“We told her that people who thought that way were wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always, ALWAYS wrong.” …….Katherine Hepburn’s character in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” explaining how they educated their daughter about prejudice.
I’ve thought of those words often while reading about the controversy surrounding a certain chain of fast-food chicken restaurants and their support for homophobic hate groups.
Some right-wing talking heads are crying ‘foul’ alleging the chicken executive’s freedom of speech is being attacked. I have not heard anyone trying to suppress or censor Mr. Cathy’s right to spew any hate-filled message of intolerance that amuses him. I even have a grudging respect for his “guilty as charged” response to the criticism. Often one hears thoughts like his filtered though a sheet-with-eye-holes or from an anonymous screen name on a Tea Party blog. He earns points in my book for letting us see one of the faces of bigotry.
However, to use an economic maxim that should hit home for the chicken king; “there is no free lunch’. Political actions, including speech, have consequences. The fact that he seeks to wrap himself in the shroud of religion does not exempt him. He has the right to spew hatred to anyone who’ll listen. People who disagree with his ‘religion = hate’ message have the right to do so. They also have the right to buy chicken elsewhere and suggest that other like-minded people make a similar choice. The evangelical right has boycotted and called for boycotts against supporters of diversity for years. They set the precedent. It is too late to call foul. Accountability is not censorship.
It has heartened me to see support from a number of public officials such as Mayor Menino of Boston. It is not easy in this economy for a public official to take a stand against anyone offering employment in their jurisdictions. These courageous people should be complimented for their leadership in standing up for what is right.
It is important, however, that these efforts be seen as political and moral leadership and NOT government action. In this case, I agree with Mayor Bloomberg of NYC that it is not the role of government to regulate legal business activities based on these kinds of criteria. While I wholehearted support the spirit that would keep this kind of business off the Freedom Trail, we must not give this authority to local government.
My interests here are self-serving. I live in a “red” state. Some of our public officials seem unable, at times, to form coherent sentences. But they know how to open & close their mouths while the Tea Party/Evangelical/NRA ventriloquist standing behind them tries not to let the camera catch their lips moving. I do not want these officials making permit and zoning decisions based on their views on diversity being at odds with the applicant’s. We will lose more often than we win.