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Remember when boycotts meant something?

Remember when boycotts meant something?

Remember when boycotts meant something?

Dennis Wyatt


POSTED February 22, 2017 9:25 a.m.
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The good old days. That's when you shopped for items based on prices and what they were selling you and not the political views of someone on their board of directors.

Now it seems everyone who is miffed at someone whether they are on the Left, on the Right, in the Middle or simply breathing is targeted by some boycott taking social media by storm.

These aren't your father's political boycotts either. Instead of being well-thought-out and organized efforts such as lettuce and grape boycotts organized by real change agents such as Cesar Chavez, most of the ones popping up today are from folks acting on the spur of the moment hearing someone say something they don't like. So instead of coming up with a campaign to persuade real change, they interrupt their latte sipping at their neighborhood Starbucks, connect into the free wireless and tweet away boycott messages.

If you think the efforts of Chavez and today's easily offended boycotters are the same because both involved trying to inflict financial damage on their targets, guess again.

While Chavez knew financial pain could get attention he along with his followers took great care to educate the public. Their intent wasn't the financial ruin of their targets whether it was a supermarket or growers. After all, they needed jobs. And when they demonstrated they didn't turn violent at the drop of a hat nor did they get in everyone's faces. They were delivering a message not trying to disrupt the lives of everyone else.

Today everyone who dislikes someone's political affiliation, comments, or actions such as dropping clothing lines or goes to the White House becomes an instant target whether it is from the President or those who make it clear they despise the fact Trump is breathing.

One of President Lyndon B. Johnson's - favorite sayings was "come, let us reason together." Political consensus is the antidote for the modern-day political Tower of Babel where everyone is talking at the same time acting as if everything everyone else is saying is in a foreign tongue that they don't understand.

The moral ground they are on is messy at best.

The Seattle City Council this past week voted to cut all ties with Wells Fargo because they are financial backers of the Dakota access pipeline. There is nothing new about activist cities or even states deciding how to invest the public's money not based on the best and safest return but for political reasons.

Seattle is concerned about the environmental damage a pipeline can cause. So did they reach that conclusion after "reasoning" with others that have a different viewpoint or was it simply a knee-jerk reaction to the Trump administration's executive order to the Army Corps of Engineers to give the project the final clearance? There is an argument out there that pipelines are safer than transporting oil by rail that has greater chances of creating environmental disasters via derailments. Data regarding miles covered and the volume of oil moved underscore that from both a safety and environmental standpoint pipelines are lightyears ahead of rail.

Then there is the question why Seattle didn't cut ties with Wells Fargo years ago when they started financing the pipeline long before noon on Jan. 20, 2017 arrived.

To be clear, Seattle's elected officials should feel free to protest whatever they want and how ever they want as long as they do it legally. But if they argue that their boycott per se elevates political discourse they need to wake-up and smell the coffee - Tully's or Starbucks, their choice.
If their goal is to simply inflict damage they are on the right path.
However abandoning somewhat civil political discourse in favor of actions that turn political debate into one-sided affairs where reason is abandoned in favor of approaching every perceived slight as if you're a piranha in a feeding frenzy does nothing to bring anyone together except for people who think exactly like you do.
How scary the times have become in the arena of the free exchange of ideas was underscored by the re-airing of a Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial from 2014 ago during this year's telecast. No one was screaming for a boycott of Coca-Cola three years when the commercial that featured "America the Beautiful" was song in multiple languages - leaving the word "God" intact one might add. Now the commercial is considered an affront to some who oppose federal action - or inaction - on illegal immigrants.

It is a myth that political debate has never been uncivil, and - ironies of all ironies - political incorrect until recent years.

From the dawn of the republic (which is different than a pure democracy if anyone wants to bother to explore the subtle differences), politics has not been a gentleman's - or lady's - game. Go back 150 years or so and the bloodletting that was caused by overly raw personal exchanges ended up at the extreme pinnacle of duels more than a few times. Now it spawns riots, random acts of violence and posting online death threats.

No one is saying tone down the passion. But if your goal is to try and get someone to see part or all of your viewpoint you might try to reason with them in an exchange of ideas, beliefs, and figures and not "debate" exclusively through threats, idle or otherwise.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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