Over the last few days, I believe I have offered proactive solutions that would help build a stronger justice movement through organizing around the Target (and Best Buy) donations to Minnesota Forward. While many folks have expressed appreciation and support of the points I have offered in the three blogs that I have posted about the Target Boycott and the Citizens United ruling there are many that have disagreed. Overwhelmingly, people that hold that a boycott is the right strategy have disagreed respectfully and expressed their reasons why they believe that it is a good response. A large few, but still the minority, have had various levels of virulent response from dismissal to outright hostility and shaming tactics. That all comes with the territory.
Over the last few days I have, and other folks have, posted some of my blogs on the Facebook page "Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics." In fact, I wasn't aware of the group until my partner, after posting my initial blog "Why Not to Boycott Target," to the group brought the group to my attention. Since then, I have posted my last three essays to the group, and I have engaged in respectful yet dissenting conversation with several of the members of the group, including the gentleman that founded the group.
Today, I went back to the site and saw that there was a conversation going on around the political donation by Target and its connection to the Citizens United v FEC decision, which I wrote about yesterday. I thought it would be appropriate to post a link to yesterday's essay in the context of the conversation taking place. It was then that I discovered that my right to post links to the site had been revoked by the site administrator.
At first I thought, or hoped, that it was a glitch with the system. So I tried posting the link, instead of within an existing conversation thread, as its own stand alone link. I was, once again, told that I was not allowed to take that action.
For the first time in this dialogue around strategy I shifted from disappointed to very angry.
Restricting or eliminating dissent, quieting opposition, and removing the ability of individuals to participate in community dialogues are tools of the Right and not the Left. Or, better to say, those are tools of the far right fascists and the far left Stalinist/Maoist communists. In community dialogues, where there are feelings and offerings of multiple strategies, as long as the dialogue stays respectful, the community can only come out stronger on the other side of the work to hear, synthesize, and craft a measured and intelligent response or proactive engagement with a justice issue. Utilizing ones personal power to silence someone with whom you disagree for the simple fact that you disagree with that person is shameful.
When I served as the chair of the National Lavender Green Caucus of the Green Party of the United States, there was a member of the caucus that, on a regular basis, posted ridiculous, harmful, and rabid emails to our list serve concerning his belief, and the pseudo-science behind it, that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. As an HIV positive person I was deeply offended. His postings, which also included personal attacks on positive people that held the belief that HIV does, indeed, cause AIDS callws us deluded at best and stupid at worst. Yet, after reprimanding this individual for the tone of his emails and the ad hominem attacks, I took no further action on his ability to participate in dialogues as long as decorum was maintained. Though I HATED the things he was saying, and though I felt viscerally that they were wrong and hurtful, and though I had the power to remove him from the dialogue altogether, I didn't. That is the measure of how committed one is to building community and not directing it. It takes more courage to listen to ideas with which you don't agree then to remove those ideas from the conversation.
In the end, I understand that there are those that feel so strongly about the Steinhafel donation to Minnesota Forward that they are unable or unwilling to consider the collateral damage, strategic damage, and human damage of a boycott. If those same people are unable or unwilling to see this as a PRIME organizing opportunity to build, sustain, and strengthen cross community and multi-issue organizing, then perhaps posting anything to a group occupied by those folks is a fruitless enterprise.
We demand as a community the right to exercise the First Amendment, and, yet, too often we don't apply that right to those around us. Sad sad day.