Wrote a lot of this a week or so ago, when I was still reeling from all that Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day horseshit.
In Case You Were in a Better Place for This–Like Some Other Planet
The CEO of Chick-Fil-A was asked about the billions of dollars of company profits that have been spent on anti-gay organizations that work to do things like “cure” LGBT people and lobby against legislation that might make life a little too equal for those uppity deviants. When asked, Cathy said that yeah he and his company absolutely spend a lot of money keeping gays in their rightful place.
The Jim Henson Company went, “Uh what,” and pulled their toys from Chick-Fil-A and gave a bunch of money to GLAAD. Chick-Fil-A proceeded to lie to their customers and say that they recalled the Henson toys due to safety issues. They really needn’t have worried about their employees finding out about their anti-gay work, though. As they were to learn later, lots of Chick-Fil-A customers (and prospective customers) see the fact that their money will be spent hurting LGBT people as a feature and not a bug.
There were cities (Boston and Chicago) whose local officials told Chick-Fil-A that they don’t like the idea of businesses in their communities that are working to hurt people within those communities, but they couldn’t really have done anything about it (at least, no more than is regularly done to keep bars or strip clubs or liquor stores from getting their permits approved and renewed), so Cathy and CFA’s rights were never really in danger.
Meanwhile, lots and lots of Christians start crying about how Cathy is being terribly persecuted for his faith by the big mean gay monolith that runs the media and I guess our whole culture (lolokay) and in response to LGBT people and allies boycotting Chick-Fil-A to keep their money from going to Chick-Fil-A’s destructively hateful pet projects… a bunch of people decide that what we need is a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. We got the usual suspects like Palin and Huckabee, but also a lot of otherwise-sensible people who have decided that they’re going to show how level-headed and fair they are by siding with Chick-Fil-A for the sake of freedom of speech.
I think that the free speech interpretation mostly appeals to people who need to see every issue as a battle between two equally-valid (or equally “extreme”) camps with the moral high ground being somewhere precisely between. If they can tell themselves that LGBT people are just as hateful as homophobic and transphobic Christians, they can not only excuse their own failure to take a stand, but congratulate themselves for it.
Unfortunately, what a lot of them don’t understand (mostly due to their own lack of experience with needing someone to stand up for them and not getting it) is that there is no such thing as true neutrality in some situations. Attempting to be neutral when a bully is hurting their target is passively siding with the bully, and not real neutrality at all. As much as some people desperately want to find a fence to sit on, in some situations there isn’t a neutral option.
It was just a bad week. It was a bad week that started with seeing people on my Facebook complain about how intolerant the boycotters were and only got worse when I saw them encouraging their friends to go buy a sandwich for gay-bashing freedom. It just made me really sad that a lot of people cared so much more about spiting what they thought the Chick-fil-A boycotters cared about (namely Cathy’s remarks) that they were willing to donate money to hurt and kill LGBT people for the sake of that spite. It’s always hard to be reminded of the limits of my friends’, family’s, and neighbors’ interest in our rights.
Between the rights of a straight homophobe whose speech is Constitutionally protected and the largely unprotected rights of LGBT people that Cathy is paying to have persecuted and killed, a lot of people chose to stand up for Cathy, despite the fact that his right to speak hate and donate to hate groups was and is a lot more secure than the right of LGBT people to simply live.
I think that says something.
Took Some Time, Though, and Came Back Well!
However, I took a few days to recover. I got really angry and I lashed out at some people. Now, I will say? Those people deserved that shit. They deserved to be spoken to harshly for what they were advocating, or at least comfortable supporting. However, it wasn’t the tactically optimal approach. Sometimes it is tactically better to take the risk of opening myself up and making myself a little vulnerable and speaking from a position of hurt rather than being the angry woman with a flamethrower they deserve to be facing.
Sometimes it’s tactically better to be “I’m not angry, just sad” at people, even if it’s not the degree of gentleness they deserve. Beyond a certain point, it’s better for me, too, just because of issues I have with anger. So, I gave the unfairly charitable approach a try just because I had the spoons to do so.
Someone was Wrong on the Internet!
I talked to a man on FB–in a group that advocated for supporting LGBT-friendly businesses as a response to Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day–about the fact that he went out and bought Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A to show his support both for marriage equality and for free speech. Here’s what I told him:
I think the thing for me is that Cathy’s rights aren’t anywhere near as endangered as the rights of LGBT people.
Seeing people treat his right to hurt LGBT people and the rights of LGBT people no to be hurt like these are /equal causes/ which /both deserve support/ is sort of painful for those of us who are having our global right to basic safety treated like a debate between two equal sides.
Cathy’s rights are protected. He doesn’t actually need you. You are defending someone who is totally safe. I hate to turn this into social justice triage, but his free speech will be fine without a doctor and LGBT people need you to live.
I kept on the “look, this hurts” point through a few more comments, and I think I got through to him.
There are plenty of ways to support free speech without supporting bigotry itself. The ACLU supports civil rights and Constitutional protections without supporting bigotry. You could have given $6.00 to them and you’d have made your point about Cathy’s First Amendment rights without paying him to act on his destructive prejudice.
That’s the kind of principled stance that I think everyone would have taken well, because then you’d have been saying, “Cathy’s rights deserve protection, but you also deserve protection from Cathy’s bigotry. Therefore I gave to the ACLU to protect everyone.” That leaves nobody any room for criticism at all.
Caring about the First Amendment is great. I can’t criticize you at all for wanting to make sure that even people we don’t like retain their Constitutional protections. However, you chose to pay CFA the money they need to fuel their destructive agenda, and it’s hard not to feel like that’s a spiteful action, considering that you’re hurting us to make a point.
Making that point without hurting us was possible and always will be possible. You’re not the only one–not even the only one lately–who’s chosen to hurt us to make a point, but you’re the one I’m talking to and so you’re the one I’m going to ask to reconsider this kind of thing in the future.
Ok (my name), I just want you to know that the reason I made this expression is because I think free speech is necessary to bring about marriage equality, and I weighed the pros and cons of buying it before I did it. If I knew how it would affect people now, I would have done this a different way, but I can’t do that. I still think you’re underestimating the value of political expression: I have a better understanding of how my actions affect LGBT people, you’re more passionate about the cause, many other people have become more aware of the free speech issue implicated, I think a lot of learning happened today, mostly on my end. Thanks for not calling me names, and I’m sincerely sorry that the pic made you upset.
Now, that’s got its problematic aspects and I don’t think it’s the best place to finish (since his pic didn’t merely make me upset; it was fucked up and his money went to places that will hurt people), but I thought maybe I had done okay there. He added in a later comment, “I don’t support their position on marriage either, I just got carried away somewhat with the civil liberties message.”
Yes. Yes, you did, mister. However! I think things were learned.
If anybody else is still having these terrible terrible discussions, here are some resources that you might find helpful.
Great rundown from ThinkProgress.org that I like because it addresses the problems with (and harm caused by) falsely casting this as a First Amendment issue.
JP Brammer’s Final Rant on Chick-Fil-A, full of justified anger over very real harm.
It’s not about Dan Cathy’s opinion – which I do not give a flying fuck about – it’s about the fact that Chick-Fil-A donated over $5 million to anti-gay hate groups. Hate groups which have been listed next to the KKK, hate groups which try to cure gay people like it’s a disease, and hate groups that have disseminated information claiming that gay people are pedophiles. (…)
Let me tell you this. Agreeing to disagree is a luxury I can’t afford because that’s something you can only do with an equal. And, if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of dealing with some major inequalities here. So when you tell me that I have to deal with the bullshit that society and religion sends my way on a daily basis, and that I have to do it with a smile on my face, then don’t be surprised when I tell you to kindly fuck off.
“But you’ll never get rights that way. You attract more flies with honey than-” oh shut the fuck up. Like you care about my rights.
Then, for a slightly different tactic, Aesop to the Right: Why I Believe Bristol Palin, one of those rare potentially bridge-building essays which does that difficult job without compromising on the values at stake here. This is a keeper any time someone says, “I don’t have a problem with LGBT people. I just believe that they’re definitionally excluded from certain rights because of the way I have chosen to define the group of people eligible for those rights. But I love my gay friends!”
Some people turn supremacy into an over-arching philosophy. For most, it’s just a habit of mind. As a habit of mind, supremacist ideas can spring up in anyone. Being liberal doesn’t make you immune. Being gay doesn’t make you immune. Being a minority doesn’t make you immune.
You don’t have to hate people to feel innately superior to them. After all, what kind of threat are your inferiors to you? You may be annoyed by them, from time to time, or you may even like them. You can even have so much affection for them that you might call that affection love.
Because they don’t have to be said in anger, supremacist statements aren’t only the purview of the “God Hates Fags” crowd. The dangerous thing about a supremacist point of view is that it can accompany even warm affection.
Now understand: I’m not saying you’re a supremacist, but your letter, polite as it is, does betray a somewhat a supremacist point of view.
Please feel free to leave links in the comments so that anybody who needs resources doesn’t have to depend only on what I have stashed in my browser history.