Many times I’d like to be a mouse in the corner as a group of really smart people make really stupid decisions. An example was last week when the corporate brains at Lowes decided to pull its advertising from a harmless television program “All-American Muslim.” I’d have enjoyed eavesdropping on the conversation as they justified caving into the Florida Family Association (FFA), a small fringe group whose track record should have eliminated them from Lowe’s consideration.
I shop at Lowes a lot but Lowes can't have it both ways. Lowes can’t sell out to bigots and sell its products to me. As 2011 comes to an end, we have been presented an opportunity to make a New Year’s resolution. In 2012, let’s take a stand against ignorance and bigotry. People who seek peace on earth and goodwill toward all should shop somewhere other than Lowes.
Lowes stirred this up by pulling their advertising from a reality show on TLC that follows five Muslim families as they live normal lives. It depicts patriotic Americans, who happen to be Muslims, living, working, going to school, celebrating birthdays and weddings. That’s their reality. It’s a reality that offends a group of religious fanatics who want their stereotypes of Muslims to stand alone as the image motivating our relationships with Muslims.
The FFA believes that by depicting Muslims as ordinary Americans, the program “riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” I have good Muslim friends in this community and know the impact of this sort of hateful talk. Shame, shame on Lowes for being a part of it.
Lowes issued a statement regarding the controversy. “We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, across our workforce and our customers, and we’re proud of that longstanding commitment.”
I have just as strong a commitment to Lowes. I spent (as in the past tense) a lot of time and money in their store. But like Lowes whose “strong commitment to diversity and inclusion” wasn’t strong enough to keep it from shouldering up to bigotry, my commitment to Lowes is not strong enough to allow me to spend another dime in their store until they make this right.
Who are these “Christians” who have Lowe’s ear? The Florida Family Association is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a virulently anti-gay, anti-diversity group, whose founder David Caton compared Muslims to snakes, saying the show misleads Americans in the same way as any show that reports snakes are good family pets without describing the venomous ones.
There are many problems with this mess. First, the FFA message that convinced Lowes to join the bigotry is a mirror image of the message of Al Qaeda. They use anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic propaganda to recruit support. Al Qaeda and the Florida Family Association each have agendas based on creating hate and division. Each uses a twisted view of their holy books and mangles religious symbols to advance their cause.
Hate is hate whether advocated by Christians or Muslims. And business is business. We can spend our money with those who share our values or those who share the values of the haters.
The other issue is a concern that should be shared by all Americans. The Florida family Association would like to define America and what it means to be an American. Lowes is willing to allow them to do so. The rest of us should not. Our rights, our freedoms are too precious, too fragile to allow fringe groups to have this much power.
How secure is our freedom of religion in a country that denies it to others? How protected is our right to speak freely in a country where organizations like the FFA can succeed in taking it away from others?
Is it the freedom to stereotype and marginalize others, even Muslims, the cause for which we sent young mean and women to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect?
The Florida Family Association will never understand America and its freedoms but we have a chance to teach Lowes if we take a stand.