Readers sounded off last week about our story on Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes ("Turmoil for Blake Mycoskie of TOMS," by Patrick Range McDonald, July 29). The story explained that liberal organizations are miffed that his company uses images of poor people to market its shoes and that Mycoskie is involved with antigay evangelical Christian groups, including a speaking appearance at a Focus on the Family event in Orange County. Mycoskie's company gives away a free pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold, but the shoes are not of equal value.
A commenter identified only as "p1970" writes: "The Focus on the Family connection part is disappointing to me, not the shoe donation part. My mother was an ardent follower of Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family when I came out to her as transgender as a young person. She forced me to attend a reparative therapy program and told me should I ever decide to start hormone treatment, I would not be welcome in her home.
"Except for one brief meeting in a public place three years ago, I haven't seen her or my father face to face in 10 years. This is a shame. I was a sweet kid. If only Focus had spread love, not divisiveness."
P1970 continues: "My thoughts on the shoe part: Altruism is a good thing, whether the person is from the cultural left or the cultural right, and whether the person's motives are pure or mixed with selfishness. Businesses and nonprofits all seem to exploit the images of suffering people to promote themselves. And although TOMS doesn't give jobs to its shoe recipients, it does give jobs to people who may desperately need them as well, in China and the U.S. People don't always come in the packages we expect, and not being the person other people expect is not in itself bad. (No one knows that better than me.)"
In reply, a reader identified as "reelzies" writes that p1970 "has great wisdom on Mycoskie sorely missing from this article. And you said, 'I was a sweet kid,' which I am sure you were. What impresses me through your writing is that you are a sage and compassionate adult. I'll bet you're still a sweetie, too."
Reelzies went on to say that the piece on Mycoskie was littered with "bigotry and ignorance about Christianity," speculating that it was a "hit piece on Christianity with Mycoskie as the fall guy. My take-away from this article is that Mycoskie helps those in need in his own way."
Reader Aaron W. Matthews writes: "So, it's not cool to wear shoes if the maker has a different belief than you? Despite the good done by TOMS shoes in giving and helping over a million in need, a person would boycott and slander Mycoskie simply because of a place he spoke? He didn't become James Dobson's blood brother, and the altruism (I liked the way p1970 put it) is good regardless of personal conviction.
"If Mycoskie is a Christian, I support his efforts toward making the world a better place. I hate the thought of the poor being exploited, but I sure hope there are some happier, healthier people somewhere in the world because they have shoes on their feet. I'll continue to buy these shoes."
"Scholar and fool" writes: "It's difficult to discern the point of this article. Part of it seems like questioning TOMS' true philanthropic nature — which should be a valid question/concern. Unfortunately, the title and most of the rest of the article comes across as an attempted character assassination based on horribly closed-minded stereotypes of 'evangelicals.' It's always disturbing to see people who appear to think of themselves as 'progressive' and 'open-minded' show their incredibly reactionary and narrow-minded views of others."
Tony offers this in reply: "This guy repeatedly made presentations to antigay hate groups and you question a 'closed-minded stereotype of evangelicals.' What kind of logic is that?
"No stereotype here at all. The guy purposefully associated with these groups, and it is documented in this article. Your arguments are only intended to deflect from the responsibility of the company's ownership to act responsibly."
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