Monday, December 15, 2008

Creating Bedlam

I'm not sure why they started calling it "Black Friday" but the day after Thanksgiving has lived up to its name this year. On November 28th, a Walmart employee died when crazed shoppers burst through the doors of the Long Island store he worked in and trampled him to death in an attempt to be the first to nab the sale priced items for which they had waited in line for hours.

Within hours of that incident, two shoppers were shot dead -- not in a robbery attempt or a high speed chase with police -- but arguing during a scramble for a sale in a Toys-R-Us store in Palm Desert, California.

Happy Holidays! Welcome to the season formerly known as Christmas. How did we get here? Has our society lost its mind? It seems that with regard to the celebration of Christmas the answer is clearly, "yes." As a point of interest ...

In 1247 the sheriff of London, a man named Simon FitzMary founded a priory for the sisters and brethren of the order of the Star of Bethlehem just outside the city walls. It was used, as one of its special purposes, for the housing and entertainment of the bishop and canons of St Mary of Bethlehem, its mother church, and thereby became known as the Priory of St. Mary of Bethlehem.

By 1330, records show that the priory had become a hospital and that by 1403 some of its patients began to remain there permanently. When King Henry VIII later dissolved the Catholic monasteries in Britain, the priory was given to the city of London and, in 1547, officially sanctioned as an insane asylum which soon became infamous for the brutal ill-treatment meted out to the insane and the clamor, commotion, and pandemonium that could be heard emanating from within it. Because the local residents spoke in a dialect that didn't quite live up to the King's English, their cockney pronunciation of Bethlehem came out as "bedlam."

So, in a way that only human beings could contrive, the word we now use to describe lunacy and chaos actually has its source in the name of the city of Jesus' birth: Bethlehem.

Today's news stories simply reflect the sad link we have created for ourselves in turning the birth of Christ into a consumerist marketing frenzy. The lunatics are not only running the asylum, we created it.

A little more on that next time ...

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