In case you’ve been away from your favorite media consumption outlets of late, Chick-Fil-A has come under fire for its president’s successful campaign to sound like a homophobic jackass.
Since the President/CEO of Chick-Fil-A openly admitted to focusing Chick-Fil-A ‘ethics’ efforts on anti-gay causes and organizations, it seems a small PR firestorm of varying stripes has erupted. While a great deal of the dialogue has been directed at rightly condemning Chick-Fil-A for promoting a culture of homophobia, a growing trend is emerging of ‘conservatives’ telling ‘liberals’ to be respectful of Chick-Fil-A and their principles. And often enough, to my amusement, the word ‘tolerance’ is used to in this discourse.
And then, I came upon this gem: “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." This failed attempt in playing the persecuted, again, brought to you by none other than Dan Cathy.
Why do I find these grammatical hijinks amusing? Namely, because most of these people wouldn’t know honest-to-god intolerance or discrimination if it bitch-slapped them with a giant black strap-on. You see, in a country where LGBT-focused crimes make up an estimated 19.3% of reported hate crimes, including everything from curb-stomping to sexual assault, I’d say tolerance is VERY much needed - but not by those angry with Chick-Fil-A. Want to know who could actually use tolerance and compassion? To start with the obvious, how about the LGBT community, that is so rarely discussed with dignity or respect? While we’re at it, how about migrants, who are treated as sub-human by everyone from press outlets to Border Patrol agents? How about individuals from the groups most often bearing the brunt of abuse resulting from the War on Terror or the War on Drugs, often in the form of unchecked police brutality and imprisonment? How about women demonized for simply desiring improved birth control access? You see ladies and gentlemen, THESE good folks could use some of your outrage and compassion. Not some fast food chicken chain that happily sponsors groups as inglorious as NOM.
However, apart from “Fun Times with Manipulating Oppression Discourse,” newer forms of defending the indefensible have come about in the form of righteous indignation at the masses for boycotting economically over a ‘political’ issue. I put this word in quotes, because it’s not political to people on the receiving end of that discrimination. It’s pretty goddamn personal. And it isn’t for that reason alone that this argument falls short of garnering support in any significant numbers. Allow me to demystify this: average citizens don’t usually boycott an entire franchise because they’re butt hurt over someone disagreeing with them. They boycott because they understand that their individual purchases support something they find morally reprehensible. Sometimes, that something is a company’s history of donating millions to WinShape and ex-gay ministries; sometimes it’s a company’s exploitation of the impossible situations of Palestinians within Occupied Palestine; and sometimes, it’s the antics of a colossally idiotic Fox News host making a living by exploiting racist myths to elicit fear. And before you forget, please note that we do tote this approach as a prized diplomatic tool on a regular basis at the international level. We call them “sanctions”. However, unlike when applied indiscriminately at the international level, they are far more likely to work as intended on a localized, national one. So allow me to sum this up: those making this argument don’t usually do so based on the desire for tolerance of a differing opinion – at best, it’s an attempt to cover up bigotry. At worst, it’s an attempt to justify apathy.
At the end of the day, tolerance is being a big enough person to recognize the basic humanity in others, even if they are very different from you. Tolerance is refusing to discriminate against a class of people in the name of preserving the status quo. Tolerance is NOT the right to go without criticism or accountability for your actions. But please, do invoke your right to piss and moan about how no one’s kissing your privileged little ass anymore.