Picture this: thousands upon thousands of people tearing down doors in a panicked frenzy. At the drop of a hat, these people would rip each other to shreds. One man dies amid the battle. The same day, two other men shoot each other to death. Cars infest the streets in bumper-to-bumper traffic. These people have not slept for hours and will stop at nothing to get what they want. This is not a state of emergency, nor is it a war zone. This is the American tradition of Black Friday.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the beginning of retail’s holiday season. This popular day earned its name as the date at which stores move from red into black for the year, a positive economic gain.

The Black Friday weekend, Thursday through Sunday, typically encompasses great deals, heavy traffic, and large crowds. This year Black Friday weekend harbored a Wal-Mart stampede, a Toys “R” Us shooting, and ultimately, the loss of three human lives — all for the sake of a discount.

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), over 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites this Black Friday weekend, almost 30 million more than last year.

The NRF survey showed that shoppers’ average spending over the Black Friday weekend rose 7.2 percent to $372.57, though that was less than the $400-per-person spending the NRF had predicted. According to the survey, 17 percent more shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend than during the same weekend last year.

This year, retailers have been more aggressive with promotions to keep pace with reduced consumer demand — which deteriorated in September and October — and to keep their businesses thriving.

In the midst of an economic recession, is a consumerist-oriented celebration what we really need? Sure, the businesses need it to stay grounded, but whatever happened to the spirit of Thanksgiving and appreciating what you have?

Early on Nov. 28, hundreds of shoppers broke down the door of a Long Island Wal-Mart and subsequently trampled 6-foot-7-inch temporary worker Jdimytai Damour to death.

The New York Times blamed the media for turning innocent middle-class families into consumerist barbarians who push, yell and even arm themselves before heading out to the local toy store.

The Times wrote that regardless of the media’s frustration with the Wal-Mart death, the news media still made “an attempt to indoctrinate consumers into believing that they are what they buy and that they should be serious enough about it to leave the family at home.”

Although consumer culture is far from new, it has increased significantly over the past few decades. It is apparent that every time the holidays roll around, people develop turbulent anxiety about buying the latest Wii or iPhone for their children.

Gone are the days where love was the most important gift. The world we live in is a material one.

Mike Stanfield, chief executive of VSR Financial Services, was quoted in the Guardian stating, “Unfortunately, two-thirds of the American economy is based on the spending of the American consumer. When the consumer pulls back, it’s very hard for the economy to gain much traction.”

We the American people are stuck in a lethal limbo between consumerism and poverty. The point is that although materialism is the driving force behind these devastating deaths, consumerism cannot just magically disappear.

With Christmas looming around the corner, shoppers are already gearing up for what will be an even busier weekend than that of Black Friday: the weekend before Christmas. Keeping this in mind, it is essential that each and every single holiday shopper take a few steps back to see what their holiday insanity has done.

We hope that retailers will learn a valuable lesson from these catastrophes and at least add security to fight back any raging shoppers. Granted, extra money spent on security will never buy back that poor man’s life. Shoppers, please do not ever forget that ‘tis the season to be jolly, merry and mob-free, and we should definitely keep it that way.