NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 18, 2012

No need to legislate 'Black Friday' morals

For a country that claims to embrace “family values,” we have a crazy way of showing it.

Case in point: the clamor to start Black Friday shopping — traditionally the day after Thanksgiving — earlier every year, until it’s no longer Black Friday but Black Thursday. Thanksgiving? Forget it. There’s a sale on big-screen TVs, and that seems to be much more important to many of us.

That said, railing against this —- or legislating against this — is like trying to hold back the tide. If shoppers want to shop, they’ll do it, even if they have to drive across the state border to find a mall that opens on Thanksgiving. And if shoppers are buying, then retailers are going to make darned sure they’re open and selling.

Here in Massachusetts, there’s much hand-wringing this year because stores aren’t allowed to open on Thanksgiving. It’s a vestige of the Colonial blue laws, which regulated morality in what was then a theocracy. Nowadays, we don’t allow the government to tell us when to pray or observe a sabbath, but some of these laws have persisted for other reasons.

A big one is the plight of retail workers, who can’t observe holidays if they’re required to man a cash register. While everyone understands that essential workers, like nurses and police officers, have to be on duty, accommodating eager — or overeager — shoppers fills no such societal need. And while you can feel pretty sure that company executives are home enjoying turkey dinner, their lower-level workers will be denied the same privilege.

Another reason is the desire — one we understand completely — to preserve a vestige of sanity and calm in what can become an all-too-hectic season. It’s the reason we prohibited Sunday openings for so long, a yearning for a day of peace and reflection where we can relax with family or friends or follow our own spiritual paths, far from the siren call of bargain basements and one-day-only sales.

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