Of Reagan and Rice Cakes

(This is a guest post from a friend of mine named Mandy.  I love how she wrote it, and I absolutely agree with her.  You can also read an edited version of this article here at OregonLive.com)

I have a couple of confessions to make and perhaps confession isn’t really the right word. Unlike a typical confession, I really feel no guilt over these aspects of my life. In fact, I’m really unapologetic about them. Also, for those who know me these items really aren’t a confession. They would come as no surprise to my nearest and dearest. Let’s just call them tidbits then—a little something about myself.

First, I am a conservative. I am proudly a conservative. I love being an American. I love that being an American gives me the right to hold whatever political belief I wish. I was raised this way and have only grown stronger in my convictions as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I recently pinned a Ronald Reagan button to my purse and it is awesome!

I could talk for hours about why I hold to this political philosophy but the intent of this note is not really to discuss, debate, or defend my conservatism. I mention this tidbit about myself mostly to discuss another: I shop at Whole Foods. I was raised to be a Whole Foods shopper. We gave up trans-fats long before all the cool kids did. We try not to eat things made in labs, preferring natural, preservative-free, garbage-free alternatives. Once upon a time these were called “health foods.” Nowadays they are called, “stuff you get at Whole Foods.” When Whole Foods came to our town we discovered that the health foods we were getting from our local grocery could be purchased from Whole foods for much less and normal grocery items such and beans, pastas, and snacks were quite comparable. Sure, if you buy specialty foods, premade meals, imported cheeses, and fancy schmancy wines at Whole Foods one could very well see why some folks call it Whole Paycheck (hardy har har). And there certainly are items that we buy elsewhere (as much as my husband would like for us purchase some of those fancy schmancy wines). But, if one goes for ingredients to cook from scratch and chooses the Whole Foods store brand foods one can shop there in quite an economical fashion. We are infinitely thankful for this store. We can shop in a way that allows us to feed our family the healthful foods we feel are so important for a price that is better than or equal to our other grocery options in the majority of cases. Now, what does all of this have to do with me being a conservative? Absolutely nothing…and completely and totally everything.

When I am at Whole Foods, I’m a bit of an outsider. I’ve gotten dirty looks more than once when I’ve parked my conservative-bumper-stickered-gas guzzler, toting my carbon emitting, population overloading little boys in between a Prius calling upon me to “co-exist” and a Smart Car pleading that I “give peace a chance.” Inside the store are frequent pleas to save the planet with my shopping choices. And while I’m all for caring for this beautiful planet with which God has so blessed us (we recycle excessively, use chemical-free products when available, and compost out the wazoo), I refuse to jump on the “Love Your Mother,” “Green is the New Black” bandwagon. And here’s a confession for you: In the Whole Foods’ bathroom, they ask you to take part in the “One Paper Towel Challenge. “ I use two. I like to use two paper towels. I just do. I’m sorry if someone out there thinks that my use of two paper towels the three times a year I use the Whole Foods bathroom is going to lead to the demise of the planet. I just like to use two! And I like to stick it to the Whole Foods Man.

Ah, yes, the Whole Foods Man—John Mackey. Now we are getting somewhere. John Mackey, as I recently learned while reading a food magazine on vacation, is one business savvy dude. What started as a tiny health food store in Texas has grown to become one of the world’s largest grocery chains. For the years that I have shopped at Whole Foods and even while reading said article about him recently, I assumed that in most ways Mr. Mackey and I have nothing in common. In fact, I still think this is pretty true. Whole Foods under Mr. Mackey as CEO has done plenty of things with which I don’t agree. While I haven’t confirmed to what extent, it is reported that Whole Foods contributes to Planned Parenthood. They take part, of course, in the aforementioned enviro-guilt. And I’m sure if I looked into it I would find other items that bother me. But I continue to shop there because Mr. Mackey has given us a well-run, clean, organized store with helpful, friendly staff and easy, affordable access to the foods I want to feed my family. I have never considered not shopping there because of the philosophies of those in charge, because, quite frankly, I really like Whole Foods. I really like that I have the opportunity to shop at this store. But, I also like that if for some reason Mr. Mackey totally ticked me off, I could choose to stop shopping there.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Mackey and I do happen to a have something in common. His recent op-ed discussing the current healthcare debate I felt was very thoughtful and quite impressive. I was pleasantly surprised to find the he has many of the same feeling that I do. Unfortunately, not everybody liked what he had to say and many folks have decided to boycott Whole Foods. Now, since I haven’t yet decided to turn my back on this store despite our other differences, I don’t think I would be compelled to make this move even had his article been titled, “John Mackey Loves Obamacare and He Thinks You Should Too.” But the awesome part about living in this country is that the boycotters have the freedom to boycott. If they don’t want to shop at Whole Foods for any reason at all, they don’t have to. My current patronage of Whole Foods is in part a protest of my own against the boycotters and I have every right to do that. These freedoms that we have in this country that allows us to have opinions, express those opinions, shop where we want to shop, eat what we want to eat, these freedoms are what make this country great.

But we have a little problem going on these days. In the case of Whole Foods , for example, we have gone beyond people choosing not to shop somewhere to folks calling for the removal of John Mackey as the company’s CEO. It’s sort of funny, isn’t it, that the boycotters can hold the opinion that they don’t want to shop at Whole Foods because they disagree with Mr. Mackey, but Mr. Mackey isn’t allowed to have an opinion on a most important discussion going on in our country. Now, those calling for his resignation argue that he has harmed the company by alienating a key portion of his base. And to that I say, tell them to stop being such babies!! Er, um, no, I mean, to that I say, fine, perhaps he has alienated some of his more liberal customers. But he has added a plethora more who have seen his op-ed and wish to support his business. They are the counter-protesters, the anti-boycotters, and they are, I have been told, coming out in droves. I think once all the numbers are crunched, we will find that Whole Foods wasn’t actually injured by Mr. Mackey and we may even find that business has picked up. After all, if it is now all the typical, filthy-rich conservatives that are shopping in counter-protest the money should be pouring in, right? 😉 One also has to consider the amount of time that has passed since the op-ed was written. I’m not entirely sure a matter of weeks is enough to determine the damage done to the overall business of Whole Foods. And are we actually to believe that those calling for his removal are really worried about Whole Foods’ bottom line?

No, I don’t really think that this is about the bucks. It really comes down to ideology. This isn’t a matter of attempting to remove Mr. Mackey because he hurt the business (the business that he made this successful to begin with, let’s not forget). Rather, it is an attack on Mr. Mackey because he doesn’t tow the liberal line. Nowhere in his op-ed does he say, “And as CEO of Whole Foods I do declare this to be the official statement of Whole Foods.” He spoke as a successful businessman using his well-run employee health plan as an example. He spoke as John Mackey the human being with an opinion. He spoke as John Mackey the American. Last I checked one’s level of success, ones business title, does not exempt one from the same rights as the boycotters or the anti-boycotters. Every citizen has the right to express an opinion just as every citizen has the right to disagree with the opinions of others.

Mr. Mackey is a prime example of the American Dream. He had an idea years ago. He used his talents and resources to make his dream a reality and his reality became a wild success. If success suddenly becomes unraveled because the dreamer has his owns opinions we are no longer America. When success is suddenly determined by whose thugs have the most tug we are no longer America. And if successful men are no longer entitled to an opinion, how can we be sure that we, the lowly protesters will be entitled to our opinions? How long will we be able to make our own decisions? How long will we be able to dream our dreams? Because when that is all gone we are truly no longer America. And I will no longer be me. I am a conservative because I can be. I shop at Whole Foods because I can. I can because I am an American.

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One thought on “Of Reagan and Rice Cakes

  1. Thank you for ridding me of my Target guilt! Recently I was sent an e-mail forward by a well-meaning person of our congregation which detailed gay charities that were sponsored by Target Corporation, and that she does not shop there because of that. I immediately felt guilty, because I had heard of that before, but still shopped at Target anyways, although after that e-mail I tried to make it less often. Now, thanks to Mandy, I will boldly (as in “Sin Boldly,” Old Lutheran style!) take back my Target-loving self. Life’s too short to play by other people’s rules 😉

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