Bird Of A Different Feather

20 09 2012

These are very dangerous times. Social media have made it difficult to say anything without being berated, scorned, boycotted and belittled.

Or praised and feted. It all depends on which side of the issue you stand. Like the recent Chick-Fil-A (CFA) debacle regarding the company’s donations to groups that are anti-gay, as well as statements by the company President, Dan Cathy.

In July of this year, the nation was abuzz about Cathy’s comments about gays and gay marriage. The “A” word…abomination…was used. Lots of people got their feathers stirred up, both pro and con. A CFA Appreciation Day was held on 1st August; a response was staged by the “other side” shortly thereafter.

But now word has leaked that CFA may stop funding anti-gay groups, as well as no longer voice its views on the subject.

While various sources today can neither confirm nor deny if CFA will go through with this, even the possibility of it suggests that flip-flop season may not be over just yet. Can anyone say Susan G. Komen Foundation?

There are numerous issues at play simultaneously, including: (1) boycotting behavior of consumers; (2) free speech, both personal and corporate; (3) the blurring of personal and corporate speech; (4)oh, and sensitive subject matter.

Take boycotting behavior, for example. At what point do a shopper’s and company’s convictions and practices clash so much that they part ways? Or, stated differently, how much are we willing to overlook as shoppers? For example, I have long said that Walmart is the store that everyone hates, but shops there anyway. Never mind low wages, few benefits, mediocre selection and quality, and a store full of Chinese goods. The price is right for many.

And what about when a person speaks on behalf of a company? Sure, one could argue that CFA is private, and can do and say whatever it wants to. But what about the social contract? Do they not have an obligation to serve the public? To recognize that their corporate existence is still through the beneficience of federal, state and local governments? If you have been paying attention lately, you will know that Hobby Lobby is marching to a similar drummer, because they have filed a federal lawsuit protesting their obligations to the forthcoming ACA and coverage for the morning after pill.

I have no problem with individuals holding convictions, as well as acting on them. But even privately-owned companies need to tread carefully. It is hard to reconcile taking money from anyone and everyone, then turning around and condemning some of them. There is much to be said for not wearing your convictions on your sleeve, as well as not making it part of your corporate communication platform.

As for me, I seldom if ever boycott anyone except when I simply do not think I am receiving fair value in return for my dollar. If I were to take my vegetarian practice and try to impose it upon everyone else, I would have few friends (probably only other vegetarians). Nor would I be able to eat out in most places, since nearly every restaurant serves meat products. Could you imagine if I protested every restaurant because they served meat?

Silly.

What it all boils down to is this: a little give and take. I am willing to overlook a lot, but companies must be willing to do the same. Hell, we have to live together. We’re not here long enough to justify squabbling over who is right and who is wrong; instead, let’s figure out how we can all come to the table of diversity. There’s plenty of empty chairs.

Dr “Pecking Order” Gerlich

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