Liora is an international political activist and photographer based in Tucson, who was outraged by George Takei's open letter "Razing Arizona" in which he promises to boycott the state if the "Turn Away the Gay" SB1062 bill is passed. Liora responded to Takei's rash generalization of Arizona and Arizonans and was met with much opposition online for her controversial viewpoint. She's here today to expound on why boycotting is NOT the answer, and to also offer suggestions for a more effective way to take a stand.
Do you see that picture?
That one, right up there.
I call that the face-palmy-brain-deadend-
Let's talk about Arizona for a minute, and more specifically, let's talk about what it means to boycott an entire state for a decision made by its legislature.
One of the things America prides itself on is the whole government "by the people and for the people" thing. It's supposed to mean: You elect by popular vote these people who represent the majority of people in your state/country, and trust them to make decisions on your behalf.
It doesn't mean that everyone votes for the same people, or that as soon as the election is over everyone magically agrees on the positions that their elected officials take. It doesn't mean that extremely powerful lobbies with extremely powerful money don't affect how our legislature acts. It doesn't mean that people like Cathy Herrod don't exist, or that she and people like her don't have extremely dangerous influence.
It's also foolish and blind to pretend that there isn't a resistance movement, or that there hasn't been for a long time. People in states that attempt to pass legislation like what was passed (but not yet signed) in AZ are constantly pushing back. I mean, do we not remember what happened in Texas only recently (to give ONE example of many)?
It was an obvious thought in everyone's mind to boycott. It's a quick-thinking solve-all to not give any sort of financial aid to things/people who endanger the lives of other people and promote ideals/policies that are morally reprehensible. Many people cited reasons to boycott, among which were to "teach Arizonan's not to elect bigots", or because they felt "it will encourage you to fight back," and because, "boycotting is a powerful weapon because only if something impacts lots of average people will anything get changed", and because " if the "leaders" in AZ continue w their own personal agendas, a boycott of your state is prob the only thing that will work".
Besides the obvious pretending that there is no Arizonan resistance and never has been, what I find most offensive about the boycott response is that allies and activists in the civil rights movement are so quick to abandon their kinsmen who find themselves (for many reasons) in the hardest of conditions. The LGBTQQI community isn't the only community at risk here - it's women and people of color, too (to name a few). It seemed so easy for so many people, members of the activist community, to simply disown us and chalk us up to collateral damage. To, instead of helping us in our seemingly endless struggle for our own civil rights and those of our neighbors, assume that we and powerful lobbyists backed by millions of conservative dollars, are equally responsible. To charge us with guilt by association leaves us struggling for money to keep ourselves together BUT with the additional challenge to continue to take on those who have exponentially more resources (from inside AND ESPECIALLY outside our borders) is to leave us nearly powerless. Arizonans will band together (again) and fight (again), but we will be hurt. And we will be less powerful without our allies.
I would also like to address a popular verse: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
As an Atheist who doesn't live a biblical life, even I can find truth here.
It's a well known fact that more and more companies are politicizing, donating to and promoting causes that align with their values (more often religious), and pushing cases through the courts to try and make their personal values into law. We cannot be certain that services we buy and businesses we patronize did not push this, and other legislation like it, through. Similarly, we cannot be certain that services we buy and businesses we patronize are not donating to help other lobbies in other states draft similar legislation.
So, now that we've covered:
1. We do not always vote for those who write our laws.
2. Arizona has always had, and will always have, a strong resistance fighting for the civil rights of its inhabitants, and to insinuate otherwise is to deeply insult us.
3. Turning your backs on your allies in the trenches is a bad move.
4. We cannot be certain that money we have spent did not end up helping to fund this legislature
I would like to talk about solutions.
Arguably one of the most effective ways the civil rights movement of the 60's did to make their cause visible was the use of non-violent protest. Boycotting buses was one such protest, but several other forms involved sit-ins, walks, and bus rides (and, of course, patronizing and recognizing those allies and businesses who were supportive of the cause).
Were the participants met with violent opposition? YES. Was it effective anyway? YES. Am I telling you to put yourself in harm's way? NO. NEVER.
But consider this: what would an LGBTQQI/A Kiss-in look like in a Loews? On the Senate lawn? In a Chick-fil-A? In your local bigot's storefront? AND WHAT IF IT HAPPENED AGAIN AND AGAIN.
Come, occupy us. We're here, we're fighting, and we need our allies now more than ever.
^^This is downtown Tucson, btw.
Don't abandon your friends when we're in need.