Chicken Shits: The Slippery Slopes of Chick-fil-A
Aug 2012 08

Chicken Shits: The Slippery Slopes of Chick-fil-A

Posted In Activism,Blog,GLBT,Politics

by Steven Whitney

During the past week, Republicans have fervently fanned the flames of our ongoing culture wars in order to distract, deflect, divide, and conquer. And, once again, it’s just in time to muddy the minds of an already half-hapless electorate just prior to a national election.

This time the battleground is Chick-fil-A – a chicken joint started in 1946, a time when taxes were high and small business start-ups flourished across the country. A few weeks ago, its President, Dan Cathy, publicly supported “the biblical definition of the family unit” and warned ominously that supporting same-sex marriage invites “God’s judgment on our nation.”

While I myself believe God looks very favorably on any marriage and family built on love and devotion, Mr. Cathy seems to think we’re in store for an apocalyptic display of His considerable wrath, not unlike Pat Robertson implying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for legalized abortion.

Cathy’s comments caused a backlash among fair-minded consumers, which then created predictable blowback from the Religious Right. A successful “Kiss-In” was held by GLBT organizers while Mike Huckabee orchestrated an equally successful “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response.

In a curious instance of parallel opposites, the last time fast food servers were in a big-time Human Rights skirmish was in 1960, when four young Black students began a sit-in at the local Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, spurring a nationwide challenge to racial inequality in the South. So a question must be asked: if he could fly back in time, would Mr. Huckabee have organized a “Segregated Lunch Counter Appreciation Day?”

At this point everyone on both sides has acted within the rights granted them by the First Amendment. And while some observers may seethe, as a nation we will stand tall or fall mightily on our protection and preservation of these primary rights.

Yet the most legally and morally troubling aspect of this brouhaha comes from two surprising sources: a handful of the nation’s mayors and The Huffington Post.

The only limitation in the First Amendment is that the government – local, state, or national – cannot restrict any of the rights granted within it.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But as if on cue, just when a small Chick-fil-A crisis was about to pass almost unnoticed into history, mayors from Boston, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, and other cities shoved it into the spotlight by grandstanding pro-GLBT platforms and actually threatening the chicken franchise with bans of various sorts. While politicos generally pander to the electorate, this time they made things worse, not only by igniting a firestorm, but by changing the conversation. Now, instead of having to defend the indefensible – homophobia – Chick-fil-A has been pushed into the more just position of defending its First Amendment rights. From the big bully on the block, the mayors transformed both Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A into martyrs to the cause of “traditional” marriage – hence, the veritable firestorm.

Rather than abuse political pressure, the mayors would be better advised to launch municipal investigations to determine if Chick-fil-A practices discrimination in hiring or any other areas of its business…and to advocate for legislation favoring all human rights, including passage of Gay Marriage acts. That is a legitimate use of political power. Remember, everything has a flip side – if government can punish a chicken joint for speaking out today, it can punish you for expressing opposite opinions tomorrow. That is why the First Amendment is inviolate.

The second troubling aspect of this ruckus was Noah Michelson’s misguided piece in The Huffington Post, one of our most influential political website. If he was just an independent blogger, I’d pass on commenting, but Mr. Michelson is listed as the editor of their Gay Voices section, so when he’s wrong, a lot of readers walk away misinformed.

In his article, Mr. Michelson states that Chick-fil-A‘s stance is not a First Amendment issue because it makes a lot of money and then donates millions to anti-gay causes. But I would imagine that Mr. Michelson also donates money he makes from his employment to pro-GLBT advocacy groups…and that is his right, just as it is the right of a private business and those who work for it to donate a portion of their earnings to charitable or political causes they believe in, as wrong-headed as they may be.

Secondly, Mr. Michelson more or less makes the ages-old argument that Chick-fil-A’s speech is too terrible to be protected. In support of that, he urges readers to link to selected sites, gaze at photos of beaten and murdered GLBTs, and read the tragic stories that accompany them. While only sociopaths could not be saddened and outraged by his examples, he’s still dead wrong, understandably reacting only with his emotions. (In trials of heinous crimes, certain photos are deemed inadmissible because of the inherently prejudicial nature they would provoke on jurors’ emotions.)

Mr. Michelson states that he is “in love with the First Amendment.” But it’s a dubious claim from someone who obviously does not fully understand it.

Freedom of speech – indeed, the entire First Amendment – applies equally to the best, most moral people and the worst, most indecent racist, homophobic, pedophiliac motherfuckers under American jurisdiction.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), as odious a group that has ever existed, marched 50,000 hooded members down Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital, protected by the First Amendment. Their supporters donated money to their evil brotherhood and the stories and photos of their torture, lynchings, and murders would turn the stomach of Hannibal Lechter.

An offshoot of George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi movement planned a parade in Skokie, Illinois, home to a large community of Holocaust survivors. Yes, there was outrage – the reports and photos of the murder of six million were almost incomprehensible – but, as documented in When the Nazis Came to Skokie, the swastika-bearing marchers won support from the ACLU, the Supreme Court (citing First Amendment rights), and, surprisingly, leaders of Skokie’s Jewish community. Apparently, refugees from a totalitarian state knew more than anyone the importance of free speech.

If any group’s speech was ever too terrible to be considered free, I’d put the KKK and Nazi-wannabes at the top of the list. And yet, they still held that right because they were Americans, and in America we let everyone have their say and hope that facts, common sense, and decency prevails – that is who we are, or at least who we are supposed to be, as a nation. Rightly or wrongly, a democracy ultimately believes in its people.

Journalists who make a difference are those who act, not whine or threaten to jump out of the window if they hear one more reference to their opponent’s rights. Especially when bullies, cowards – and, in this case, chicken shits – hide behind a First Amendment cloak. Over the last thirty years, the GLBT movement has engineered the smartest, most admirable and effective campaign for human rights anywhere in the world. They did it by being aggressive – by showing solidarity in boycotts and expressing their First Amendment rights to protest through outrage and ridicule – not by crying when somebody said bad things about them. Gay Pride was and is pure genius and its effect has been positively felt in every part of the globe. Yes, there are still many battles to win, but if any group can truly overcome, I’d bet on the GLBTs. And I’d also wager they’ll do it without impeding the rights of those who are hell-bent on denying theirs.

Related Posts:
The Vagina Solution
Fighting Back Part 4: The Big Liar, Intimidation And Revenge
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

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