Two words for Anthony Hardwick: Buck up.

He’s the Target employee from Omaha who led an online petition drive to stop the retail giant from opening its doors at midnight on Black Friday. Don’t impinge on workers’ Thanksgiving celebrations, he said.

Hardwick’s intentions are good, but when nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed, complaining about work hours is grossly self-indulgent.

Many unemployed workers would love a steady paycheck to stave off a home foreclosure or, in the most desperate cases, to cover the cost of Thanksgiving dinner.

When times were better, retail giants forcing employees to work on treasured family holidays could easily be painted as corporate greed run amok. But today it’s hardly fair to paint merchants as retail Scrooges.

Our nation’s economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession. Businesses that no one ever thought would fail are long gone. Last week Rottlund Homes, a homebuilding giant with Minnesota roots, announced that it, too, was joining the death march.

One of the ironies in the petition drive is that consumer demand is what’s needed to pull the nation out of the doldrums — whether that demand comes at midnight or 8 a.m.

Star Tribune business columnist Eric Wieffering notes that merchants’ decisions to expand Black Friday hours reflect desperation: "The kind that comes when your stock price is treading water, sales and profit are flat, and some of those big boxes seem awfully empty."

Retail spending isn’t what it was before the economy tanked. And merchants fighting to survive are facing stiff competition from online sites that are open 24/7.

Those online outlets will be racking up sales all day Thanksgiving — last year to the tune of $400 million — so who can blame Best Buy or Wal-Mart for opening their doors at all hours to try to attract shoppers to their stores?

More than 190,000 people from around the nation signed Hardwick’s petition to save Thanksgiving for Target workers. But if a worthwhile number of American consumers want to line up in the middle of the night to get a bargain on a flat-screen TV, the retailer would be foolish to lose the sales.

Some Americans reject the rampant materialism of Black Friday. They see it as a distortion of holiday spirit, and they choose to stay home as a way of rejecting the consumer culture.

Others view Black Friday as a second holiday — a time to hit the malls with friends and family in search of the best bargains. They look forward to the frenzied shopping experience and, given the threat posed by the competition, Target and Wal-Mart employees should welcome them with open arms.

Once again this Thanksgiving, Americans are shaken by uncertainty about the country’s financial future. Too many people are out of work, struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Many are lacking health insurance and forgoing staples that in different times were a given.

So please, protesting retail workers, stop whining about having to work holiday hours.

Be grateful to have a job.

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