I won’t be attending the 2013 ACI National Home Performance Conference next spring in Denver, Colorado, even though I was totally planning to. In fact, I’m boycotting it. Or, rather more precisely, boycotting its recently announced host sponsor, Dow Building Solutions.
Now why would I do such a thing?
Because I have a life long, moral grievance against all things Dow, which goes all the way back to the Vietnam war. You see, Dow Chemical was (nearly) the exclusive supplier of napalm to the U.S. military during that conflict. And napalm is just about the most inhumane weapon of mass destruction ever conceived by the human mind. Comprised essentially of jellied gasoline, it’s nearly impossible to remove from your skin, while burning at extremely high temperatures, and asphyxiating you with burning, noxious gases.
A number of chemical manufacturers, including Dow, began supplying napalm under contract to the U.S. government in 1965. However, amid rising protests and human rights concerns, the others stopped. But Dow continued, stating “its first obligation was to the government”, to which I say, bullshit. Their first obligation was to their shareholders and executives, and they suddenly found themselves in a position to conveniently reap all the profits that their competitors conceded.
The use of napalm is totally beyond the pale in its inhumanity, even when targeted at enemy combatants. It doesn’t discriminate between guerrillas and innocent civilians, and far too often, Vietnamese civilians ended up its hapless victims. Those of you who are old enough to remember might recall the iconic film clip of the little Vietnamese girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc (only three years younger than me), screaming and running naked down the road, with half her skin burned from her back, following a napalm attack on her village:
The clip is considered by many to be singly responsible for turning public opinion against the manner in which the war was being prosecuted. And that it was taken in 1972 meant that Kim Phuc’s intense pain and disfigurement was the direct result of the “application” of a Dow product.
Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking “That Poole guy is a cynical, jaded old coot, inordinately clinging to sentiments he picked up back in the sixties that he can’t let go of. Why should he still care about something that happened over forty years? We live in a different world now, so get over it.”
To which I respond with a resounding NO. There’s no statute of limitations on wide scale inhumane behavior, and large corporations, even though they’re far from being “people” (sorry, Mitt Romney), need to be held forever accountable when their products or business practices, by design, bring grievous suffering, pain, and disfigurement to innocents.
And those of us who remember long can never forsake our convictions. So, to this very day, I still boycott all things Dow. I won’t buy any product made by Dow, nor by any of its subsidiaries. And I certainly won’t use any Dow Building Solutions products on my house. Never.
Now, you can probably imagine how disappointed I was, just two days ago, when I saw a tweet and press release from Affordable Comfort, Inc., announcing that Dow Building Solutions would be a host sponsor of the 2013 ACI National Home Performance Conference, and furthermore, how proud they were for it. So I immediately cancelled my plans, and even politely withdrew a session proposal I’d submitted to the conference.
I suppose had Dow Building Solutions been, say, just another exhibitor, or some lower-level sponsor or advertiser, I perhaps could’ve afforded to ignore them. But as the big press, big name, host sponsor of the conference, no. Sorry. I just can’t abide by that.
Which is really too bad, because it looks like it’s otherwise shaping up to be a great home performance event…
[ For a good summary, and additional information on the role Dow Chemical played in supplying napalm during the Vietnam war, check out this page from PBS' American Experience: Two Days in October. ]