Saturday, November 22, 2014

No thanks for the corporate desecration of Thanksgiving

Did you know that many stores are now opening for business on Thanksgiving day? Seems they want to get a jump on the Black Friday shopping frenzy.  Kmart will open for business at 6 a.m. and will stay open for 42 hours.  Why are so many people furious about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day? Because this action strikes at the heart of a a number of growing areas of concern among Americans.  First, it is a decision undoubtedly made by wealthy management to open their stores on a national holiday of Thanksgiving in order to make more profit, coming at the expense of their employees, many of whom are struggling to make a living. It adds salt to the wound of the growing divide between the "haves" and "have nots".  Not only does opening stores on Thanksgiving desecrate this national holiday, it also  fuels a crass capitalism of Christmas; the historically sacred remembrance of the birth of Christ. 

Given the decision to open stores on Thanksgiving, feeding a shopping frenzy, one has to question our nation's values.  Does shopping for good deals trump time set apart for a day of remembrance and thanksgiving with friends and family?  What does it say about the rush to ever increase the onset of Christmas shopping?  Instead of a reverential reflection of a humble birth of someone who came to be a servant to the poorest, and those most in need, we've created shopping events where people literally trample over others in order to get a red hot deal.  How radically different this is compared to the life of Jesus, a prophet that comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. Seems to me Jesus would be standing on the side of low wage employees being forced to work on Thanksgiving.

Clearly the corporate office decision to open stores on Thanksgiving Day also serves as a painful reminder of the growing division of the wealthy few and the masses, including countless thousands among those struggling to make a living at Kmart, Walmart, etc.  Do you think those in upper management that decided their stores should be open on Thanksgiving will be working behind the counter, or rather enjoying Thanksgiving in their well afforded homes with their families?  

The plight of workers in these stores is evidenced when at an Oklahoma Walmart they're having a food drive to keep one another from going hungry (Walmart workers to share reactions to food bins, announce Black Friday protest cities). Consider the fact that the Walton family members, who own Wal-Mart, have wealth equal to the wealth of the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined (Just how wealthy is the Walmart Walton Family?).  The Waltons take in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends, yet many of their workers struggle to afford even such necessities as food and shelter. 

Wondering who these corporate businesses are that will be open on Thanksgiving day?  They include Walmart, Macy's Sears/Kmart, Kohl's, Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic, Target, Staples, JCPenny, ToysRus, Sports Authority, Best Buy and RadioShack. The corporate leadership and direction of these companies is starkly different to stores like Costco, where it was announced: "Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families."

Finally timeless thoughts from Abraham Lincoln, who helped form this national holiday after the civil war, which tore at the fabric of the nation... "And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience ... and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dignified wages

It is pretty sad when workers at Walmart have to put out boxes to collect food for their fellow employees, while the owners, the Waltons, have a combined wealth equal to that of the bottom 42 percent of American households.  Wow, hard to fathom isn't it?

Seems to me a modern day Christmas Carol could be written with the Ghost of Christmas past/present/future visiting the Walton family. In a Forbes article, Walmart health insurance could leave a really sick worker broke, it is noted how thousands of full-time employees could become broke given one serious illness.

You can read more about this sad situation from Moyers and Company, Tax-Dodging Wal-Mart holds another food drive for its impoverished workers.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sidewalks: what a beautiful addition to a city

As someone who walks to work and loves to run and bike, I've come to greatly appreciate sidewalks.  Now, as we are working to become less car centric, the city of Edina, adjacent to the city of Minneapolis, is making plans to add sidewalks.  Not too surprisingly older residents are upset by this proposed change, "Longtime Edina residents 'up in arms' over plan to build more sidewalks." I know that in the past having written in the local newspaper in support of sidewalks in the city of Golden Valley there was a similar negative response by some long time residents.

People may have chosen to live in Edina to have a more secluded life in the suburbs.  However as the Twin Cities have grown dramatically in size they're no longer living in the outer fringes.   I hope that these oppositional citizens soften to this proposed change and get in step with plans to make their city more pedestrian friendly.

An earlier blog of mine, Sidewalks help to build community, also discusses this topic.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

With the weather being cold and snowy, yesterday was a beautiful day to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  What a a wonderful resource this is for our community.  The MIA is free and open to the public.

A view out the second floor window, looking south toward downtown Minneapolis