Make it Right: An Open Letter to L.L. Bean from a Longtime Customer

Dear L.L. Bean,

My family and I have been loyal L.L. Bean customers for many years. I have a couple of L.L. Bean coats, one of which is almost twenty years old, in which I used to cocoon myself on my walk to work in frigid Nebraska winters. It’s still in great shape. That’s why my kids have gotten a new L.L. Bean coat every year or two as they have grown and carry personalized L.L. Bean backpacks to school. My husband buys almost all of his clothes through L.L. Bean and pays for them with his L.L. Bean credit card. My friends joke that in the fall and winter flannel shirts are my uniform. Those are your flannel shirts.

Besides the quality of your products, what has drawn us to them is the marketing and implied ethos of your brand. Snuggling into an L.L. Bean flannel shirt on a snowy winter morning elicits feelings of an old-fashioned, dignified American warmth. The kind that Norman Rockwell channeled, or Robert Frost — Rockwell, who painted poignant images asking Americans to denounce racism, or Frost, whose classic poem about the human folly of building border walls is a beloved fixture of the American canon.

Sadly, one of the owners of your company has destroyed that ethos by funneling money to Donald Trump — Trump, who inflames America’s racism like a sadistic finger in an open wound, and who rose to power on absurd promises to build the kind of wall Frost wanted to tear down. Trump, who received record amounts of money from the NRA and will help put guns in the schools of the kids you clothe. Trump, who is leading the recall of millions of Americans’ health insurance, consigning many of your customers to death. Trump, who thinks he is entitled to sexually assault half the population. Trump, who would deport some of my students and would have blocked others from ever entering the country to pursue a better life. Trump, who threatens that better life itself.

You have released a tepid statement regretting that your company has been pulled into a political mess. But this isn’t really a political mess. It’s a moral one. We don’t live in a time when differences at the voting booth or donation box can be chalked up to mere differences of opinion. We live in a time when one party, led by a narcissistic demagogue, poses an acute threat specifically to the vulnerable populations that most need our empathy and protection, and, in fact, an existential threat to our very democracy and our national safety.

With sadness, I inform you that my family cannot buy another one of your products. That is, unless you make this right. The only way I can imagine you making it right is to take an honest tally of how much money your owners have donated to Trump or his hateful constellation of causes, then at minimum double that amount of money in contributions to the best organizations fighting the horror he stands for: States United to Prevent Gun Violence, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Planned Parenthood. Please do this. Tell us you are going to remedy the damage your profits have done — and I mean damage to Americans, not just damage to your brand — by generously supporting the people who are fighting tooth and nail to save us from this national nightmare. Give us a reason to come back.

Formerly yours,

Amanda Gailey

P.S. This is a photo of my friends and me, along with Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers, on a day we went to the legislature to keep guns out of bars and schools. I’m the one in the blue L.L. Bean coat.