May a new reader and (Genovese-minded) leftist be permitted to make two brief responses to Thomas Fleming’s excellent article “The Lesson of the Roaring Parrot” (Perspective, December 1994)? First, it is intensely pleasurable to boycott Tom Hanks; it does not involve an act of will at all. It may be fine to boycott Kathy Mattea. But I just watched Merle Haggard inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and guess what? He was wearing an AIDS ribbon the size of a small parrot (don’t ask me why), but ain’t no way I’m boycotting Merle Haggard. Your proposal needs some fine tuning.
Second point. Many years ago I made the distributist argument about greengrocers and butchers to a friend of mine. I was single at the time. My interlocutor was married and pointed out that for a woman with three or four children, the supermarket is a blessing. Having children of my own now, I can testify to his point. It is only yuppie scum in New York vainly trying to turn the east or west side of Manhattan into a disgustingly parodic vision of neighborhood who buy at small shops. Men who wear sansabelt trousers and women with baby formula stains on their dresses—people who live in real neighborhoods—shop at Star Market or the A&P.
—Robert Mpert Watertown, MA
Dr. Fleming Replies:
Some readers may have taken me too literally. The point I was making is that money is the currency of power and that we should make some effort to spend our money as if we were voting. I suppose it is a corollary to Sartre’s dictum that a man should live his life as if he expected everyone in the world to imitate him, which is an existentialist version of the Golden Rule.
As for Merle and the AIDS ribbon, lots of basically decent people get caught up in the fashions of their community or their profession, and it sometimes takes a heroic effort to stay free. Guys like Tom Hanks are a different story—they are active propagandists rather than passive accomplices. The same goes for Kathy Mattea.
The same sort of “fine tuning” is applicable to my observation on supermarkets, etc. Here in Rockford, there are several local supermarket chains, where we do shop, as well as smaller groceries, wine merchants, greengrocers, etc. But I have tried to persuade my wife not to go to a certain Chicago chain with a history of underpricing to eliminate competition. My real point is to tell people to shop not according to my opinion but theirs.