Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Lowe's

[Note: I work for Lowe's. And I'm not a Muslim. And no, I don't plan to quit my job. But I am very, very disappointed in the people who run the company I work for, and felt I should register my objections.]

I work for Lowe's, in the garden center at the Shippensburg, PA store. I enjoy my job, and I'm grateful to Lowe's for hiring me. I was unemployed for over three years, my applications turned down time after time; I can't prove it but it was obvious that my age was a major factor in those rejections.

I had to leave my home of 36 years in Newport, RI to go live with my family here in Central PA, and after about 5 months here I was hired by Lowe's. Apparently they respect the the knowledge and life experience of a 58-year-old; there are a lot of us over-50 types at the store. I like my job with Lowe's; I enjoy working in the garden center, I like the people I work with, and the managerial staff is way less dysfunctional than many I've worked under. In many ways it's felt like home.

Until now. I'm distressed and disappointed by Lowe's decision to withdraw its ads on TLC's All-American Muslim show. There really is no logical, rational reason to do this, especially in light of the fact that Lowe's advertises its social responsibility programs, including its workplace diversity and inclusion policies (all of this is documented on their website, here and here). As it says on the website:
Lowe's dedication to diversity and inclusion grows from the steadfast values of our employees and extends to every corner of our company. We draw upon the strength of collaboration, bringing together many unique individuals in the workplace and the community to better meet the needs of our employees and our customers. Recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse work force ensures a welcoming customer experience, enhances partnerships and strengthens community involvement.
In light of this, the decision to withdraw ads from a show about American Muslims makes no sense; it's directly counter to its stated diversity and inclusion policy.

Equally disappointing, it seems the decision to withdraw was made after an avalanche of emails launched by the Florida Family Association, a fringe far right evangelical Christian group who objects to the show's depiction of Muslims as average Americans and not fanatical bomb-throwers, and who threatened boycott if Lowe's continued to advertise on the show.

If the suits in Mooresville, NC (Lowe's corporate headquarters) are worried about that boycott, I can reassure them on that count. If the membership of the FFA exceeds 1,000 I'll be surprised. As an influence on the American body politic they're a microdot. That wouldn't amount to much of a boycott. In fact, I'll bet there are more American Muslims who shop at Lowe's (or at least did before this) than members of the FFA.

The FFA sources its arguments against All-American Muslim to anti-Islam activists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, evangelicals who see Islam as a threat and/or rejection of their own narrow Christian evangelism. It is, in fact, sectarian fear and jealousy, something that should have no place in the business world. Their arguments are made up of misrepresentation, outright lies, and gross (and deliberate) exaggerations. It's a tissue of falsehood from start to finish.

How do I know this? Because I've been involved in interfaith activities and organizations for well over 30 years. I've spent my entire adult life in dialog with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, et al. I've known many Muslims, both American-born and immigrants, for decades. I have a copy of the Qur'an in my library and an electronic copy of the hadith (traditions attributed to Muhammad) on my hard drive. These people are just people, just like you or me, and their spiritual beliefs are really no different or more intense than any other believers.

None of the propaganda spread by the FFA, Spencer and Geller and their ilk, matches the Muslims I've known or their religious scriptures. In fact, their propaganda is the 21st Century American equivalent of Nazi propaganda against the Jews in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. It's bigotry, plain and simple.

So I'm disappointed in Lowe's. I find it distressing that a company that prides itself on diversity and inclusion has allowed itself to be influenced by a group steeped in bigotry and hate. Lowe's values and mine no longer seem to be in sync.

There's a phrase posted throughout the store and on our computers: "I am Lowe's!" I'm not so sure that's true any more.

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Makes you wonder if they just wanted to avoid the controversy brought up by the fanatics. Why does fear always allow the fanatics to get anywhere in the first place?

  2. Well said Roy. It seems that fear has won over again. I don't understand why such a small group of people are allowed to spread such evil and lies. I don't work at Lowes but you can be darn sure I will not shop there. Sending off a little email to corporate too. take care.

  3. A very well-written & thought out post. These are dark times we live in, & I admire you for standing up & saying what's right.

  4. A massively interesting, well-balanced and well-written post Roy. May your voice and the voices of all who think like you (and I would like to count myself in that number) never be silenced.

  5. thank you for the thoughtful post.

    the suits in corporate america seem to rarely fail to disappoint. but sometimes the will listen!

    ah life, just a life-long practice at managing cognitive dissonance .....

    keep the faith roy!

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