At what point do you start voting with your liver?
This is a question about a local business stepping into the fray of an emotional political debate. This issue has been dissected often and recently. But here’s the good news; the local business is not Target or General Mills. It’s not even Best Buy or any of the usual suspects trotted out when we discuss “Minnesota businesses.” And the question is not the organization’s stepping in, but rather my personal response.
The business is good ole O’Gara’s bar in St. Paul. It seems the beloved local watering hole sponsored a rally in support of the Voter ID Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, an amendment that I personally, and strongly, oppose. Hence, my dilemma.
My initial reaction was simple. “Christ, now I can’t go to O’Gara’s anymore.” Never mind that I haven’t been there in more than five years. It still hurt that I had to shun a place that I had once included among my local favorites with owners and staff that I personally liked.
Then I thought: maybe I’m wrong. While we have every right as consumers to vote with our wallets, as someone who often separated the actions of corporations I represented as a corporate communications and marketing executive from the products/services offered, does that make me a hypocrite? Shouldn’t I respect O’Gara’s for bravely supporting the personal values of its owners by doing what it thinks is right for its community? Didn’t I accuse PETA of being out of line when the group called for a boycott of my Microsoft Zoo Tycoon game for sanctioning the capture and imprisonment of wild animals?
Or should I punish O’Gara’s bar – perhaps only in my own mind since, again, five years since I warmed a stool there – for taking a stand on an issue with which I personally disagree?
The question isn’t really of my personal hypocrisy, as I’ve successfully demonstrated that trait often over the years. The greater question is, is it right to support or penalize businesses or their owners for backing an issue or policy they personally support?
While my O’Gara’s quandary may only be a drop in the mug, the issue has much greater implications when you look at the many decisions we make each day involving the patronization of and purchasing from organizations out front on social and political issues. The Koch Brothers Blue Planet gasoline, Yvon Chouinard’s Patagonia gear, Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media films, Jim Rogers Jr.’s Waffle House, etc. Where do we draw the line and how much time and research are we expected to invest when we buy motor oil, soap or soup?
Think I’ll crack a Finnegan’s Irish Amber Ale, which taps 100% of its profits for the stocking of local food shelves, and think about it.