Shopping Bag People, by Martha Thomases
As you read this, the shopping malls are jammed. Many opened in the dark, with special sales to attract the first shoppers. The news programs will have stories about how many people got trampled trying to buy an item marked down a lot, and perhaps a heartwarming piece about a child who buys something for a poor family.
It’s the holidays.
Most of the world’s religions, major and minor, celebrate the passing of the Winter Solstice when the days stop getting darker and the light begins to return. It is a hopeful time. Whatever your traditions, you probably enjoy gathering with family and/or friends, eating and drinking, celebrating the return of the sun.
In the United States for most of the last century, the holidays are also the time to balance the books. Stores that might lose money all year count on the fourth quarter – October through December – to turn a profit. The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed, “Black Friday,” because that’s the day the red ink should stop.
Now, I enjoy getting presents as much (if not more) than the next person. I like to know that someone was thinking about me, and trying to make me happy. I enjoy the feeling that I’m a queen, receiving tribute. I like this enough to want it all year round.
I also enjoy giving gifts. It makes me feel close to those I care about to seek out something they want, or don’t yet know they want. One of the best parts of knitting is that, when you knit something for someone beside yourself, you can imagine your friend using your gift. It’s like spending extra time with your friend.
But I hate the holidays. I hate the decorations that start to appear just after school starts. I hate the commercials that suggest that if my husband really loved me, he’d buy me diamonds or furs or perfume. I hate the suggestion that I have a responsibility to make the holidays perfect for all the children I know by buying them whatever plastic crap has most recently been shipped here from China. I hate the crowds on the sidewalk (but then, I hate that all year round).
I hate the politicizing of Christmas by the right wing, the suggestion that a person who says “Happy Holidays” is being politically correct instead of considerate. I hate Christmas being a national holiday when it celebrates the alleged birth of Jesus, and I hate the attempt to make Hanukkah, a relatively minor holiday, its equal. If I were Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist or pagan, I’d be even more irked.
Now, I don’t hate the holidays as much as Denny O’Neil. Denny usually starts hating them in May or June, because for years he had to write Christmas stories for Superman, Batman or Spider-Man that far in advance. He hates the holidays as one can only hate them with a six-month head-start.
“But Martha,” you say. “What about the spirit of the season? What about peace on earth, good will towards men? Isn’t that what this time is really about?”
No, it’s not. If it were, people would try to do something about it and we would have peace and good will. Instead, we have decorations and credit card debt.
I’m not shopping at a mall this weekend. I’m at Mid-Ohio Con, my first time there, and I’m meeting people who share my love of comics, some of whom are old friends and some I haven’t met yet. Good comics celebrate the possible, tell stories about anything the creative team can imagine.
Let’s imagine better days ahead.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of ComicMix, thinks Alan Moore graphic novels are excellent gifts.