Boycott over dialogue
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provided us with a model for nonviolent conflict resolution. He advocated for heart-to-heart dialogue based on seeing another’s point of view, hearing another’s questions, and understanding another’s assessment of ourselves. It is unfortunate that Dr. King’s philosophy was lost on Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bill Rauch.
Rauch chose boycott over a dialogue that could have enlightened if not resolved OSF’s conflict with Shakespeare Books & Antiques. My relationship with OSF is longer than four decades, and Rauch’s recent contributions to the theater are enriching. Yet, with his decision to boycott, he brought division to our Ashland community. OSF has the right to purchase books anywhere it pleases. Had this just been the “business decision” that he claims, OSF could have quietly changed its buying behavior. By definition, a boycott is a protest and an expression of disfavor.
Vincent Harding, an historian and a contemporary of Dr. King, writes in his book, America Will Be! (2013) about the difficulties in facing shameful memories of our country’s past: “I find that many white people are unable to call up those memories [of racial discrimination] or are afraid to call them up because of all that they imply, and so they come to believe that those memories do not exist. This is a dangerous amnesia.” Both OSF and the bookstore challenge this “dangerous amnesia” in different ways, a point Rauch may have recognized had he initially been open to dialogue instead of coercion. The shop’s banned books display helps us understand a history we must confront to heal our society, as OSF itself does in some of its plays. We will have no opportunity to create a better future if our history is censored. Rauch’s call for a Town Hall meeting after refusing and delaying dialogue suggests that the purpose of such a meeting is more for pageantry and politics than for resolution or an OSF reconsideration of its shameful targeting of businesses.