Paul Jesep

Retailers, especially during the Christmas season, sell wants, not needs.

Target and Wal-mart, despite widespread employee dissatisfaction, are opening so early that the Thanksgiving meal will be severely disrupted for many. Is Black Friday shopping so out of control that it should be legally restricted?

Does it matter if consumers storm stores at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night, or 6 a.m. Friday morning? Retailers, consumers, and lawmakers have ethical issues to consider. What are the ethics in requiring staff, employees, or associates to marginalize their holiday meal with family? What are the ethics in putting consumerism ahead of Thanksgiving? Should government get involved? What should consumers expect of retailers?

Imagine if retailers embraced a new kind of competition by titillating consumers with bargains at 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night with stores opening Friday morning at 6 a.m.

Thanksgiving began in 1621. People survived awful conditions. The bounty from the land was good. Unbeknownst to them, they laid the foundations for a nation. In 1777, George Washington endorsed a Thanksgiving holiday, but it didn’t stop states from picking their own dates. Lincoln formally recognized a Thanksgiving holiday by proclamation. Thanksgiving took on a sacredness due to unity, humility, and community. Franklin D. Roosevelt formalized the day dedicated to thanks when the entire nation came together on the same day.

What does it mean to be a nation? Thanksgiving gives definition to America – the nation of nations. Thanksgiving brings people together regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. On this day, despite all of the differences, the country is united.

Why does America give thanks? It’s not for Black Friday consumerism. Although it’s not been proposed before, it’s time to consider state and federal legislation to put the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving and better recognize blessings and what makes a nation. It’s time to stop the exploitation of men and women in retail who need to be with their families on this sacred American holiday. Target and Wal-mart need to balance profit with respect for employees.

Paul Jesep is an attorney, policy analyst, and author of Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.