Facism by another name: Whole Foods and whole fools
There is a Whole Foods store about three blocks from my home and around the corner from my gym. I am enamored by the displays of produce, the red peppers contrasting the yellow ones, the kale, chard and collard greens glistening from their morning sprinkle. I love the way the fish gleams back at you, char and salmon, swordfish and tilapia.
When I walk over to the prepared food, I grin at the ways the veggies are layered with cheese, crumbs and so much more. They have sandwiches I identify with, ingredients I salivate about. And now I must declare that I would rather drink muddy water or sleep in a hollow log than to indulge in Whole Foods.
I am utterly appalled that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey described Obamacare as “fascism.” Fascism is an incendiary word that speaks totalitarianism or dictatorship and it descries it in a pejorative way. Whatever dissent there may be about Obamacare, the fact is, enough members of Congress voted for it to make it a law. Mr. Mackey, what are you thinking when you call Obamacare (a term I proudly embrace) totalitarian and fascist? Is President Obama so mesmerizing that he forced opposing members of Congress to vote for his plan?
I had mixed feelings when Whole Foods aka Whole Paycheck swooped into my neighborhood. People earned less hourly than the price of a pound of cheese. Most folks, though, were happy to have jobs. Happy, that is, until they complained about the terms and conditions of their work. I really didn’t pay much attention, but there was a niggling sense that something was wrong.
Some of the workers grumbled outside the store. If you asked if you could help, they were emphatically negative. I can understand folks preferring to keep their jobs than to put it out there for justice. But from the swing of the head, the cut of the eye, it was clear that all has not been good at Whole Paycheck.
Unease translated into disease for me. How dare John Mackey decide to flip his lip without a script to describe national healthcare as “fascism?” He seems to be trying to start a fight, to diminish a president, to ignore that vote of Congress, to put President Obama in a context that he does not deserve to be in. Fascism? One dictionary describes fascism as “a right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an hierarchical structure that is opposed to democracy and liberalism.”
How did President Obama get in this mix? CEO John Mackey, unsupportive of Obamacare (as many business leaders are), chose to take opposition to another level, and decided “fascism” was a great way to frame his ire. Then he said it didn’t matter, that his word choice was careless, that his ignorance would not affect his corporate profit, that he simply misspoke. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to support evil is to embrace evil, is to be evil. This is an evil I can gleefully walk away from.
Mr. Mackey says it doesn’t matter that conscious people won’t support his store. He may have a point. But I’m going to take my little $200 a week elsewhere and I know others who will do the same thing. Mr. Mackey, your words have been duly noted.
If my words are irrelevant, keep shopping at Whole Paycheck and supporting oppression. If you agree with me, send John Mackey a note via Libba.Letton@wholefood.com or Kate.Lowery@wholefoods.com. To use a term like “fascism” in the context of public policy is ugly and unacceptable. To cooperate is to be complicit.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and author.