah, the county roads where I
live are quite bad and while some did eventually get much needed
maintenance, the funding came from the state government. Do I even
need to mention the county tax referendum was massively defeated?
Getting back to my main point, Lowes just didn't throw out boxes of
the inflatable Grim Reaper to its stores nationwide for shits and
giggles. Such corporations know what products sell and what the local
This all leads back to my hate of
suburbia and the people who inhabit it. These are people who piously
attend church and spout the approved orthodoxy but have no real idea
of the teachings of Christ, at least the parts about social justice.
To them, Christ is a Republican who loves capitalism and is highly
suspicious of anyone outside their ethnic group. While there are
exceptions, these suburbanites reside in narrow universe and react
quite harshly to anything outside it that even threatens to disturb
their blissful domain. That mindset makes it hard for any possible
reforms that would correct injustices or prepare for the future. They
have their stuff and to Hell with everyone else.
They more or less live at the top of
the social ladder. Yes, I fully understand it's the billionaires and
multi-millionaires who truly rule over the nation and world. But from
my observations, to suburbanites the ultra rich are even more of an
abstract concept than to the working poor who watch the reality
television that show off their lavish antics. Working poor people
placate their dead end existence by thinking their just one good idea
away from having lunch with the Kardashians.
To the average suburbanite, the future
is nothing but a continuation of their current lifestyle. They live
in comfortable and spacious homes, have unbelievably huge televisions
in their living rooms, and have enough “money” to buy inflatable
Grim Reapers so they can essentially show off to the neighbors that
they play the same bullshit game as everyone else.
The thing that I find darkly humorous
in all this is that if some event or circumstance upsets the
suburbanite apple cart and shits get really bad, I understand enough
about human nature to know that the outwardly pleasant persona of
these people display will evaporate in a second. If the Walmart or
Kroger shelves go empty and the convenience stores run out of gas
they will be eating each other by the end of the week. Then that
would be a perfect time for someone set out their sixteen-foot
inflatable Grim Reaper.