Sunday, February 5, 2017

Quicksand

Last fall, Mom and I were shopping in Nordstrom for some comfortable shoes. It was the fall sale and the discounted prices encouraged us to help the economy. Just a little.

I found a fabulous pair of black patent leather slip-ons. The perfect shoe for teaching. The brand was Ivanka Trump. "If I don't vote for Trump and he wins," I joked with Mom, "at least I supported the family business."

The election got even more heated and then the man-child Trump was busted for his locker room/bus talk. The nation was stunned. I still wore my Ivanka Trump shoes. My black shoes and the president elect's behavior were unrelated.

Today was the first time I'd paid attention to a ban on all things Trump, including all of Ivanka's products. Two spirited women felt it was their duty to ruin Ivanka's business, and their efforts are paying off.  Nordstroms has discontinued and discounted the remaining Ivanka Trump line. Nordstroms has announced they are not making a political statement, but acting on the poor performance of Ivanka's merchandise.

The organizers of the Trump ban are proud of their accomplishment.  I even admire their tenacity. Yet, I think of what their passion, their organization, their power, might be doing for the good of the country. Instead of tearing down, what could they be building? Couldn't they have pestered Ivanka to instead donate 1% of her profits for the benefit of floundering schools? To pay for reading tutors in elementary schools? Establish a scholarship fund for needy students?

Protests over the immigration ban are inspiring us to be aware of the marginalization of people. Lawyers are offering pro bono work to help. Photographer Nuccio DeNuzzo's photograph of two children on their father's shoulders, one, the son of a rabbi with his yarmulke, and the other, the daughter of a Muslim in her hijab,  offers a solution to making the world a better place.

Protest has the power to edify.

Yet, protest could become the quicksand of America. Window breaking at Berkley. Shoving and obscenities at NYU. Freedom of speech denial.

And now, a call to boycott over 25 retail stores for carrying Ivanka's shoes, handbags, and clothing. And another call to boycott LL Bean because a board member raised money for the Trump election. And another board member of a different company for the same reason.

That which we claim to value most--freedom--the right to support and vote for whomever we want, the right to shop and purchase, is causing a backlash. A national call to blackmail people who acted under the auspices of the freedom of speech, those who took for granted they could live by the dictates of their own conscious--it is reprehensible to boycott and penalize their business interests. To publicly humiliate and demand retribution from people who believe differently, is a sure way to kill what's best about America.

The slow steps to alienation and extermination in 1940's France began with a census: a list of names and addresses~~today it's a website with names, phone numbers and emails to protest against. The second step required exclusion from state service~~today it's a call to exclude errant voters and the first family from the free market. Diatribes in the press, once forbidden were repealed and allowed~~today it's okay to ostracize a person because of his beliefs. Restrictions and boycotting of businesses and services came next: a citizen was forbidden to visit his Jewish doctor or shop at the Jewish grocery~~the very point of the boycott campaign today. At this point, good people who should have stood in their defense, were cowered by fear and remained hidden behind the windows as they watched their Jewish neighbors being carted away. Today, that same power makes us cowards, makes a national department store change its policies.

The intentions of the French were not to exterminate the Jews but to remove their influence from the body politic, but thousands of French Jewish citizens were sent to prison, deported and died. The intentions of the boycotters are not to exterminate Ivanka Trump and the republicans who supported Trump, but instead to exterminate their livelihoods because of that precious freedom for which we stand: the right to support and vote for whom we choose.

I doubt the self-proclaimed tolerant are even aware of the intolerance.

May her product rest in peace.