Voting with your wallet


Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.

A chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A used to be one of my guilty pleasures.

But since the fast-food chain’s CEO spoke against same-sex marriage last year and the company’s donations to anti-gay groups were revealed, I haven’t spent a dime at any of its restaurants.

The same goes for BP gas stations since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Granted, BP stations are largely independently owned and other oil companies have pretty dismal records themselves. And while the spill took a bite out of its bottom line, BP still reported a net profit of about $2 billion in the second quarter of 2013.

Boycotts also can backfire. In the case of Chick-fil-A, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for a counter boycott that led to long lines at its restaurants in Gainesville and elsewhere.

It’s with these examples in mind, as well as for practical and selfish reasons, that I’m hesitant to participate in a wave of new boycotts. In fact, I’m starting to get boycott fatigue.

The most prominent recent boycott involves George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin and the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said tourism and investment in the Sunshine State should be discouraged until the law is repealed.

While I’m no fan of the “stand your ground” law, boycotting Florida is obviously a little difficult when you live here. A boycott by outsiders might even be counterproductive, hurting minorities working in the state’s vast tourism industry. Yet using economic leverage might be the only way to get Gov. Rick Scott’s attention.

Other recent boycotts, like the Chick-fil-A issue, involve gay rights. Author Orson Scott Card’s ugly advocacy against gay marriage has led to calls to boycott the upcoming movie based on his 1985 book, “Ender’s Game.”

This is where my selfishness comes in. “Ender’s Game” was one of my favorite books growing up, so I’d love to see how it translates to a movie. Besides, boycotting art created by jerks would eliminate a lot of the most interesting books, movies and music out there.

It’s a lot easier to follow sex columnist Dan Savage’s call to boycott Russian vodka in response to that country’s laws and violence against gay citizens. Gay bars across the country have reportedly been pouring out Stoli and other Russian brands.

Will these boycotts be effective? History is filled with examples such as the Montgomery bus boycott that helped lead to social change. That boycott actually caused a real hardship for participants, as opposed to just skipping a particular movie or booze.

So I’ll continue avoiding Chick-fil-A and BP stations, and probably add Russian vodka to the mix. In an era when money rules politics, it makes sense to vote with your wallet.

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