By Bill Holmes
The controversy started when Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, made comments about what a “traditional” family is. His contention is that marriage can only be between one man and one woman (actual biological male and female). That's probably not the smartest marketing strategy for the head of a company that has stores everywhere and all kinds of diverse customers but it is his right. Chick-fil-A has always had a religious bent and is not open on Sunday's because of that.
The initial knee jerk reaction came from the gay community. Outrage and calls for boycotting the chain were all over the news and Internet. OK, that's their right. Then came the reaction to the reaction. Christians Fundamentalists called for support of Chick-fil-A and urged people to patronize the stores. That's OK too.
Then the politicians chimed in. Chicago and Boston mayors spoke out against the chain even to the point of threatening to deny approval for new stores. On the flip side the conservative politicians supported the chain and encouraged everybody to buy chicken sandwiches. My opinion, that is not OK. Elected politicians do not get to threaten people or companies for expressing an opinion. They can disagree but not wield power or threats
An opinion? The remarks by Dan Cathy appear to be just that. So far there is no evidence that Chick-fil-A is refusing to sell a sandwich to gays or discriminating in their hiring. If discrimination were to be proven then the righteous indignation can begin. The anti-gay comments put the spotlight on Chick-fil-A and I would expect discrimination complaints to surface if for no other reason than publicity. If they arise then the allegations should be investigated. Let's allow any investigations to proceed without all the rhetoric too.
So, pick your side, there is no right or wrong as long as it's just your opinion and belief. Just don't discriminate on either side. If gay marriage is against your religious or moral beliefs you have the right to speak your mind and be true to those beliefs. If you are gay or support gay rights you have the right to say so and buy your chicken sandwiches at KFC or Church's.
What got me started on this story was the chatter on the Internet about how each side was discriminated against by by the media, the government and/or social sites. Is it possible that both sides can be persecuted by everyone? The fact is that almost every group has been persecuted and discriminated against somewhere or at some time. The Egyptians and Nazis oppressed the Jews. The Romans and lions killed Christians. The KKK hung Blacks. Men controlled women. The straight ridiculed the gays. The Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Italians, Germans, Irish, Asians, Blacks and Latinos have all had to fight through persecution over the years. Now that we have eliminated or at least reduced most of that persecution we are left with a fight between a guy who sells chicken sandwiches and the gay community.
In this situation I was amazed that the Christian community felt discriminated against. Sure some news outlets and posturing politicians may side with the gays and condemn Cathy and Chick-fil-A but many others side with the conservatives and Fundamentalist Christians and some remain neutral. I can agree that the gay community has been and is discriminated against in general but not in this case. I also find it near impossible for the Protestant Christian community to feel persecuted in this country. They may be the only group never persecuted since this country was settled by Europeans. They have always been and remain the majority. For the WASPs of our country that will change in a few years. It may be prudent to back off the intolerance of some minority groups before you become one.
I guess it's human nature that if we hear or see one thing opposed to our beliefs we extrapolate that into everyone against us. We seem to thrive when perceived as the oppressed or underdog. Coaches, leaders and politicians have use this knowledge for centuries. If you are a liberal and watch Fox News or a conservative and watch MSNBC you will be offended. If you watch CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC news you can pick your side. They are either for or against you and you will mostly remember the news stories or commentary opposed to your viewpoint. If you want to ignore the other side of the argument you can find a media outlet or web site that exactly matches your views. Comforting but not very enlightening.
I was also interested because I go back to the beginnings of Chick-fil-A. Back in the late 1960's and earl 70's I was working night shift in Atlanta. One of the few places open all night was the Dwarf House in Hapeville by the Atlanta airport. They actually had a small door (maybe 3 feet) that kids could use. They had a regular size door too for full size people. I was able to use either. The Dwarf House was more like an IHOP or Denny's where you could get breakfast, lunch or dinner. They had takeout, counter service, tables and booths. It was always full of airport workers when we went for lunch around 2 or 3 in the morning. I remember the food being good but when it's 2 am and you're 22 years old the gourmet genes are not exactly active. They did have chicken sandwiches like the fast food Chick-fil-A's serve now and were just starting the fast food stores. Apparently they did better than I did over the last 40 years. The same family owned the company back then so I guess they were closed on Sundays although I don't know. I didn't usually work on Saturday or Sunday nights. I assume that they were opposed to gay marriage then or at least would have been had they known about it. I also don't remember if they discriminated against Blacks. That was the minority just making their way into society in the 60's.
To give you an idea of how perceptions and what is acceptable has changed over time just think of the names we used to call certain groups of people even just a few years ago. Our parents or grandparents had slur names for every different ethnicity and those terms were used in normal conversation. African-American or Gay were not in our vocabulary. Mentally and physically challenged people were ridiculed and/or hidden away. Before that we had slaves in this country and women couldn't own property or vote. Thankfully we have evolved. To be honest, I think the original Chick-fil-A restaurant name, Dwarf House, is no longer politically correct although it is still in business.
So the latest flak is because a chicken sandwich salesman said he doesn't support gay marriage. Hopefully like all the discrimination and prejudices we've seen in the past, this too will pass. We now look back and wonder how could mankind support or at least allow slavery, persecution or discrimination of a certain group. Perhaps our children will look back at controversies between gays and chicken sandwich vendors and wonder what was the big deal.
As I've said before, we all have the right to our opinions and beliefs. We also have the right to champion those beliefs. Support or boycott Chick-fil-A, but let's keep the self-serving politicians out of it. A little thicker skin might help too. Every comment should not create either a knee-jerk reaction or media storm.