A Moving Target

I never intended for this blog to be overly political, but it seems that there are often political issues and arguments on my mind when I sit down to write.

I’ve been tempted to write something about the “Mosque” that everyone’s been talking about “at” Ground Zero, but so many people have already said things so eloquently that it seems redundant. So here’s the only thing I want to add: if they want to build the center there, let them. The thing I worry about, though, is that they will build it, LEGALLY, and will then become victims of hate crimes, a la abortion clinics and mosques all across the country. The only thing worse than denying them their right to build would be for them to build the center and live in fear of using it.

It’s been said too many times, but it’s still true: the people who attacked our country were not representative of all Muslims. If we are saying that all religions must answer for their most radical, totally whacko extremists who do horrible, crazy things in the name of religion… then I’m going to go ahead and say the Christian Right has no room to talk.

Okay, on to different things.

I’ve been hearing a lot about boycotting Target recently, which confuses me. Here is my understanding of the situation:

The Supreme Court said that the government can’t ban corporate spending on elections.
Target spent money on an election.
Some people don’t agree with the platform of the candidate Target supported.
Those people are boycotting Target.

The part I’m confused about is which part the boycotters are against. (And I don’t think they’re doing a very good job of making it clear). Is it the fact that Target (a corporation) spent money on an election? Because that’s totally legal right now, according to the Supreme Court. And I imagine that if they had spent money on a candidate that the boycotters supported, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We’d all be too busy shopping at Target, thrilled that they seized the moment and capitalized.

Is it the fact that corporate spending on elections is legal? Because that’s not Target’s fault. Don’t punish them.

Is it the fact that Target supported a candidate whose platform goes against your beliefs? I sort of understand this, but I sort of don’t.

I mean, I understand that you don’t want to give money to a company when you know that money might end up supporting a candidate you disagree with. However, we only know about this particular donation because it was a large gift made through the corporation. What about all the gifts made personally by CEOs and presidents of other businesses we patronize? Isn’t that the same idea? And are we really trying to become a nation of people who only support businesses who support candidates who agree with us? What would that nation look like?

One of my favorite cupcake shops in Portland supports Planned Parenthood, which is a cause I believe in with my whole heart. This endears me to said cupcake shop even more. If one of my Republican friends refused to go there because they supported a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, that would be fine. It’s their choice. But if ANY company that supported ANY organization or non-profit that was remotely controversial (why that children’s hospital instead of the one across town?) ended up experiencing huge backlash, why would companies EVER support these groups? And then what? A collection of non-profits who must survive solely on individual support? And how did those individuals make their money? By collecting paychecks from said companies.

I know for a fact that some of the biggest donors to The Foundation are conservative, and they probably aren’t pro-choice. But what if those people didn’t make gifts to The Foundation anymore because they found out that one of the employees made personal donations to Planned Parenthood? Sure, it’s a tiny fraction… but do you think my $20 occasional purchases at Target are going directly into Tom Emmer‘s pocket?

Maybe I’m being too negative. And honestly, it’s totally possible that I just don’t get it. But it seems like Target didn’t really do anything wrong.

Did I totally miss the point? Please let me know. I’m honestly interested in hearing other opinions on this matter.

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5 Comments

Filed under Bleeding-Heart Liberal

5 responses to “A Moving Target

  1. I guess I find all of this sort of funny because the drama-inducing contribution seems to be somewhere in the $150,000 range, but Target has given $273 million to education, mostly local schools, since 1997. Their most recent payout, according to the Take Charge of Education web page, was 13 million big ones. They give 5% of income to communities – over three million dollars every WEEK. For my elementary school, it makes a huge difference – and they are surely not alone.

    People, people. Stop freaking out over something silly and start picking up some stuff from the new John Derian line (available Sept. 3!)

  2. Thanks for writing this, I think your take on this matter is very similar to mine. The difficulty I have with issues like this is that I don’t really feel like Target is alone is having supported a cause I don’t personally believe in. I just don’t necessarily happen to know about what other companies may have done to deserve my ire. Unless I am willing to examine the policies and then act accordingly for every company I buy from, me boycotting Target would be pointless and maybe even a bit hypocritical.

    Rather than fixating on the outcome of every single dollar (or $150,000) Target spends, I’m more interested in their overall policies. As Emily pointed out, they have some very good ones as well as some missteps. I do try my best to support companies that I know are doing some good in the world, and hopefully even more good than bad. It can be tough to be sure of this position when dealing with giant companies, which is another reason to buy from smaller, local places whenever possible.

    But I do also have to say that I am not that irritated that people have made a big deal over this. In the end, the right to marriage (gay or straight) is not a silly issue – it is a civil rights issue. Do I think boycotting Target will make a difference in Tom Emmer’s politics? No, I don’t. But I do think that people making a stink about this story does at least bring the issue to the front of our minds and hopefully reminds us briefly that we still live in a county that denies civil rights to some of its citizens. Boycotting Target isn’t going to solve that problem, but maybe hearing stories like this will be enough to remind us that it still is a problem that needs solving.

  3. That’s an interesting point, Abby – that this may not be an “appropriate” reaction to what Target did, but the publicity is serving a bigger purpose – bringing more attention to the politics of exclusion that Tom Emmer stands for.

  4. You know, normally, I agree with you and think boycotting corporations is kind of silly, for the reasons you listed above. However, from my reading on the Target thing, I feel a bit differently. It just hits too close to home, for one thing, and for another, it just pisses me off that they’re going to take our gay family’s money and donate it to a place that funnels it to extreme conservative activism.

    Overall, I feel so cynical and feel like I do much too little to affect change in the world, but I have to say, I have no desire to go to Target right now. I know they won’t miss the $20 we occasionally spend there, but if all the gay and gay-supporting people really did stop shopping there, or at other places that are extremely conservative (ie, Curves, etc), then it would make a difference. It just makes me mad that they’re more than happy to take our money and then use it to attempt to influence legislation that limits our rights. Bleck. Anyway, just my two cents.

    Also, just to add one more thing – Target apparently had discussions with the Human Rights Campaign after this whole debacle and eventually declined to make another donation to a more progressive cause to effectively cancel out the controversial first donation. Which just made me further disgusted with them.

  5. Well said, Alayna. I guess I wasn’t thinking about the specific issue in question – I was focusing more on the broad idea of boycotting businesses based on politics. But you’re right. In this case, there could be a good opportunity to stand up for what’s right (and fair and equal) and send a message to those who oppose human rights and equality.

    Also, I knew that HRC was going to ask them to make another donation to “cancel out” this one, but I hadn’t heard that they declined. So I guess when the CEO apologized publicly, he was only sort of sorry, not $150,000 sorry.

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