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May 26, 2011 |
Suddenly one night last week there was a tidal wave of emails urging us to cancel the June 4 broadcast in Flagstaff in line with a boycott of Arizona ---- I hadn't been aware of any boycott, but evidently there is one ---- by people opposed to the new state law authorizing state troopers to stop the cars of people who appear to be Mexican and asking to see their papers.
The suddenness of the onslaught of mail (from people who were "shocked" or "horrified" or "outraged" by the idea of "A Prairie Home Companion" going to Flagstaff) suggested an organized campaign and many of the letters seemed to have been copied from a form. None of them tried to argue that our cancellation would actually affect real people in some positive way; mostly they were just plain angry righteous letters.
I questioned our decision to do a show in Flagstaff months ago, the day after Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the parking lot in Tucson and I spoke to our friends in public radio in Flagstaff and, while they completely understood my concern, they argued that Flagstaff is a hotbed of moderation, a college town, a very different place. Cancellation of the show would hurt the Flagstaff station financially. It would be a slap in the face. And I think that now is no time for public radio to retreat in the face of extremism. And the Flagstaff station is a loyal friend. So we're going to go.
The law in question strikes me as reminiscent of the old East Germany, but at the moment it is making its way through the courts and isn't affecting anybody.
I did plenty of boycotts back in the day ----- boycotted green grapes, non-union-made clothing, refused to buy a Volkswagen because it was after all a car sponsored by Hitler ----- and I don't mind people urging me to boycott whatever they think needs boycotting, but the bullying tone of the mail we got last week is something I resent deep in my Midwestern soul.
Instead of boycotting Flagstaff, I am going to protest California's inhumane overcrowding of prisons ----- 140,000 inmates in prisons designed to hold 80,000 ----- by boycotting California wines. (I don't drink, but it's the gesture that counts.) I am going to punish Wisconsin for its denial of collective bargaining for teachers by boycotting Harley Davidson. No hog for me. I am going to teach the Japanese a lesson about nuclear power plant safety by avoiding sushi. And show the French how I feel about sexual assault of hotel employees by refusing escargots. Call me a wild-eyed idealist but those are my positions and I am sticking to them. You can make your own decisions. But if I run into a guy on a Harley eating an escargot sushi while drinking a Napa Chardonnay, I am going to give him what for.