Snap Back!

Shopping at my local grocery store a few weeks ago, I noticed a Pride Month banner hanging in the back aisle. “OK,” I thought. Beneath it was some LGBT merchandise. “Fine,” I mused. Gay Americans exist and deserve respect like all others. At a minimum that means letting the market serve their individual tastes. Whatever sells. 

But a couple of weeks later, another Pride Month banner went up. This one was in the front of the store—by the registers. That’s when I decided to say something. 

The important thing is to pick a line—any line, as Tom Sawyer did—because the important question is not where exactly your line is but whether you have one at all. So that night, I fired off an email to the president of the store: 

Do you want Muslims to take their business elsewhere? Would you rather Catholics or orthodox Jews shop at your competitor? 

 This may surprise you, but some people have good reasons to think that trans ideology and homosexual practice should be disfavored. Some people are unsure but skeptical. Some people are in favor of trans ideology and homosexual practice but not because their local grocery store told them so. 

 I’ll make you a deal. If you can tell me what each letter of “LGBTQ+” stands for and what three of the “+s” are, I’ll keep shopping with you. Deal? You won’t even have to tell me why the hell the local grocery store is weighing in on avant-garde sexual politics and what moral authority it claims to do so. 

Otherwise, cut the Pride Month BS. 

 If everyone put off by corporate forays into cultural or political realms scratched their itch with an email or a phone call—something, anything—just as a leftist would do, much of corporate America would become normal again. 

Corporate America is trying to find out how far it can go. It’s not waiting around to see if there will be a withering backlash or whether, by the sheer force of a boycott, it will be pushed back to its 1990s-style neutrality. It wants no such struggle. It’s just looking to see if there will be any backlash. It’s trying to reify a new status quo by implying that, so long as no one complains, everyone must agree.  

So here’s the thing: Just complain. Cancelation is in your mind. Do as the Left does: complain, complain, and complain some more. 

I do not care whether or how my local grocery store responds to my email. I care only that it receives my email and that all of you know that I sent it. Everyone does not agree. Making that clear is the simple point of such exercises. 

But, to effect change is not the sole or even the principal reason to complain. The main reason is your own dignity.  

If you do not voice your dissent in these times it means that you’ve offered your approval. That’s the way it is when you’re dealing with a line-pusher: push back, or you lose your right to complain. And when your approval is extracted from you rather than freely given, your dignity goes along with it. 

Humiliating the dissenters, we often fear, is the point of the broader leftist push. But that’s incomplete. The apotheosis of humiliation is what you do willingly to yourself. And the main point of dissenting—not anonymously or slyly, but right up front, personally, with a bullseye over your face—is to accomplish in that very act the proof of your dignity. 

You need not start, finish, or win any argument. You need not justify yourself at all. You need only say, “I dissent.” 

The next time I drive past that grocery store, it could be painted in a rainbow. It could be crowned with a 50-foot-high neon sign flashing “gay!” And I’d still be the winner. My one email means that not one shade in that blast of color would represent that to which I consent. The humiliation is then reversed. 

What is the corporation doing to itself? How is the corporation’s approval extracted? “What are we doing?” After the 300th email and the 30th phone call, these are the questions its executives will ask their tired faces in the mirror at day’s end. 

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About Sean Ross Callaghan

Sean Ross Callaghan is an attorney and a former law clerk for a U.S. District Court judge. He served in the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, and in the D.C. Attorney General’s office as an Assistant Attorney General. He is currently a tech entrepreneur. Follow him on Twitter @seanrcallaghan.

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