Thursday, August 2, 2012

Playing Chicken

Fire With Fire - Scissor Sisters (mp3)
Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel - Lyle Lovett (mp3)

My Facebook stream has become an annoying culture war. And that war is now lined up around the block.

Why are we playing Chicken? Or gay chicken? Or Christian Chicken? Whatever version of the game this is, where two sides rally around a manufactured controversy, whatever name it’s called, I think it’s a stupid game.

To be clear, I would be called “pro gay rights.” Marriage. Equal privileges. The whole kit and kaboodle. There is nothing controversial to me about the legal rights they deserve and don’t currently have in a majority of our United States.

But this latest brou-ha-ha over Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s comments that he -- wait for the shocker -- supports traditional marriage... I’m just not quite sure how this is deserving of a full-on culture war.

Chick-Fil-A is a business that is closed, across the country, on Sundays. It’s been that way since their first store opened. They choose to take a significant loss compared to most fast food restaurants because their openly (conservative) Christian founder believes it to be sinful to operate on the Sabbath. I’ll go out on a limb and say that closing on the Sabbath strongly correlates with being “pro-traditional marriage.”

The more important question, in my mind, is: What reporter decided to stir this pot, and what was his or her secret motivation behind it?

Mr. Cathy is a Christian, one whose views differ in important ways from my own. The minute the interviewer asked him this question, what choice did Mr. Cathy really have? He either had to lie to protect his company or answer honestly, and we’ve already established that he’s willing to sacrifice corporate income for his beliefs, so lying was mostly out of the question.

Therefore, Mr. Cathy’s choice was to either speak truth or speak Romnese*. Am I supposed to hate him for not speaking Romnese? Am I supposed to stop eating Chick-Fil-A for being honest in spite of what it might do to his business? We're stuck in a time when honesty seems as endangered as the Ocelot, so I prefer disagreeable honesty to smarmy fibs.

* -- Romnese: the language of saying whatever you think your voting constituency wants to hear in a given moment, regardless of what you might have said years, months or even days before.

I don’t agree with Mr. Cathy, but if I have to boycott every single business where a high-ranking executive believes or behaves in ways starkly disagreeable to me, or if I must boycott every business who employ questionably ethical practices (helloooo Apple!), I’m not even sure I’ll be left with Trader Joe’s on my list of acceptable consumerist stops.

If it was annoying and amusing when conservative Christians boycotted Disney for allowing Gay Pride parades (and it was), then how is it any less annoying or amusing when liberals boycot Chick-Fil-A because its owner said something that sits poorly with them? In both cases, one side gets its panties in a wad and makes a mountain out of a church steeple.

Our culturally-selective Offense-O-Meter is inconsistent, hypocritical and nauseating.

Why are we as a culture more riled up over Chick-Fil-A than we are over Apple and their prison-like working conditions in China? Is it easier to boycott a sandwich than a phone? Are gay rights or "the sanctity of marriage" more important than nightmare working conditions (that save us money) halfway around the globe? How many chicken biscuits = 1 iPad? How many gay marriages equal a suicide net?

We'll wage a cultural war over something as insignificant as a fast food restaurant, but if it requires sacrificing gasoline or A/C or fun cool new gadgets, we seem to have more difficulty working up the vitriol.

Boycotts: There’s a randomizing app for that. Made, apparently, by Jesus. Or a cow. I get confused.


troutking said...

I respectfully think you've missed the point here. Mr. Cathy's statement was just the tip of the iceberg that alerted people to the actions of Chick fil-A, which includes donating millions of dollars to anti-gay organizations, as documented here:

That seems, to me, to be a big difference between this boycott and the Disney one you mention. Why would gay people, through their food purchases, want to contribute to funds that go to organizations dedicated to preventing them from having equal rights? The other difference with the Disney protest is that conservatives just happen to be wrong and marching foolishly and ignorantly against the tide of history, which is steadily if not uniformly toward more equality.

Just because people aren't consistent in their protests--yes it is easier to boycott Chick fil-A then Apple--doesn't mean it's not a civically engaged thing to do. Based on their ACTIONS, we SHOULD refuse to patronize businesses whose actions don't uphold our values or pollute or mistreat their workers.

Personally I think Chick fil-A is WAY overrated anyway, so this is an easy one for me. Ain't no way I'm giving up my iPhone though.

Bob said...

I've enjoyed the comments of those who crammed Chik-Fil-A yesterday, saying it was in support of "free speech." Like the Civil War, which was about "states' rights."

Bob said...

P.S. The other blogger on this side did weigh in on this issue 18 months ago, if interested:

Even better, from Funny Or Die, is John Goodman as Col. Sanders explaining his own stance on the issue:

"Money mouths."

Billy said...

@Trout - With your final jest/conclusion, I think it's clear that I didn't miss the point at all. Apple is just an example. (Do I really need to just start rattling off the examples of corporate leaders whose views trouble me greatly to make the point?) Yet I still sleep in Mariott hotels and patronize casinos and have instant deposits into my bank.

What is clear is that a lot of people have been manipulated by the media going after low-hanging fruit on a subject that easily divides us, once again, in a Red/Blue way.

@Bob - I agree, mostly. However, there are those, like myself, who are bothered by the feeling that we're increasingly becoming a country that doesn't want to hear any opinion other than the ones we already have (See: Your Post Yesterday). To your point, though, I didn't support my frustration by standing in line for fast food.

troutking said...

Too easy, Billy. Only half of your post is about whether some protests require more sacrifice than others. Of course, but you are using the same slippery slope argument that Rick Santorum uses to go from gay marriage to bestiality. Just because someone chooses to pick the low hanging fruit doesn't mean they MUST climb the tree and pick the rest. Just because I give money to one cause I support or volunteer for one campaign doesn't mean I have to contribute or work for every single one I agree with.

Also, the first half of your post seems to reduce Chick fil A's transgression to "offensive" speech. 5 million dollars of political donations is not speech, despite what the Supreme Court might say. It's action that any person who supports equal rights would logically prefer not to contribute to. I have no problem with Mr Cathy expressing his opinion, but when he's expressing it by trying to affect the political process with his millions, I'm not going to help him out.

Is there a bit of a media frenzy about some of these things, yes. But are most people going to take the time to research what actions go on behind the scenes of companies. No and must of us don't have the investigative resources either. That's the role of the media. I would prefer there is less of a circus but it has resulted in change--think of Kathie Lee Gifford's child labor clothing line or whatever. Our whole economy is based to some degree on assumptions that we would prefer not be true--bad labor conditions in other countries, environmental damage, etc. We SHOULD focus more attention on those things, but you gotta start somewhere.

Billy said...

Does disingenuously comparing my logic to Rick Santorum and beastiality really do any good for an honest discussion? Does my calling PC Thought Police "gestapo" or "Nazi" really do anything beneficial?

Fine. I'm Rick Santorum... and your comment is symbolic of the problem Bob's post yesterday mentioned.

troutking said...

For the sake of calm discussion, the Rick Santorum reference is retracted, but I still think you are using slippery slope logic, which is usually not logic, or legitimate.

My points are these:
1) Climbing over low hanging fruit to get to the harder to reach stuff is foolish. If something is wrong and easily addressed, do that first. Having said that, I do agree with you that if we all feel satisfied with the low hanging fruit, we may never reach for the higher and even more delicious fruit that requires more sacrifice.

2) Boycotting companies whose ACTIONS you find immoral or at least objectionable is a valid and valuable form of civic engagement. To reduce it to disagreeing with the opinions of the companies leaders is disingenuous. To use your Marriott point, yes it would be wrong to not stay there because the Marriott family are Mormons and you think it is a weird religion. However, if the Marriott family is making corporate donations using "your money" to support conservative causes that many Mormons adhere to, that is a different story in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

More music, less politics.

troutking said...

OK. This is an intriguing concept--the great bad album:

G. B. Miller said...

In spite of some of the narrow minded views of your commenters, I thought your post was one of the more balanced tangents that I've read about this issue since people got their collective panties in a bunch a few weeks ago.

If you want to boycott a business because you don't believe in the owner's personal beliefs, more power to you.

But don't go denigrating that person simply because you don't believe in their right to say what they want to say.

BTW, for those who might want to open their eyes for a minute, that guy who berated a cashier and posted a video of himself doing so, was fired by his company the other day.

So by all means, if you feel that you can sacrifice your job, which in this case the man was a CFO and treasurer of the company he was cashiered from, for your beliefs, then do so.

Just don't expect any sympathy from the othe side.