This is America, Right?

Once again the internet is all a-Twitter about something that someone said, thought, or wrote.  This time, I will admit, it is a doozy.  The Chick-fil-a CEO has chosen to voice his opinion about the issue of gay marriage (correction: his words have been distorted – all he said was that his company was pro-family), and that set off a wildfire including a letter from the mayor of Boston saying that Chick-fil-a cannot open in his town.  I wonder if he knows that there are already two Chick-fil-a shops in MA?

I am confused.

I thought that I live in the United States of America where I can think what I want even when someone else disagrees with me.  I thought that I could also conduct business regardless of what my personal feelings are as long as I do not discriminate in my hiring or service practices.

I can see how it might be something to make noise about if a company makes a product that someone finds offensive.  That might lead me to make some noise.  Chick-fil-a did not produce a potentially offensive product; their CEO just has a personal stance on an issue.

I have to lay out on the table that I am not the boycotting type.  Back when I was in high school (twenty years ago and counting as this weekend is my 20th reunion weekend – woot for the class of ‘92), there were a lot of places that I was urged to boycott because they financially (or in spirit – whatever that means) supported causes with which I disagreed.  That did not really sit well with me because I wanted to buy what I wanted to buy.  It was business – a good product is a good product, right?  Well…maybe…maybe not…

Moreover, boycotts do not tend to send the message home any more than simply and literally sending the message (by email, letter, or bottle if that is that is the most effective way) does.  Companies earn money and can do with it what they want.  When they use their money to support causes with which I disagree, I can choose not to support them financially – but I have to realize that the market is big enough for most of these places not to notice that I am no longer there because someone is there to take my place.

Regardless, though, I never imagined that a restaurant or a store would be banned from a city because of the stance its CEO took on an issue.  It seems strange to me that the mayor of Boston would keep out a reputable, honest, and financially stable restaurant while he allows all kinds of truly bad stuff go on in his city.  The CEO of Chick-fil-a has an opinion.  No one is getting shot because of this.  No one is being sold into slavery because of this.  No one is even being fired or denied service because of this.

Are we not in a country where we can have opinions?  Is that not why we vote?  And do our personal opinions matter in the products that we serve?

Chick-fil-a chose not to open on Sundays, and no one forced them to open on Sundays.  Other businesses disagree and are open on Sundays.  It is not against the law to open on Sundays (anymore), and it is not against the law to close on Sundays.

It is also not against the law to disagree.

We cannot live in anger just because we do not like what the other person says or does when it disagrees with how we see an issue.  I need to be allowed to have my opinion – the Constitution says so.  And you need to be allowed to have your opinion – the Constitution says so.  Additionally, we should not ban a restaurant from a city because the city’s mayor disagrees with how the CEO thinks on one issue.  Whether we agree with the mayor or the CEO does not matter because no law has been broken.

Each man has an opinion; the opinions simply differ.

Tolerance means that we tolerate each other. True tolerance would facilitate conversations where each side of the debate may learn something from the other.  And tolerance means allowing a restaurant to open in your city even though you do not agree with the personal opinions of it CEO.  If the people of Boston (and now Chicago and possibly Philadelphia follow suit…) choose not to eat there, the restaurant will go away on its own. But what would the mayor think of the restaurant prospered?

If I were the mayor, I would think that people are eating food.  That is all.

Honestly, this whole thing has made me shake my head.  If we cannot have opinions, voice them, and care about them without being afraid of having our businesses banned from a city because of those opinions, why be an American?  Why fight for our freedom?  Why have a military?  We might as well just be a country without freedom of speech, thought, or religion if those in government can decide that our personal opinions need to be banned from a city, state, or country.

I do not think that is the country that I want.  What I want is a country that knows how to communicate, how to have dialogue, how to listen, and how to learn.  What I want is a country that allows you to have a voice while allowing me to have a voice even when – no, especially when – we disagree.  If that is not the United States of America, then what do we send our troops all over the world to protect?  Why bother protecting freedom if freedom is only afforded to those who agree with a particular stance on any given issue?

Mayor Menino: “There is no place for [your form] of discrimination on the Freedom Trail.”

Freedom is freedom whether we agree on the issue or not.

Related Article

PS: It does not seem like this has Chick-fil-a backing down at all. They just opened a new place in Baltimore, and the pre-opening event was as full as ever.

25 Comments

Filed under faith, Food, Thoughts

25 responses to “This is America, Right?

  1. Great post! You go girl! Since when can he regulate commerce???!

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  2. Bettie Rose

    Right on Marilyn!

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  3. Since Dan Cathy actually said nothing about gay marriage I leave you this link to further your thinking (which I agree with by the way) http://www.dennyburk.com/chick-fil-a-and-the-irony-of-the-tolerance-police/

    All of this is about reporters assuming to one thing really means another.

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    • Thank you for the correction; I have made note of it in the post. I think that this more than reporters assuming things; I think this is about an entire nation assuming things. It happens in most debates (ie: abortion, immigration, and health care). Few people (including myself quite often) are willing to dig deep enough to find out the truth.

      What I mainly am opposed to in all of this is the mayor of a city determining whether or not a business can open based upon the CEO’s (presumed) beliefs. That power is not afforded to him. This is why we have zoning regulations and city councils. I do not think there is anything is the zoning regulations that would keep Chick-fil-a out of Boston any more than it would keep a strip club or a bar from opening.

      Like

    • Thanks for linking this excellent and clarifying article.

      Like

  4. Sheila

    Great post Stacy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this (and other things).

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  5. Becki

    Isn’t that precisely what is happening? Yes, the CEO has a right to think as he please and voice his opinion….just as I have a right to use mine by refusing to eat one of his chicken sandwiches. It does not mean I hate this man I have never spoken to, that I would spit on him if I found him lying on the street….it means that I feel so passionately about the statement he made that I need to find a tangible way to voice my opposition to it. And let’s be clear here, opinions on rights are a much trickier battle than opinions on the weather. Elie Wiesel says, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time we fail to protest it.” This is my protest for what I believe to be a grave injustice in our country today.

    Yes, dialogue is ideal. But dialogue is not always available, or most effective. Think Civil Rights Movement….sit-in, marches, buses….these are a different kind of dialogue.

    (Note—Do I think the mayor’s comment was kind of silly…yes! Do I understand his passion? Absolutely. Would I have felt compelled to respond if you focused solely on the commerce side of city government? No.)

    In Mississippi, I went to a gas station every morning and 90% of the time talked to an incredibly hard-working and kind woman. One day the owner was in. I had encountered him before when I visited the local coffee shop….him and his buddies had a few derogatory names for me they would whisper under their breath but never said anything explicitly to me. Until one morning in the gas station. He said something about the young people that I worked with that was his opinion…not illegal, not binding anyone in to bondage as you said….but offensive enough to me and dangerous in the way in would perpetuate another grave injustice in our country to say, “I will never pump gas from you again.” I stated why. I thanked the kind woman and I walked out. I then also made my friends aware of this so that if they chose, they too could take their business elsewhere. That’s my voice.

    Also, you imply there are no consequences to this opinion. In a year where many states, including ours, have ballot initiatives on marriage, one has to know the powerfulness of one’s own voice. They have every right to use that power and I have every right to use mine. I have heard many people say similar things about celebrities….liberal and conservative. Won’t see a movie with so and so, or will change the radio when a certain songs come on.

    Does it make a difference in their pocketbooks? No. Can it make a difference to those around us? I sure hope so. Can it allow me to say that I have never failed to protest? Yes.

    And let me just note so my liberal bleeding heart can rest well tonight, that while yes, we have a popular vote for a reason, as a teacher’s favorite line says….what is popular is not always right. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled to allow interracial marriage. According to the Gallup poll, in 1968, 72% of people still opposed it. It wasn’t until 1991 that a (slim) majority of people finally supported, or accepted, interracial marriage. 1991!

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    • Becki – I am so glad that you chimed in and took me task in some mighty ways!

      I have to admit that my main “beef” is with the commerce side of city government. Boston has plenty of other big things to focus their time on – I doubt that opening or not opening a Chick-fil-a is the most pressing. The mayor overstepped his bounds in his letter to Chick-fil-a, and without that letter and his overstepping, I would have kept my mouth shut. To be honest, it is comical to me that we all seem to boycott something – even though that is our right, our voice. (Poor Target – everyone has had to boycott them because they seem to support so many voices that no one can tell on which side of any fence they sit.) I am all for people using their voices (or their pocketbooks) to impact change if they so choose. What I am not all for is a mayor using his power for one voice and not others.

      Seriously – thank you so much…please – let’s get together because I miss you!

      Like

  6. Well-stated. Oh, to truly experience tolerance and freedom in a country that claims them to be values for which we will fight!

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  7. Emily A

    Very well said! I have had friends and family members tell me not to drink coffee at starbucks, not to shop at walmart, and other various things of the like. If we all stopped buying items from places that did things we disagreed with… We wouldnt be able to shop anywhere! Another angle I take on things is if we boycott places, and they actually DO close (highly unlikely, I know), all of the people who previously worked there now have no jobs. Is that something I want for my friends and neighbors in my city? For them to have no jobs because of an opinion? Certainly not. So I will continue buying my lattes, toilet paper and eating chicken sandwiches.

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  8. Bex

    Great post Stacy. My opinion, and, unfortunately, experience, has been that the people who preach tolerance (and “love”) are the most hypocritical. The say they are tolerant until someone disagrees with them or someone else. Isn’t the very essence of tolerance putting up with intolerance?

    I disagree with you, tho, when you put human characteristics onto a peice of land or an idea. A country cannot “be” tolerant. It can allow for it, tho, as in the freedom the United States affords to it’s citizens. The people who live there can be tolerant…or as the case may be, intolerant. Or maybe that’s just semantics…I haven’t had my full dose of coffee yet. 🙂

    Love your blog! …and you 🙂

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  9. Angela Evans

    I would like to point out a few things from an historical perspective. First, the CEO has a right to his personal beliefs. He has a right to express his beliefs. One could say it is part of his faith. So, if the local government believes they can keep him from business in their community simply because they disagree with his faith, that is discrimination. If this were reversed, and a conservative mayor banned a business because the CEO believed in gay marriage can you even imagine the outcry?! But to the historical perspective: a government once banned people of a certain faith from doing business, closing shops and seizing goods. Just because of who they were and the faith they represented. Anyone care to take a guess? Yes, Hitler and Nazi Germany didn’t just start out throwing the Jews in concentration camps. They started with subtle discrimination….refusing the Jews the right to commerce.
    It all starts somewhere people. Even if you disagree with the CEO’s stance, you should vigorously defend his right to have it without discrimination. Our freedoms will slowly erode before our eyes and we won’t even see it.

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  10. Just a thought. Maybe the Mayor was posturing for some other “beneficial” (e.g. political or for some other “power” alliance) effect? Of course, this might just backfire on him. But, perhaps he’s of the ilk “Better bad press than no press at all…” Yup, his opinion may just be posturing…

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  11. Funny. Just I was writing this, Jay Leno quipped on tv, “How disheartening this Chik-fil-a controversy is for all those gay couples who dreamed of getting married in a chicken restaurant” (that might not be an exact quote, but you get the idea).

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  12. Pingback: Well Done, Mayor Menino! | slowingtheracingmind

  13. Pingback: Well Done, Mayor Menino! | slowingtheracingmind

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