The world is even more with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
William Wordsworth, 1802

Yeah, what Wordsworth said.

I am saddened by something that just happened in my home county of Lexington — or rather, the way it happened. Doug Ross already alluded to it — approvingly, of course. Therefore it is my duty to demur. Here’s the lowdown:

By Mike Fitts
Published Dec. 8, 2010

Amazon is coming into Lexington County — and the county’s blue laws are going out.

Part of the deal that landed Amazon, announced Tuesday, includes a requirement that the county end the blue laws, which generally restrict shopping before 1:30 p.m. on a Sunday.

Amazon’s distribution center is likely to operate at all hours, seven days per week. According to Lexington County Council Chairman Jim Kinard, to ensure there is no problem with its operations, the company asked that the law be changed.

“These guys apparently had never heard of blue laws,” Kinard said.

Amazon’s request for the deal was one part of the big investment that it is making in Lexington County. The company plans to build a $100 million distribution center in the county’s Saxe Gotha Industrial Park alongside Interstate 26. It is expected to employ 1,249 full-time workers and 2,500 part-time staffers during holiday rush seasons….

First, that’s awesome that the community is getting 1,000 jobs.

It’s not so awesome that something that culturally set the community apart from other, more hurried, communities was set aside willy-nilly, without any sort of community conversation.

Yep, I’ve heard all the arguments against blue laws, and I haven’t heard a good one yet. Count me among those who remembers (way, way long ago, like in the 60s) and misses the times when we truly got a day off on Sunday, a day when no one expected us to engage in the hustle-bustle of the other six days because we couldn’t. (And the biggest canard spread by those who advocated modernity on this is the one about how we can CHOOSE not to run around like headless chickens on Sunday. No, we can’t. If you can do something, the world — the expectations of your family, your neighbors, your employer, everyone — will crowd you into participating on some level. Ours is an interconnected universe. Don’t make me quote John Donne, too.)

Again, I’m glad that the community is getting this shot in the arm. And if I had been in the position of those officials needing to act quickly to make it happen, I might have done the same thing. And I certainly understand Amazon’s unwillingness to get caught in a legal bind.

But I just hate that it had to happen this way, so that the community didn’t get to have a conversation about what it was trading away.

34 thoughts on “The world is even more with us

  1. Herb Brasher

    Yeah, I saw that headline in the paper. Since when do we not get to vote on this issue? Europe has had much better blue laws–actually I guess they are labor union related rather than ‘blue laws– than we do, but the almighty Euro has been eating away on those as well. But Europeans still get more vacation than we do; this country is not family friendly, no matter what anyone says. No time to get sick in, and no way to pay for it if you do.

  2. Herb Brasher

    And though I don’t agree a whole lot with ‘Imagine,’ John Lennon did get part of it right:

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world

    Yeah, just imagine that.

  3. soren

    “I am saddened by something that just happened in my home county of Lexington — or rather, the way it happened.”

    Exactly, I don’t care that they are getting rid of their blue law, I care that Amazon cares and they’re just going to do this whimsically.

  4. Doug Ross

    Here’s a simple argument against blue laws: the first exception you make to the restrictions invalidates the entire law. Okay to buy milk but not a t-shirt? Okay to buy gas but not oil at Wal Mart?

    We won’t even get into the fact that the blue laws are driven by religious beliefs (specific ones that exclude other religions).

    Blue laws aren’t community standards, they are bureaucratic nonsense instituted by busybody moralists.

  5. Doug Ross

    And, really, who in their right mind could justify a law that only is in effect for one day of a week between certain hours.

    Luckily, the majority of us don’t live in a world that wants the government to tell us what to do and when to do it.

  6. Mark Stewart

    The people of Lexington County spoke long ago about the Blue Laws. Hardly anyone wants that impediment.

    If you, or anyone else does, then simply stay home Sundays. Let the rest of us live our lives. The vestiges of the Blue Laws aren’t quaint, they are a sham. They don’t make Lexington a better place than Richland; they just force people to drive to another county. I will be happy to see those silly laws curbed.

    The South will still be the South, don’t fear.

  7. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Check your attribution line–that’s “Wordsworth” not “Wordsmith”…interesting slip.

    I love that poem.

    I do not believe the State should prescribe religious observances–and that’s what it is–Sunday, especially Sunday morning was chosen because it is the Christian day of worship–particularly Protestants–you Catholics have all sorts of alternative worship times, like Saturday evening Masses. Proper labor laws that protect workers from exploitation mean that you no longer have to forbid work on Sunday (else the masters would have just worked ’em all to death.)

  8. Lynn T

    You’re right. I knew that I had encountered a sign of the end times when I returned to South Carolina to find that my nephew had soccer practice on Sunday morning. At one time South Carolina was said to be the only state in which reported church membership exceeded total population. Even that wasn’t enough to prevent Sunday morning soccer practice and Sunday afternoon widget shipping.

  9. bud

    It’s not so awesome that something that culturally set the community apart from other, more hurried, communities was set aside willy-nilly, without any sort of community conversation.

    You’re not serious are you????? No community conversation???? This has been discussed, kicked around, debated, lamented, pined over, etc. for as long as I can remember. It is soooooooo long past time to get rid of this nonsensical piece of idiocy that it’s not even funny. To paraphrase the old song “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone” it’s time to praise God and Amazon that the anachronistic blue laws are finally gone.

  10. tjc27

    While it is nice to be sentimental about our childhood memories, the fact is that prior to blue laws, there were no blue laws, and people worked all the time in the older ‘good old days’. Probably like the time that Wordsworth lived in. And he was probably writing about his memories of some better time in his childhood.

  11. Doug Ross

    All the churches have to do is make worshiping God a more attractive option than shopping on Sunday morning. It’s not difficult for me to stay away from Target until the afternoon.

    Plus we have the added state-wide stupidity that invalidates any local Blue Laws when sales tax revenues within a county reach a particular amount. Our legislators spend so much time on useless activities like this.

  12. bud

    Let me play the devil’s advocate here for just a moment. Last year while I drove to my mom’s house on Christmas morning I took great comfort in the tranquility of a world with very light traffic and huge, empty parking lots. It was peaceful and pleasant. I also am aghast at the new trend toward opening stores on Thanksgiving Day. The few days of relative calm are a welcome relief from the hustle, bustle world that we’ve become so accustomed. So from that perspective I understand Brad’s sentiment towards a bygone era.

    As much as it might be nice to have a quiet day every 7 (although that seems a bit too much) this should not be something legislated, especially since it is clearly a religious infringement. Let’s just try to have a handful of days of peace voluntarily during the year. That should be something welcome by everyone.

  13. Brad

    I typed that long comment while Bud and Doug were posting the ones above it.

    Let me add a big THANK YOU to Bud for understanding my position and eloquently putting in a good word for it, even when he ultimately disagrees. It’s for moments like that that I write a blog, moments when people who disagree demonstrate their understanding of each other’s positions.

    That reminds me: I’m reading Tony Blair’s autobiography now, and last night I was reading a passage that provided a key to Tony’s greatness, that helped understand how he came to create New Labour: His Dad, who had been a Marxist in his youth, grew up to be a Tory. Growing up in a Tory household, Tony came to understand, appreciate and respect the point of view that leads people to such convictions. So he understood the people who had turned to Thatcherism, and was able to speak meaningfully and respectfully to them in leading the country in a new direction. If only Democrats and Republicans in this country would learn to do that.

  14. Brad

    Hah! “Wordsmith!” I love it. And so he was. Thanks for the catch, K. At least I got it right in the first line of my text.

    I got the reaction on this that I expected. It’s been like this my whole adult life. Most people I know — especially the “progressives” — seem incapable of even conceiving why downtime for a community is a good thing.

    Oh, and that’s what we’re talking about here — not some outside force called “the state” (that hyperlibertarian boogeyman) forcing some awful theocratic oppression upon freedom-loving peoples, but a COMMUNITY deciding to order its common, public life a certain way. And it’s hard for me to imagine a more human, civilized, sane thing for a community to decide to do than to say commerce will take a break once a week. I’m with Thomas Cahill, who said in The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, “The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live without such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.”

    Of course, our more secular libertarians REALLY bristle at the mention of God or a god. But here’s the thing about the Judeo-Christian god: According to a key source, one Yeshua of Nazareth, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. And I’m one man who appreciates it.

    And ultimately, the idea makes good, humane sense whether it comes from a god or a religious source or not — as Kathryn and Herb note, the Marxists push the same idea for their own humanistic reasons.

    And I’m sorry, Mark, but you’re failing to understand the way an individual is pulled into such activity whether he wants to be or not. You can’t, in this cash economy, decline to participate without extraordinary pains, and without being positively antisocial. Not everyone is cognizant of the obligations that human relationships place on one. Since I have five children and four grandchildren, I understand how you can’t stay aloof from such activities on a Sunday IF SUCH ACTIVITIES EXIST. A simple example is that one Lynn T raises: Your child wants to play soccer, you want your child to play soccer, but he can’t be on the team if he won’t attend Sunday practice. Of course, that’s not economic activity, but the same dynamic of social expectations applies: Your child has a birthday party after school on Monday, and tells you about it Saturday night or Sunday morning. A gift is obligatory, and work on Monday until long past the time of the party. What do you do? Make your child a social pariah because you PERSONALLY don’t shop on Sunday even though everyone else does? (And don’t give me that answer that time Nazis give, about how the child should have told you ahead of time. Children are children, and these things will happen.)

    Suppose you DO stand on your principles and make your kid show at the party without a present? You have inflicted stress and pain on the child, on the birthday boy or girl, on that kid’s parents and ultimately on yourself, completely wiping out whatever mental health benefit you might have gained from not rushing about on Sunday.

    It only works if the whole community does it, and it’s understood. And the only way to make that happen is for the community to say, “In our community, you may not engage in commerce on this day.”

    While I think Doug’s concept that once you allow one kind of commerce you should allow it all is silly (of COURSE you would make exception for food — even if you’re the pharisaic type, there’s biblical precedent — and you should check out some of the signs I’ve seen in Pennsylvania, such as “No Parking 3:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Thursday“), there’s a broader point in what he says: This barn door opened wide long ago. The Day of Rest is long gone. This feeble, vestigial stump of a day off is pretty much symbolic, of very little consequence. It’s little more than a nod to a more peaceful, saner time.

    And remember, I’m not saying don’t do it. I want this Amazon deal for the community. I just hate to see the decision made this way, without consultation, debate and consensus-building — because vestigial and symbolic though it is, it speaks to the community’s sense of itself.

    And no, Bud, the conversation has not occurred. You and other people loudly griping about it doesn’t count. The kind of conversation I speak of — the kind we have in a representative democracy — involves a thorough airing by all parties and points of view, ending in a vote by duly elected representatives.

  15. Maude Lebowski

    “the biggest canard spread by those who advocated modernity on this is the one about how we can CHOOSE not to run around like headless chickens on Sunday. No, we can’t. If you can do something, the world — the expectations of your family, your neighbors, your employer, everyone — will crowd you into participating on some level.”

    “The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live without such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.”

    Entertainment and business have been wide open on Friday nights and Saturdays for hundreds of years yet plenty of Jews manage to observe Shabbat.

  16. Mark Layman

    I doubt the blue laws could ever have withstood a legal challenge, if anyone had bothered. The mere threat of one ended them in Roanoke about thirty years ago, as I recall.
    But Brad — you’ll always have Chick-fil-A!

  17. Brad

    Yes, they have, by being different, by setting themselves apart, by drawing attention to the difference. And as I said, there’s a certain cost in doing that, ranging from mild social ostracism to the Holocaust.

    But the issue here isn’t whether a determined religious group can courageously carry on its traditions and brave the social and economic consequences. The issue is whether an entire community might make the sane, wise decision that, as a community — Jews, Christians, atheists, everybody — it’s good to take a break from commerce.

    Actually, the point isn’t even that, since we stopped having a day of rest long since. My point was that I hate to see us eliminate even this vestigial nod to the practice so peremptorily.

    Which is a fairly mild and subtle point to be making…

  18. Doug Ross


    Doesn’t it all come down to your belief that people are incapable of choosing NOT to shop? Is the pull really all that strong for you? MUST RESIST BEST BUY! MUST RESIST BEST BUY!

    Some people enjoy shopping. Some people who don’t attend church would enjoy heading to the mall on Sunday morning while others are in church in order to get buy stuff with no crowds.

    And why the exception for food? You know Sunday’s coming every week. If you want everybody to have that blessed rest, why are you forcing all the cooks, waitresses, busboys, etc. to work on that day so that you don’t have to cook a meal?

    Too much of your opinion on this is projecting your values onto society as a whole. You are in the very small minority on the topic and for that reason should just accept it. People in general don’t need a representative democracy to hash out the community standards of who can buy what product on what day of the week. There is no standard.

    I know you don’t do bumper stickers, but if you did, I think it should say “There Oughta Be A Law!”

  19. bud

    Seems to me that Brad is arguing more for a lively debate on the Blue Laws rather than for retaining them. I fail to follow the reasoning. Have we not discussed this ad-naseum for decades? What am I missing? The community has spoken, vigorously and with great clarity. And now the appropriate law making body has finally listened to the all-too obvious arguments in favor of vanquishing an ancient relic of religious tyranny. The time for debate has passed. The time for action is now. It took a huge financial incentive via Amazon to finally bring the issue to a head. The only real question is not why a dialog was not entered into. Rather why the ongoing and overwhelming public sentiment on the issue was not heeded decades ago.

  20. Mark Stewart

    This is just like the issue of raising the cigarette tax; around here some people just have to be dragged forward.

    Bud may understand your yearning for a bygone era, but I don’t. Things have context, and dragging one vestige of another era doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Please, honor your principals – but let the rest of society live their lives as they see fit.

    Despite your protests, I believe that the vast majority have wanted to see these ridiculous rules abolished (but that is different than the idea that people want the feeling of a Sunday of rest to fade away). The rules are nonsense; not the notion of a sabbath. Most people seem to make that distinction, too.

  21. Herb Brasher

    <blockquote<Luckily, the majority of us don’t live in a world that wants the government to tell us what to do and when to do it.

    Next time you get stopped by a highway patrolman for speeding, Doug, try that line on him. I’m sure it will work wonders.

    Some of us would like to have a world in which the government protects the weaker from the ruthlessness of money-grabbers. That’s why Germany traditionally has given its workers a Sunday off, and it had nothing to do with religion.

    Sorry, I seem to be corrupted with the idea that government might have a good function at some point, like protecting weaker people. I had forgotten that government is the author of all evil.

  22. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    tjc27– Wordsworth had a fairly idyllic childhood,and sought to make natural things supernatural and, in general, get back to nature/simpler times–sort of a turn of the 18th/19th century hippie–not a big political type as much as so many other poets of his time….William Blake is the one who really wrote about the horrendous industrial conditions… “dark satanic mills” from Jerusalem– the musical version (music by Hubert Parry) was the piece that had to be sung when someone said “mattress” to Mr. Lambert in Monty Python….”And did those feet, in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green…”

  23. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    @ Doug–yeah, people could plan ahead to make food purchases, much as it is said in Boston among the Irish-Americans that “You gotta get a fifth on the Third for the Fourth (of July)”—liquor stores are closed on the 4th of July in MA, as they are, I believe, still, on Sundays.

  24. Chris

    I remember going back and forth years ago with Brad on this issue. As a GM for Best Buy (which Doug Ross’ “must resist Best Buy” made me laugh a little), I have always had my own struggle with this law. Honestly, as a business person, it will not help business outside of the Christmas season at all. But I have always wished Lexington would suspend the laws for the Christmas season.
    And I think to me, I am actually like Brad….I think the thing I don’t like about this is the way it all went down.
    That Amazon is basically dictating this for an entire county. And a county that last time it went for a vote, opposed changing it. And the last time I got the chance to hear from our council about it, they seemed incredibly opposed to ever changing it, let alone even considering it.

    So it probably is time for it to change, and end years of confusion along Harbison….I just wish it had gone down another way.

    Oh yeah, and I wish they would decide before Dec 23 to give retailers more than a day to change all their plans for one of the biggest days of the year on the 26th!!!! And we definitely don’t need others saying “must resist Best buy”!!

  25. bud

    There is an interesting parallel between the blue law issue and the Civil War. The Neo-Confederates argue, against all logic, that the Civil War was NOT about slavery. The Neo-Blue Lawers argue that the Blue Laws are NOT about religious oppression. Take away slavery and Christian religion from these two issues respectively and the justification for each falls apart. They are both issues related to tyranny. Too bad those who advocate these positions just can’t see it.

  26. tjc27

    I love Chik-Fil-A. Wish they opened on Sundays, but I understand their convictions. Of course, that doesn’t seem to stop them from hiring clean up crews and landscape companies from servicing their facilities on Sundays. I guess that’s different somehow. Less un-holy?

  27. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Amazon is not “dictating” this. They probably had a few sites in mind. One of the sticking points for them in Lexington (which, btw, has the highest employment rate in the state most of the time), was the Blue Laws. For one thing, they feared they would run afoul of them. Lexington decided to remove that obstacle.

    It’s like Boeing deciding to locate here, in one part, reportedly, because we have no labor laws to speak of….they did not dictate that we remain a right-to-work (right-to-be-exploited) state.

    I love the notion of a Sabbath rest day–but my busiest, most stressful day is Sunday— I sing in the Trinity Cathedral Choir, and while I do it for recreation, it is extremely hard work. I am ready for a day of rest after that.

    When I worked in crazy law firms, back before desktop computing became available, a Sunday or holiday (or to a lesser extent evening or Saturday) was just a day when it was harder to get someone to type for you, and you had to call in the code to get the heat or A/C turned on. No way to live.

  28. Burl Burlingame

    Isn’t this Amazon facility a shipping nexus? So the work isn’t being done “locally”. Wouldn’t it have been easier to create a free-trade zone the size of the Amazon plant?

  29. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    There is a free trade zone out by the airport already.

    It may be that Amazon employees were a bit skittish about moving into a theocracy…

  30. Norm Ivey

    I’m no fan of blue laws and was happy when they were abolished in Richland County, even more so when we allowed sales of beer and wine on Sunday.

    Blue laws certainly have a religious origin, but to call them religious oppression is overstating the case. They are an annoyance and inconvenience; just as abolishing them will be for others in the community.

  31. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    It’s not heavy religious oppression, but it reinforces the dominance of Christianity–especially Protestant Christianity, much as City Council’s reluctance to schedule meetings on Wednesday evenings because “that’s church night”–instead scheduling them to conflict with Richland County meetings says where their priorities are.

    ….and I think there should not be these oppressively Christian invocations at City Council meetings either.

  32. Doug Ross

    I wasn’t here in the 60’s but I would imaging the community standards in Lexington probably weren’t too favorable then if your skin color was a few shades too dark.

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