"Wal-Mart associates are really excited to work that day, it's a pretty high energy day for associates as well." -- an executive V.P. of Walmart, November 2013, responding to protests that Walmart workers are forced to work on Thanksgiving.According to my teacher Harry Orlinsky, of blessed memory, the prophet's words must have been shattering to the smug Israelites who heard them. After hearing him denounce six foreign nations for their sinfulness and transgressions, the self-satisfied audience listening to the eighth century prophet/tree trimmer must have rejoiced in their moral superiority over other peoples. Then come these harsh words:
I can only imagine what the prophet Amos would think of requiring low paid workers to show up on Thanksgiving which is morphing, together with Black Friday, into an increasingly semi-holy day of materialism and worker exploitation that has finally consumed what dregs of compassion we might have once had for people who work hard for a living only to constantly find themselves on the bottom rungs of our society.
Thus says the Lord: For the three transgressions of Israel, for four, I will not revoke it. Because they have sold for silver those whose cause is just, and the needy for a pair of sandals. Ah! You who trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the ground, and make the humble walk a twisted course! (Amos 2:6-7)
Actually, it is not so hard to imagine the prophet standing in the parking lot of a crowded Walmart on Thursday November 28 and declaring:
For the three transgressions of America in 2013, yeah for four, I will not revoke judgment. For insisting that the humble working-class labor forgo a single day of rest and respite in order to increase your already obscene profits, for forcing the working poor to labor for low wages and scant benefits, for punishing your workers for daring to ask for more, for denying them the right to organize to better themselves, for making healthcare unaffordable to many.
For enticing the shrinking middle class into your vast temples of materialism with trinkets and baubles, causing them to literally trample over one another in their eagerness to buy goods with the promise of "deals."
For allowing the few, the very few and well-connected to live in comfort and unimaginable luxury and enjoy the rest and relaxation denied to those who earn for them their wealth.
For creating an economy where the gap between the highest paid executive and the lowest paid worker in the same company has become an unbridgeable gulf.
For crippling our political system to permit only a select few to have a voice and denying the poor and the marginalized the chance to participate.
For all these sins, I will not revoke judgment.
But of course, Amos lived a long time ago, and his voice is barely heard in our day.