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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The controversy over 'controversy'

I run hot and cold over Wal-mart. One the one hand, some of their business practices and the ways the corporate giant treats employees are loathsome. On the other hand ... well, I'm cheap and just can't find the 50-pound bags of dog food the three four-legged family members consume cheaper anywhere else. In the end, I compromise, grit my teeth and put some hard-earned cash into the Walton family's fortunes, but draw the line at buying the cheaply made, non-union clothes and other items there.

Then a few months ago I had a reason not to drive 20 miles or so to shop at a Wal-Mart where I was unlikely to run into my fellow liberal friends. This summer Wal-Mart paid $25,000 to become a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. It also donated $60,000 to Out and Equal, which promotes gay-rights advances in the workplace. Likewise, it didn't balk at carrying the film "Brokeback Mountain" when it was released.

Of course the fundies went ballistic over Wal-Mart's business decision not to exclude that disposable income the LGBT community is supposed to have, but I was happy to have a reason to be an out-of-the-closet Wal-Mart shopper.

But now I'm about to go back into the Wal-Mart closet so deeply that I won't be doing any Christmas shopping there.

The reason? Wal-Mart caved in to demands from the rabid mouth-breathers at the American Family Association over the companies tenuous ties with the gay community. According to an Associated Press article:

A conservative group that had called on supporters to boycott Wal-Mart's post-Thanksgiving day sales to protest the retailer's support of gay-rights groups withdrew its objections Tuesday, saying the company had agreed to stay away from controversial causes.

The American Family Association, which had been asking supporters to stay away from Wal-Mart on Friday and Saturday — two of the busiest shopping days of the year — said it was pleased by a statement the company issued Tuesday.

While stressing its commitment to diversity and equality, Wal-Mart said in its statement that it "will not make corporate contributions to support or oppose highly controversial issues unless they directly relate to our ability to serve our customers."

So let's see if I've got this right ... marketing to the LGBT community is a "controversial issue," but caving in to organized hate groups like AFA isn't?

Excuse me, Wal-Mart, but what the fuck are you thinking? Are the tattered dollars spent by the extremist religious fringe somehow greener than the dollars spent by gays and lesbians? Is the issue of right-wing groups who want to deny rights to others somehow less controversial than the issue of a group working to overcome its second-class status?

The article goes on to quote a fun-D'uh-Mental-ist (emphasis on the "mental" part) zealot from Operation Save America - a second group that has not yet called off its Wal-Mart boycott:

[S]ome conservative activists depicted Wal-Mart's engagement as endorsement of same-sex marriage and a pledge to give gay-owned businesses preferential treatment — assertions Wal-Mart denied in its statement Tuesday.

Conservative leaders had viewed Wal-Mart's actions as a betrayal of its own traditions, which have included efforts to weed out magazines with racy covers and CDs with explicit lyrics.

"This has been Christian families' favorite store — and now they're giving in, sliding down the slippery slope so many other corporations have gone down," said the Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America.

"They're all being extorted by the radical homosexual agenda," Benham said.

Yeah, right, Flipper. And your group's efforts aren't extortion? Take another sip of your Jesus juice, you Bible-thumpin' cretin.

Personally, I've had it with organizations like Wal-Mart who seem to think that the only "values" are those expounded by radical groups like AFA and Operation Save America.

I'm urging everyone I know to take a few minutes and call WalMart and let them know that your values prohibit you from doing business with any company which has its policies controlled by some fringe right-wing "religious" organization. Point out that AFA is now dictating a company policy defining a "controversial" issue for them.

Ask them how a company that claims to be committed to diversity in the workplace would stand there and listen to religious bigot customers and employees degrade another group of customers and employees, and then claim to make a blanket policy from such "concern." Then ask them why they are giving money to the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army, when both organizations go against the very diversity principles and avoidance of controversy that their "new" policy establishes.

Here is their contact number: 1-800-925-6278. It's time this company heard from someone besides the American Family Association and the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals in the religious reich.