Memorial Day, a day of remembrance in the US for fallen soldiers, is also a day of shopping for many Americans—at least, according to TIME magazine it is. The social media data in the article suggest that most people were more excited about shopping this past Memorial Day weekend than they have been in years.
Many of the articles and media segments I saw this year were aimed at women and the purchasing of clothing. If you live in the United States, you already know that our consumer culture runs deep: Christmas is when its most obvious in its ludicrousness, with people tripping over each other after Thanksgiving to buy a Tickle-Me Elmo doll or find the best deal at Wal-Mart, but Memorial Day isn’t far behind. Whether it is TV commercials, shows with product placements (or not-very-well-disguised ads scripted into many of them), or celebrity gossip magazines, consumer culture does not seem to be halting any time soon.
Hope, however, is out there: websites like buynothingchristmas.org, Reverend Billy and his film What Would Jesus Buy?, and the Simple Living Institute all advocate more simplicity, fewer material possessions, and less shopping. The advertisements for Memorial Day Sales, however, still manage to depress me. Not because I think we should all be sitting around sulking, but in US culture, a holiday usually includes something shiny and new. That might be exciting for a few moments, but where are the peace rallies, the tree plantings? They’re out there, but where is the coverage?
I don’t expect Good Morning America to do a complete 180 and feature money-free events happening on Memorial Day, skipping Ann Taylor dress sales altogether, but when consumerism is on the rise, the environment often suffers, and it is the media’s job to cover that. We have been creating a temporary, pop-up economy. And besides the earthly destruction it brings, it doesn’t make us any happier. Statistically, depression is on the rise. Consumerism works to fill empty voids with air, making us think we need more and more stuff in a never-ending cycle. Memorial Day (and other holidays) can be about much more, creating memories that people are able to have forever—unlike that new coffee maker that simply replaces your old, albeit not-in-the-best-shape-but-still-works one.
I am not saying that we should darn all of our old socks instead of buying new ones (although you could!). But shopping just to shop, and buying new shoes that make your butt tighter just because Kim Kardashian says you should, isn’t the answer either. Memorial Day Sales may seem harmless on the surface, like a girl jumping in the air on a sunny day in a JC Penney’s ad, but on a day of remembrance, maybe we should find another way to celebrate.