So about this whole Chick-fil-A thing…
I’ll have to admit they make a damned good chicken sandwich. It may be the best fast food sandwich in America. But I wouldn’t buy one now if they were the only restaurant in town. I fully understand that any number of other fast food chains (or their franchisees) have similarly deplorable politics and are probably contributing funds to the dark side as well. But what strikes me about the Chick-fil-A issue is the sheer belligerence of the company’s CEO and the chain’s followers as well as the illogic arguments and fallacious reasoning many of them have invoked in an effort to justify their support–and to mask the real reasons for this support.
Can we please dispense with the notion that this is some sort of “free speech” or “First Amendment” issue right off the bat? With the exception of efforts by a couple of blowhard mayors who spouted off some nonsense they have neither the authority nor the legal standing to enforce, there has been no violation whatsoever of Dan Cathy’s freedom of speech. None. He has faced no legal consequences at all for his ill-advised comments. And he won’t–which is pretty much the definition of free speech.
The problem is that those earnest freedom fighters who queued up to express their support–not necessarily for Cathy’s statements, they always stress, but for his right to make these statements–don’t quite get the concept. Cathy had his say. He exercised his free speech rights without legal retribution. However, the right to free speech does not protect him from the consequences of that speech nor does it preclude people from disagreeing with what he has said and from using their own free speech rights to express that disagreement–which is exactly what Cathy’s detractors have done. And guess what: it’s completely legal and ethical and appropriate for them to react this way, no matter how much it outrages Mike Huckabee.
When I hear an ardent Chick-fil-A supporter babbling on and on about Cathy’s free speech rights, I can’t help thinking back fifty years to the days when segregationists in the South used “states’ rights” as code for their own discriminatory beliefs. Code words like this obviously play better in the media. Worse yet, they also allow the folks who use them to engage in a pattern of denial that much of their motivation is in fact based on prejudice and bigotry rather than on some strict interpretation of the Constitution.
More simply put: Anyone who expresses a belief that Dan Cathy and his $4.5 billion dollar corporation are being persecuted over a free speech issue either does not understand the concept of free speech or is using this as an excuse to mask a personal issue with same-sex marriage. In some ways, I actually have more respect for the people who at least own up to their real motivation than I do for the cowards who cloak their disapproval with idiotic statements like, “I’m not against gay people. I’m just standing up for the First Amendment.”
And let’s get real here: This isn’t just about same-sex marriage, although it would be enough if it were. This is about a long term pattern of donating money to anti-gay groups. Does anyone really believe we would be having this national conversation if it were revealed that Cathy were supporting white supremacist or anti-Semitic groups? How about if he’d come out against interracial marriage? Desegregated schools? Of course we wouldn’t. It’s a sad fact of life that Americans are far more likely to find excuses to support anti-gay bigots than other types.
It takes an issue like same-sex marriage to demonstrate the prejudiced attitudes that so many “tolerant” people still hold. Every time I read a rant from someone who has “no problem with gay people” except when it comes to “redefining” marriage to include same-sex couples, I want to gouge my eyes out. Here’s the deal: If you are not willing to extend all the rights you enjoy to your “many gay friends”, then you do have a problem with gay people and you are prejudiced, no matter how many claims you make to the contrary. At least have the balls to admit it. This is why I believe the drive toward same-sex marriage, while not the biggest issue currently facing us (federal anti-discrimination legislation comes to mind), is still a very important one; it has excited the masses and it forces people to confront their real prejudices and insecurities. And the fact that the CEO of a major corporation feels that he can make statements like this without a backlash demonstrates perhaps why there has been such a backlash.
Although many of my friends are affected, I have no horse in this race. Turns out I’m apparently not very good at being married and it’s not something I’m likely to try again. But I’ll be damned if I’ll offer any financial support, even the price of a five-dollar meal, to any chickenshit (pun intended) corporation that plans to use part of that money to deny me any basic human right, even one that I don’t intend to assert. Dan Cathy has the right to think and say whatever he wants and to give money to whichever crackpots he chooses. He does not, however, have a right to my continued financial assistance in doing so. And he won’t get it. And those who would support him based on “free speech” or whatever other code word won’t get any respect from me, either. Not that they probably care…