Liberal outrage boosts carbon emissions

At the end of my workday today, I proceeded to Alta Arden Chick-Fil-A.  As with other locations throughout the country, there was a considerable line at the drive thru.  Many have posted their pictures and made reports.  Instead of a picture, I’m offering here a sketch I took toward the beginning of my hour long wait.

What was the atmosphere like?  Quite congenial from what I could tell.  All sorts of people and cute little kids running around under their parents’ watchful eye.  If there were any bigots there, you wouldn’t know.  Hate levels were negligible, reading at a low 0.029 pico-Sharptons.

For all their outrage, liberals have only managed to launch a thousand drive thru queues.  With all the exhaust spewing from the attendant trucks and SUVs, Leftist indignation correlates to a rise in carbon emissions.  Coincidentally, National Review’s lead essay today deals in part with progressives’ disdain for cars.

Once I got my order, I sped back home.  I had the spicy chicken sandwich with the waffle fries, and they didn’t disappoint.  The first time I had Chick-Fil-A was when I was staying with family in the South–as in southern California.  Contrary to how the media reports it, the Chick-Fil-A empire reaches far past the Mason-Dixon line.  It’s firmly established in my blue state, as San Francisco mayor Ed Lee certainly knows.  Forty miles is close enough for him.  Fortunately for my taste buds, I am beyond that radius.  The City by the Bay still makes for a nice day trip though.

Surely some nonpartisans are scratching their heads today at the latest culture war battle.  What’s the big deal with this Chick-Fil-A appreciation day?  Some say it’s about affirming Biblical truth, and some say it’s about freedom of speech.  These are both right and good, but the question of tolerance is the most pivotal one.

To remain a free, fair, and open society, we need to recover the original meaning of tolerance.  That means respecting the person who disagrees with your views.  This does not happen when traditional marriage defenders are dismissed out of hand as bigots and haters.  As with many things that touch on God, judgment, personal choice, and equality, too much of the conversation is controlled by the gut and not by a clear and open mind.

Today’s massive Chick-Fil-A turnout is not a mere spectacle, but a stand firmly taken.  A stand not in the name of blind faith or bitter clinging, but in the hope of a more charitable discourse.  Just maybe, we’re turning a cultural corner.

Chick-Fil-A and the language of (in)tolerance

A few days ago, Boston mayor Thomas Menino told burgeoning restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A it was not welcome in his city.  Responding to chain president Dan Cathy’s personal opinions–on city letterhead, no less–he decried the restauranteur as “prejudiced,” insisting there’s no room in Boston for “discrimination.”  He concluded that to allow Chick-Fil-A in his city would be an “insult” to gay couples whose marriage ceremonies he proudly presided over.  Fellow mayor Rahm Emanuel soon tried to one up Menino by appealing to “Chicago values,” an incredible claim for a place which, politically speaking, is a values wasteland.

Menino’s letter in particular is unwarranted in its use of charged language.  He and his allies have read base motives into Dan Cathy’s recent comments, which were issued earnestly in a radio interview.  If you listen, it’s clear he’s not hopped up on hate, or motivated by bigotry; his words flow from a reasoned, sincere conviction.  Neither has his company been yet charged of legally-actionable discrimination.  The mayors and their fellow critics are free to dislike Cathy and his firm, but while their claims of prejudice and discrimination go unsubstantiated, they cannot be taken seriously.

Some have justified their indignation by pointing to Chick-Fil-A’s past charitable contributions.  Media reports (here, here, and here) have alternately labeled Cathy, the company, and the donation recipients as “anti-gay” for ultimately opposing same-sex marriage initiatives.  But within these reports, the label goes unexplained and unchallenged.  The reader must naturally take it to be descriptive of one who is against gay people themselves, an utter slander that people of good will ought to reject.

In a similar fashion, the broad, vague charge of “homophobia” came with coverage of Google’s recent “Legalize love” campaign.  To call one homophobic is just as destructive to discourse, as it imparts a motive of irrational fear to the one being described.  In popular usage it is synonymous with hate.

These words ought not to be bandied about by press claiming fairness and objectivity.  Yet, media have a long, bad habit of describing conservatives as phobic and painting them in “anti” terms, as in anti-abortion or anti-spending.  Pro-choice advocates are never referred to as anti-unborn or anti-child.  Deficit spenders are never called anti-frugal.  This is a function of the Orwellian intersection of the tolerance paradigm and positive rights.  Tolerance as presently understood never allows us to question the ever-expanding field of rights, even though reason assures that absurdity must ensue at some point.

Those who want real tolerance have to abandon these loaded terms that implicitly judge the hearts and inner motivations of other individuals.  The hypocrisy of using such labels hurts one’s own cause as much as the conversational climate at large.

Fortunately, the mayors have backed off a bit from their testy declarations.  As the controversy continues to roil, may more people become cognizant of the language used, and realize that same-sex marriage opponents should not be automatically equated with bigots.  We all carry our own personal experiences, shadowboxing with traumas of the past.  Let’s not allow these to cloud an important and necessary conversation.

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