A few weeks back I learned a useful phrase in Italian class. Roba da matti, which translates as "crazy stuff", or "what nonsense" was introduced into my vocabulary. It's one of those sayings that can be used in varied situations: in a coffee bar when the patrons are gesticulating and discussing politics trying to draw me into the conversation, I can throw up my hands and say, "roba da matti!". The weather, misbehaving unseasonally, can be described as "roba da matti". Prices in the stores, injustices, and more. I've tucked it away for use when we arrive in Italy.
So yesterday, when I turned on the morning news and saw the coverage of the insanity that is the day after Thanksgiving sales with the accompanying hoardes of fools plowing over one another in their quest for cheap goods, my initial utterance was, "What a bunch of losers," but then I recalled my lessons, threw up my hands and exclaimed, "roba da matti!"
This is one of those phenomena that I will never grasp. What is this all about? Why, why, why, I ask myself every year. There is something seriously demented about these people who will rise at 4:00 a.m. to beat down the doors of a retail store, trample their fellow citizens, punch and claw their way to an item for their children and call it a bargain. Excuse me, but no matter how low the price, the cost is too high. This is teaching kids proper behavior? How to share? How to brook disappointment? Not on your life. And why, I always wonder, must the media cover this with such obvious glee, giving glory to these wack-jobs?
More disturbing, this is done to "celebrate" Christmas. Is such mayhem really a good way to commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace?
Don't get me wrong. We celebrate Christmas and we give gifts as signs of affection and goodwill. But instead of scratching and biting my way into a store, I make purchases throughout the summer and fall when I see an item a loved one would like, or we make hand-crafted gifts, giving a more personal touch. We're certainly not going to clobber other shoppers in pursuit of an inanimate object and call it a "merry Christmas". And, as Christians, we remember that it is a holiday and try to keep the reason for the day in perspective. (Another issue is that Christmas is now too-often thought of as the most significant Christian holiday, but that would, in reality, be Easter.)
Giving gifts goes back to the magi presenting their gifts to Jesus, but how it's evolved into a full-fledged orgy of gluttony is beyond my comprehension. The overly-commercial emphasis and the greed that drives it must surely have Jesus shaking his head, throwing up his hands and saying, "roba da matti!"
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider