Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-Fil-A and Elected Officials

So for those of you living in a cave, Chick-Fil-A's owner has recently vocally stated his opposition against homosexuality and his massive financial support of groups that also oppose homosexuality. Bigoted morons declared today "Chick-Fil-A Day" to go eat there in order to show their support and the rest of us have reasonably refused to go there. Some have made a point to go to competitors instead.

Since the nearest Chick-Fil-A in relation to me is in Scranton, PA, it's not really hard for me to not eat there, but now I'm definitely never going to eat there even if the opportunity arises.

I am 100% in support of the boycott of the chain since money that goes to the company will go to organizations that seek to continue discrimination against gay people. I hope this sends a message to the company and causes it to either stop using its money to fund hateful shit or just fold entirely.

That's why it took me a while to realize that I wasn't really OK with elected public officials publicly telling Chick-Fil-A that they're not welcome in their cities and trying to revoke their permits.

Here's the thing. While I absolutely hate that Chick-Fil-A's money goes towards things that oppress people, as far as I know, they've never actually done anything as a business that would constitute as discrimination. As far as I know, they've never refused to serve or hire a gay person. Sure the business funds horrible things, but none of it is illegal. The guy who owns the company, and by extension the company itself, are entitled to believe whatever stupid-ass shit they want. Until they start doing something actually illegal, I don't think elected officials should obstruct their business.

Obstructing their business is OUR job.

As the consumer, as the people, we should be the ones to express our distaste for the company. If the elected officials deny a permit because their constituents petition them to stop it, then that's totally cool. However, a mayor sending an open letter to Chick-Fil-A saying that they aren't welcome in their city just comes off as... well, OK, I think it comes off as ballsy and kind of awesome, but objectively speaking, it comes off as pandering. As an individual, he's allowed to speak his mind, and I absolutely encourage that, but as an elected representative of the public, he shouldn't write checks he can't cash.

I know that if an elected official pulled something similar with Target or something for the opposite reason, I'd be pissed at them, not just because I disagree with them, but because there's nothing illegal about a company supporting a particular belief so long as it doesn't inform their policy in a way that defies the law. That's just discrimination. "I disagree with you, so I'm going to manipulate my power in the system to exclude you."

If someone can show me an example of Chick-Fil-A discriminating against a gay employee or customer, I would love to see it because then it would be easy to justify elected officials trying to obstruct them. And I WANT to justify that, really. But I can't yet.

Chick-Fil-A should be allowed to have a belief so long as it doesn't cause them to do anything illegal. If Burger King suddenly supported Nazis, so long as they didn't start firing Jews, they should be allowed to that.

HOWEVER, while speech is free, that doesn't make it free of consequence. If Burger King came out in support of Nazis, you can bet your ass that the public would refuse to eat there. You can bet your ass that their business practices would be closely observed. Those consequences are deserved and do not restrict free speech.

In this day and age, it's easy to get disillusioned with government. As individuals, we feel powerless, so we put our faith in politicians who have power we don't have. But the Obama administration has showed me that even if you put someone in the most powerful position in the government, they are still limited by the flaws inherent in the system and can't do whatever they want.

We can't influence change by aiming for the top. We have to influence change from the bottom up.

We have to find power as a public. Our elected officials shouldn't tell Chick-Fil-A they aren't welcome, but we absolutely must. We can come together and tell our elected officials to stop them and then they're just acting on behalf of their constituency. As a public we should be using our lower-level elected officials to influence change rather than encourage them to decide these things on their own. Yes, it's great when we agree with them, but when we don't, it's infuriating.

As a public, we should focus on the smaller picture that's often ignored, because that's where we have the most control and influence as individuals. We choose not to spend our money here. We decide to protest here. We decide to start petitions about this matter. We decide to send this petition to our representatives.

But if our representatives start acting without us, they're no longer representatives. That's not cool.

I love that the Chick-Fil-A boycott has so much public support, but while I love that public officials support the boycott, that doesn't mean I want them to bend the law to aid it.

I'm not OK with an alderman saying, "Chick-Fil-A isn't welcome here because they don't like gay people," but I am in full support of an alderman saying, "Chick-Fil-A isn't welcome here because I have a petition from 500,000 local citizens saying they don't want you here and I don't think that you being here would be in the best interest of the city or my constituency." Yes, the difference is subtle, but to me, it's huge.

1 comment:

  1. Fair point, though I have to respectfully disagree. The reason for this is progress.

    To me, the gay rights movement is akin to the women rights movement, the African American rights movement, anytime a minority has been stepped on and tries to make things better for themselves. The fact that the gay rights movement has politicians willing to go this far for them to me screams progress and good progress.

    Now I understand the impact of consumers boycotting their establishment is far more effective and makes a bigger impact as a whole, and the cities who have banned Chick-Fil-A have not given their public a chance to make such an impact is a pity, but I find it impressive none the less and I approve.

    As for Chick-Fil-A not "doing anything directly wrong" I'd disagree. They're known to give money to discriminatory organizations. To me this is as good as doing something directly wrong. Reasons like this is why I refuse to shop at Walmart and I don't buy shit from the Boy Scouts unless I know it goes to the troup and not the organization. Not these are extreme examples yes, they have done direct wrong moreso than Chick-Fil-A, but I would not bat an eyelash if cities banned their presence for their ideals. It's one way to force change, and it may not be the best way, but I do believe it is a good sign.

    I would also like to say how proud I am of the boy scout troops who are fighting the institution to get their anti-gay policies revoked. Their situation is really tricky because kids are involved, and still they fight. You rock!