September 05, 2006


Ok, yes, I read "Dear Prudie" sometimes too. Especially when the title is this provocative.


Dear Prudie,
My partner and I are having our condominium remodeled. We have worked well with one company and asked them to bid a second phase of the job. The person who showed up to bid the job wore a cap with an angry bald eagle on the front with multiple American flags sewn onto the rest of the cap. When I was obviously startled at the hat, he acknowledged, "Guess I should have worn my company hat." I replied, "I would be more comfortable if you had because I can't support much of what the country is doing right now." This led to his reply, "Just so we all support America." My partner and I are gay and feel assaulted by the right wing. We are also horrified by the war in Iraq and so many other issues that our patriotism is very low. That hat was a sickening reminder of my childhood in rural America. I feel that perhaps my money should be spent in a more socially conscious fashion, but I don't relish starting my own campaign of reverse discrimination. Am I making too much of this incident? The company has done a good job for us so far.

—Uneasy Remodeler

Dear Uneasy,
When did an American flag come to mean, "I want to assault gay people"? You know nothing about this man's views except that he feels patriotic. Since you are the one who provoked the discussion, do you really want to require that the person building your breakfast nook pass your political litmus test? (And yes, if I were to get a letter saying, "I went to a potential construction job this morning and the owners of the condo were obviously gay. I think homosexuality is abnormal and I hate the idea of gay marriage. I don't know whether I should go ahead and submit a bid," I would find that letter just as objectionable.) We are lucky to live in a society in which one doesn't have to belong to a government-sanctioned party or avow a list of beliefs in order to make a living. I know too many people who say they could never be friends with people who have different political views from theirs, and that's unfortunate. But the economy will crash if every service person is required to agree with their client's worldview. Do you know how lucky you are to find a remodeling company that does a good job? Let the guy with the American flag cap get to work.


The monetarization of human interactions can be a good thing. It allows people of completely incompatible ideologies to work together - to some degree. It's at the root of a tolerant society - blindness to the ideological foundations, religious beliefs and sexual behaviour of the "other".

But I also believe that people need to put their money where their mouth is. Apologies to some of my friends, but if you believe Walmart is evil, you can not shop there, at least not with any regularity. If you believe that capital markets tend to reward callous exploitation and myopic greed, you should invest in socially responsible funds, at least partially.

I resent the idea that I can't express my ideals in my acquisitions. I do it all the time, searching out biological food, fair trade products and such.

The issue is, in the end, bloody simple. Contractors have no business advertising any kind of belief beyond their business, if you pardon the pun. If someone decides to embellish their uniform with their beliefs, they must accept that they will lose business because of it. Would Prudie say the same thing if the contractor walked in with a T-Shirt saying "Gays must die"? She gives no reason to think she wouldn't. She is WRONG. The couple should have contacted the company, pointed out the unprofessional behaviour of the contractor and asked for someone else.


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