Norman Douglas once said “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.” Besides the word “Sale” you might have noticed words like open extended holiday hours, or open 24 hours till Christmas. With the relentless drive to commercialize nearly every holiday our nation’s leaders has set aside to honor and or commemorate, it makes one wonder how much of ourselves we have given up to make a buck?
Holidays were created for a reason. To honor our war heroes, our founding fathers or great presidents, to celebrate the birth of our nation or to simply give thanks for all that we have. Holidays where set aside so families and friends can get together and celebrate these days. Holiday sales are nothing new nor are they unique to the United States. Most were created to take advantage of people being off of from work and able to spend the day shopping. What we are watching unfold today is different story. Today over 70% of Americans are in the service or retail sector and more and more people are being forced to work on these holidays.
Years past, there were “Blue Laws” in effect. Legislative attempts to enact laws based solely on morality, usually that of Christians. Stores that didn’t meet certain criteria were not allowed to be open on Holidays or on days of worship. Some of these laws even predate the American Revolution by nearly hundred years. “In 1677, the General Assembly of East New Jersey banned the “singing of vain songs or tunes” on Sabbath.” was one such law written, sorry Bon Jovi. This of course was a joke and many of these laws are now openly violated, are never enforced and in most cases have been stricken down by the courts.
In the 1970s most retail stores were closed on Sundays and holidays, this ended in by the 1980’s with the exception of Christmas and Thanksgiving. Stores that did open paid their workers double time or time and a half. This however began to give way in the 1990s when only full time employees were given these benefits and with only on a handful of holidays. Today even that has given way to the stores not only being open on holidays but with extended hours no less and the workers are compensated with only their regular hourly wages. Sears and Old Navy are going to open on Thanksgiving Day so now it seems like the entire country is working for that horrible 1-800 lawyer guy that you can call at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Beyond a doubt what amazes me is that the mass media and throngs of people always protest the so called “War on Christmas” yet not a word is spoken about stores being open on holidays or people being forced to work on them. It is truly sad how easily we sell our moral values or easily misplace them.
The really sad part about this is not only are we expected to work during holidays but even during state of emergencies. Blizzard warnings, tropical storm or hurricane warnings are no longer accepted excuses to miss work. After Hurricane Katrina made landfall into New Orleans reports surfaced of people being told to show up for work at hotels, restaurants and other retail establishments even though they were in an area under mandatory evacuation. I personally know of one chain ice-cream store in my area (Coldstone) that would not allow the teenage staff to close till 11pm during a blizzard because it would violate the franchise agreement, even though it violated state law!
What would it take to stop this never ending quest to ensure profits? Do we really have to begin to risk our own lives or the lives of our children to ensure Wall Street earnings? Ultimately this is class warfare. When the lowest paid workers are forced to work holidays, weekends, or even during natural disasters while the shareholders, CEOs, and upper management sit home enjoying their family’s warmth and comfort. When we as a people have little or no regard for the safety or well being of others, when we have passively bestowed approval upon greed even when it endangers our core values as a nation let alone our very own lives, we have surrendered the moral high ground we once held as a nation not to a mighty foe or one superior to ourselves but simply for a quick buck, one buck that we will probably never even get to see.