Views from Kansas: Goodyear boycott wrong

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

President Donald Trump was out of line this week in calling for a boycott of Goodyear tires.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., which has plants in Topeka and across the country, employs hard-working Americans. Some of them likely support the president. The company is crucial to many local economies.

So why on earth would the president go after such a company? Shouldn’t he be praising its dedication to keeping jobs in the United States?

One might think so. But Trump has never seen a situation that he can’t make about himself, and a TV news report out of Topeka featured a slide showing messages that were appropriate and inappropriate at Goodyear’s workplace.

The slide, which didn’t come from Goodyear Corporate, attempted to make a distinction between apparel that might support racial justice or equity — such as a Black Lives Matter T-shirt or the LGBTQI+ rainbow — and those that support a political campaign, such as a Make America Great Again hat.

It also suggested that Blue Lives Matter apparel, supporting law enforcement, wasn’t appropriate. That likely went over the line for many people, and the company has since said that employees are free to show support for law enforcement.

That’s a sensible change to make, but otherwise the company’s stance should be applauded rather than disdained. Political slogans are fundamentally different from celebrating one’s identity, and could easily lead to arguments and other disruption in the workplace. Being Black or gay — regardless of what some might think — isn’t a political statement.

Where Trump erred is in seeing the policy as being about him. It also prevents employees from wearing Biden 2020 shirts. It’s about understanding that not everything in the world revolves around partisan politics.

Perhaps such a public collision was inevitable, given our separateness and division.

But it’s worth trying to retain these distinctions. It’s worth trying to understand that we are all people first, with a range of identities and self-expressions. It’s worth remembering that we are all going through life together and that we are stronger when collaborating than when battling.

President Trump sees the world as a zero-sum battle to the death. And the only thing worth fighting over, in his mind, is his own accomplishment and prowess. It doesn’t matter if an American company or American jobs are harmed or lost in the process.

The president should support Goodyear. He should apologize for his remarks. And he should understand that it’s really not all about him.

— Originally published in the Topeka Capital-Journal

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