Friday, August 10, 2012

Was Anything Gained from the Chick Fil A Flap-Up for Religious Conservatives or Gay Rights?

Last week, in the wake of gay activists protesting Chick Fil A CEO Dan Cathy's statements on Same-Sex Marriage, Evangelical leader and former Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee announced Chick Fil A Appreciation Day. Nationwide, Christian Supporters arrived in troves to support Cathy's views on "traditional marriage" by lining up to order from the Chicken Sandwich chain. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stepped into the fray posting a photo of her and her husband Todd purchasing food from the chain. In response, some in the gay community responded by holding kiss-ins at nearby restaurants. However, at the end, the fundamental question that must be asked is, what was gained from this whole, no pun intended, flap-up?

Cathy has always been vocal about running his business on "Biblical" principles and has also put his money where his views are. In addition, Chick-Fil-A has always been suspected of having somewhat anti-gay views, having sold their sandwiches at socially conservative functions, so for those who knew about the chain, this was nothing new. The difference is that now, in the wake of rising support for same-sex marriage, more people are not seeing same-sex marriage as a wedge issue but rather as a matter-of-fact acceptance. Similarly, Cathy had not previously been asked about his views as forwardly as he was in the interview. Furthermore, revelations that the restaurant had donated to groups like Exodus International and Focus on the Family, two notoriously anti-gay groups, seemed to accentuate the perceived homophobia.

Yet, the response by some supporters of gay rights was the equivalent, to quote Aaron Sorkin, of doling out "a thousand dollars of punishment for a fifty buck crime." Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, penned a spirited letter stating that Chick Fil A and Mr. Cathy were persona non grata in Massachusetts, while Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago said that "Chick Fil A values are not Chicago Values." However, by suppressing the restaurant's business simply because of their views on Gay rights, they betrayed one of the core ideals behind liberalism; opening up opportunities for all peoples despite their beliefs. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, if one supports this, then they must also support say, a socially conservative mayor's ability to ban a pro-gay company from doing business in their city. Emanuel and Menino's support for equality should be just that; support for equality of all peoples, regardless of their views as long as they do not impeded the rights of others. One may find Cathy's views repugnant, but he should still be allowed to say them.

Conversely though, social conservatives' response to Emanuel and Menino clippling the proverbial wings of Chick Fil A, did nothing more than to invite contempt from those who support gay rights. Menino and Emanuel did not change their stances and gay Americans and their supporters were not intimidated by the show of solidarity. If anything, it further entrenched the opposing sides. Moreover, it showed the sorry state of conservatism. It showed how weak the social conservative movement was that they have to boycott Oreo Cookies, JC Penney and stay put in a Chicken Woodstock in order to show their support for a food chain. It showed how much the social tide is changing in regards to gay rights that they have to guard a restaurant as a refuge for their views.

In short, the Chick Fil A story tells more about America than it does about its views on gay marriage. It shows how its citizenry, its media, and its politicians turn small swipes into larger wars. It exposed how the country turns the throwing of a cherry bomb into the lighting of a Roman Candle and feeds on the conflict. Ironically enough, it comes on the anniversary of last year's debt ceiling debacle, which exposed the rotting core of the American political system. Except now it may lead people to wonder if, it's not Washington that has gone nuts, but rather how the people who send them conduct debates there that drives them nuts.

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