Throughout my adult life (starting in the 1980s — yes, I’m THAT old), I’ve been aware of, and occasionally participated in, both boycotts and “buycotts” for political reasons.
Boycott: You don’t like a business’s political affiliations, or that business’s actions conflict with your own political ideas. So you choose to not buy from or sell to that business, and probably tell others why they shouldn’t either.
Buycott: You don’t like the people boycotting a business whose political affiliations or actions match well with your own ideas, so you go out of your way to buy from or sell to that business, and probably tell others why they should, too.
Nothing wrong with any of that in principle.
But over the last decade or so, the boycott/buycott trend feels (to me, anyway) like it’s escalated in velocity and volume. Everything’s political, all the time, and more and more in a “to the barricades!” way than in a “write a letter to the editor!” way.
It’s all so tedious and hard to keep track of lately.
Am I not eating at Chik-fil-A this week because one of their founders donated to a cause I disagree with, or because I just discovered that there’s a position in their corporate hierarchy that has existed for a couple of years and that I don’t like (why is it suddenly important just now)? Or am I going out of my way to eat there because I agree with that cause, or like that position or because they apologized to … someone, for … something?
Am I boycotting Bud Light because a woman I don’t like got a decorated can of the stuff? Or am I buying an extra 12-pack of the nasty stuff because I like that woman or am confused and just don’t know what GOOD beer tastes like?
Am I driving PAST Target on my way to buy a bathing suit because some of theirs come in rainbow colors and have special pockets for me to hide my penis in if I don’t want people to know I have one? Or am I intentionally heading straight TO Target because I want to let my rainbow flag fly and maybe “tuck” my member away? Or am I joining the drive-by crowd because Target “gave in” to the people who hate rainbow colors and like penises or whatever?
Trying to come to grips with such questions gives me the feeling that maybe I’m caring just too darn much about stuff that really isn’t very important in the scheme of things.
And, come to think of it, do I even NEED a chicken sandwich, a case of beer (or beer substitute like Bud Light), or a new bathing suit?
Treating everything as an outrage leaves us perpetually outraged at neighbors we should instead consider having over for dinner, (real) beer, and maybe a swim.
The measure of our humanity isn’t how much we care. It’s the quality of what we choose to care about, and what we do about it.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.