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.


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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.

One thought on “This is America, Right?

  1. It is America. The Mayor has free speech rights as well. He’s expressing what he thinks and presumably, since he’s been a successful enough politician to become Mayor of a major America city, what he believes his constituents think.

    There’s a healthy dose of politics going on here, there’s no denying that. But the Mayor can’t make law from the podium, and he doesn’t personally decide on business licensing.

    He’s got a big pulpit and he’s using it to say what he things, sure. But the CEO of Chick-fil-a has a big pulpit too.

    At least the Mayor is willing to wear the consequences of his words. Chick-fil-a is posting signs in their restaurant saying that the Muppet toys aren’t available because of a safety recall when the truth is they’re not available because the people that own the Muppet’s are doing exactly what Chick-fil-a does, representing their values in their organizational decisions by ceasing to do business with Chick-fil-a.

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