What I Learned About America from the Chik-fil-a Kerfluffle
I don't normally talk about current events or politics on this blog because I just don't. But this Chik-fil-a thing has gotten out of hand. It's a good example of how the adults in this country have devolved into spoiled little children.
I think we’re all aware of the Chik-fil-a controversy by now. I don’t really want to rehash it. However, I discovered that the lesson from this controversy isn’t about chicken or rights or freedom of speech or discrimination or any of the issues various people have given to explain their position on the issue.
The biggest lesson from this controversy is that we Americans are a bunch of whining, childish little four year olds and that the four year olds are running the asylum.
The controversy started when Chik-fil-a’s CEO Dan Cathy made statements in an interview affirming his position on same-sex marriage. What the controversy was about depends on who you ask. If you ask some same sex marriage supporters, it’s about hate. For other same-sex marriage supporters, it’s about the company itself using a charitable arm of the company, the WinnShape Foundation, to donate company profits to groups who are opposed to same sex marriage, including the Family Research Council, a group that was labeled as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law center. This information is available to the public. Non-profits are required by law to disclose this information on IRS Form 990. This is a PDF copy of The WinnShape Foundation's Form 990 for 2010.
If you ask some Chik-fil-a supporters, this issue is about others muzzling their right to free speech by opposing a proposed boycott of the franchise by same-sex marriage supporters.
For others, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to piss off a liberal and nothing more.
Four different viewpoints. And yet nobody is listening to each other. It’s kind of hard to listen another person when that person insists on screaming in your face.
Plus nobody wants to listen when they are convinced that they are right. And this is what is at the root of the problem… Everyone thinks they have to be right.
Guess what? NONE of you are right. You're just loud. And obnoxious. And immature. And because none of you are right, you’re alienating those of us in the middle who would side with one of you because you’re too busy screaming and acting like jackasses.
There is no Chik-fil-a in Sioux Falls. In fact, there aren't too many up North. It's mainly a southern thing, I guess. I ate there once, thirteen years ago, when I was in Dallas, Texas. The food was good. Because we don't have one up here in SuFu, I can neither support nor boycott Chik-fil-a with my money. What I can do is observe this from the sidelines and what I do see is a bunch of adults acting like spoiled brats.
Now, I happen to support same-sex marriage. Marriage, when you boil things down, is a legal institution. You must have these things to have a legally valid marriage: a marriage license, someone who has the legal authority to officiate, and two witnesses to sign the marriage license.
The law doesn't care if you love each other. The law doesn't care if you don't love each other. The law doesn't care what your parents did or what family you come from. The law doesn't care what part of town you live in. The law only cares if you have that piece of paper, someone to officiate and witnesses. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Nowhere in this is there any mention of a religious institution. Because your marriage is not legally valid unless you pay a visit to the county courthouse and apply for a marriage license, and then have it filed with the clerk of courts. Marriage is a legal institution; therefore, to not allow one group of people to have the same legal rights as others is state-sanctioned discrimination.
Don’t argue with me on this. One, you won’t change my mind. Two, I’m just going to point out that you do not need a church to have a legally valid marriage because marriage is a legal institution first and foremost. Then I will ask you what you have to bring to your job or to the Social Security Administration to prove you had a status change.
I’m also in favor of same-sex marriage because if two people truly love each other and want to be together, who am I to judge if they are worthy to get married? I hate to repeat this trope, but we straight people haven’t treated marriage with the respect and sanctity that we say would be undermined if a same-sex couple in a committed relationship were to get married.
I also don't like it when businesses inject the owner's personal politics or religious views into their business. I usually try and steer clear of those places. Unless you're selling religious paraphernalia, why do you need to put a Jesus fish on all of your signs for your storage units? Or what does being a Republican having to do with selling my house for me?
I don't care if you worship God, Satan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or you've built an altar to Cthulhu. I don't care if you are a registered Republican, Democrat, Independent or voted for Lyndon LaRouche. But if you insist on getting in my face with it, then I will happily take my business elsewhere.
While everyone is busy trying to outshout each other and be right, where are the adults? Nowhere. They’ve been neutered. The only media outlet that explains this issue in an objective way, stating the facts, and not choosing a side is NPR. This is what they wrote about the August 1 Appreciation Day. No condescension. No name calling. Just reporting the facts and quoting other papers.
What I wanted to see come out of this was a dialogue. I wanted to see the two sides sitting down and discussing this issue rationally and like adults so that everyone has some understanding of where the other person stands. This should not have even escalated as much as it did. But it did, and BOTH sides are to blame.
When you have people on BOTH sides only adding more fuel to the fire, any chance of discussing this like rational adults is down the toilet. I think I expect too much. Maybe it’s because I can still remember a time when adversaries still acted like adults. They did not demonize each other. They could agree to disagree. Compromise was not a dirty word.
It’s easy to blame the Right for this state of mind, but the truth is, both sides do it. The Right is just louder, because it's easier to get their base worked up.
This is what I know and what is true:
Dan Cathy has the right under the First Amendment to express his opinion, whether you like it or not.
Chik-fil-a, a private company, has the right to donate money to whatever group it wants, whether you like it or not.
LGBT people and their allies have the right to express their disagreement with Mr. Cathy’s opinion, whether you like it or not.
They also have the right to choose not to patronize Chik-fil-a because they do not want their money funneled to support groups they disagree with, whether you like it or not.
People have the right to choose to spend their money at Chik-fil-a, whether you like it nor not.
What you do not have is the right to say or do anything you want without consequences. The Supreme Court is very clear on this. You do not have the right to yell “Fire” in a building when there is none. And if you do this, there will be consequences to your actions. The First Amendment does not say that freedom of speech means that people are not allowed to disagree with you.
We can all agree that the Westboro Baptist Church are just vile. They show up to picket soldiers' funerals or funerals of victims of a tragedy to protest against LGBT people. However, the Supreme Court has upheld their First Amendment right to protest time and time again. The court is clear on free speech. In fact, this is what the First Amendment does say: (emphasis mine)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
See the first part I bolded? What does it say? “Congress shall make no law…” It doesn’t say anything about an individual or group boycotting another as muzzling free speech or being illegal. It doesn’t say that it’s illegal to support someone who is hateful. It doesn’t say that it’s illegal to not spend your money at a certain place. The only people who are saying this are the talking windbags and outrage addicts on both sides who have a vested interest in getting people all worked up for ratings points and financial gain.
While the Right Wing bloggers and media get most of the attention for getting their side worked up, I’ve seen it from Left Wing bloggers and they can be just as bad as the right. I lean left on a lot of issues. However, the bloviating, overly-dramatic outrage and general butthurt from sites like Addicting Info is just as bad as Breitbart.com.
And I’m tired of it. Seriously.
The problem with these people on both sides is that they view things in terms of black and white. Life doesn’t work that way. I have a message for all of you.
First, to the Right.
Learn some critical thinking skills. Learn what bias and bias language is. Perhaps if you want the Left to stop treating you like uneducated buffoons, you should stop acting like uneducated buffoons. Because really, you do, with your knee jerk reactions to things and your misspelled signs and your constant use of circular logic really doesn't help your case.
Learn the difference between fact and opinion. Turn off the echo chamber. Show how mature you really are by listening to things that don't reinforce your views. Rather, listen to things that make you stop and think. Learn what a credible source is and what it isn't. Because when you insist on regurgitating everything you hear on Fox News, or trying to change the subject because you cannot back your argument up with facts, you're just reinforcing the perception that you are a bunch of uneducated mouth breathers.
Now, to the Left.
When the CEO of a privately held company has always been open about his devout Christianity, so much so that he does not open his businesses on Sundays, and he says that he's for "traditional marriage" don't act like you didn't see this coming. And you might want to get off your high horses for a bit because this "kiss-in" that you're staging is about as mature a reaction as "Chik-fil-a appreciation day" was.
Don't ever sit there and complain about the Right doing things to purposely push people's buttons and then turn around and do the same damn thing. You may think that because you're doing this, you got the Right's number for once.
Guess what? You don't.
Why? Because they're going to turn around and push your buttons just to piss you off.
You wanna know how I know you don't have their number? Because after all this time, you still get outraged over the stupid crap that Rush Limbaugh says. The next time Old Rushbo says something stupid, how about not reacting to him?
Because you know that one thing an attention whore hates the most?
Not receiving attention. J
ust a thought.
And to everyone...
There will be gays and lesbians who will continue to work for or eat at Chik-fil-a. If you don't like that, too bad. They, too , have a right to work or eat where they choose.
There will be people who are against gay marriage who will join in the boycott because they do not want to spend their money at a business that will turn around and give it to a group they don’t like. If you don't like it, tough shit. It's their money and they can do what they want.
There will be straight people who will continue to eat at Chik-fil-a because they are addicted to their waffle fries. Deal with it.
And there will be people who refuse to eat at Chik-fil-a for reasons other than Dan Cathy's stance on same sex marriage. Like they just don't eat meat.
If you don’t wish to do business with Chik-fil-a, that is your right.
If you wish to do business with Chik-fil-a for whatever reason, that is your right.
I think that the rest of us should start our own boycott. I think we should start boycotting the extremes on both sides: the pompous gasbags, the people who have a vested interest in stirring up the pot and getting people worked up to generate ratings points. Yeah. Let’s boycott those people. Let’s only give attention to the adults in the room. Let’s focus on those people who actually want to sit down and solve our problems like adults. Four year olds insist on being right instead of learning to get along. Four year olds view the world in absolutes because they aren't mature enough to see the gray areas. Let's stop acting like a bunch of four year olds. I think this tweet from Nate Silver, creator of 538, sums it up nicely.
You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can't take Wisconsin out of the girl.