And Now This
I know people who thrive on conflict and conversations fraught with tension and debate; they simply won’t stop until they’ve won the argument (or have sufficiently stifled you into giving up). I am decidedly not one of those people. Regardless of how much I may want you to agree with me, my disdain for debate and verbal sparring will inevitably win…and I’ll probably wind up in tears.
Such was the case of my workday Thursday.
Full Disclosure, Part 1: I vote based on my values. I vote for issues, not personalities or parties. I vote on the basis of democracy—you’re welcome to believe what you want and vote accordingly. As far as I’m concerned, everybody is completely capable of making their own decisions. Ask me to weigh in, and I will, but I’ll never demand that you agree with me. If I’m in the minority, so be it.
Full Disclosure, Part 2: I have a close relative who owns a Chick-fil-A restaurant. No one is required to be a Christian or otherwise hold the same beliefs as Dan Cathy; yes, operators are charged with operating under “biblical” principles, but those do not include any discriminatory practices whatsoever. Given everything I have seen at the store level, I will proudly continue to support CFA.
And now there’s this: Not long ago, I started seeing negative posts about the aforementioned chicken shack in my Facebook news feed. It struck me as downright silly that anyone would get so worked up over a company that has professed the same beliefs for the last 40+ years. I decided to stay out of it all, knowing that people would presume my objectivity null and void.
I hold a great deal of respect for people on both sides of this issue; in fact, I dare say my friends list is split nearly evenly. I also think there have been blatant fouls by those protesting both for and against CFA. Frankly, it seems there are very few people on either side living out love, acceptance, and tolerance. When I was verbally attacked at work yesterday because of my association with the company, my feelings on the matter became crystal clear. I’m done debating whether or not I want to vent them. I do.
Our culture is operating under the devastatingly incorrect assumption that you are full of hate and bigotry if you disagree. There are people who are that way, certainly, but failure to agree does not equate to hating whoever does. My friends don’t have to agree with me to be my friends; blog followers can choose to agree, forgive this temporary detour into political territory or stop following me altogether. I don’t aim to change your mind; you shouldn’t try to change mine.
So here it is. Regardless of his stance, I think Dan Cathy (or any executive of any company) has every right to speak freely about his personal beliefs. He (and others) also have the right to run companies based on those convictions, donating to charities or organizations as they see fit. Likewise, we have the right to choose whether we want to do business with them or refrain from doing so.
Chick-fil-A is a privately held company, functioning under the basic business model of selling products to make money. Make no mistake: the people are nice and friendly, but you’re not donating money to a charity called “Chick-fil-A,” you are voluntarily trading your money for food that has been prepared for you.
And while they’re privately held, they also happen to be forthcoming about who and what they support. Agree with it or not, you are armed with the knowledge that allows you, the customer, to decide if you want any of your hard-earned cash to contribute (directly or indirectly) to those causes/organizations in exchange for some chicken and waffle fries.
Maybe that’s the bigger issue here. Dan Cathy’s response about what he believes, the basis on which his company is run, has prompted an explosion of self-examination. Now we, the almighty American consumer, must be accountable for our purchases. Sure, just about anybody could have actually taken the time to look into all of this before it was blown up by the media and arrived at the same conclusions, but that would have taken proactive responsibility.
We can no longer maintain blissful ignorance. Companies are run by people and, as long as they’re not 501(c)(3), they have the same First Amendment right as the rest of us. 501(c)(3) groups have rights, of course, but they have to be a little more careful in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.
We patronize millions of corporations. That screen you’re reading this on…do you know the values behind the brand? What about the merchant who sold it to you, what do they stand for? Or how about the freight transportation that delivered it to the store? The hands of the people who assembled it, here or abroad? The electric company…they all play a role in our lives, whether we choose to think about it or not.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t care that Mr. Cathy spoke his mind, but they don’t like that CFA donates to certain organizations. Okay, then this isn’t about gay or straight. It ultimately boils down to knowing what you’re paying for.
I openly admit that I don’t know about the vast majority of businesses I patronize. I am aware of aspects of some corporations with which I do not necessarily agree—even the one I work for—but they provide goods/services that mean enough to me to carry on. We could look beyond the headlines and do a little more homework to decide how we feel about any given company. If we didn’t like what we found, we could seek out acceptable substitutions for whatever looks cool or tastes yummy. It’s purely a matter of taking responsibility and knowing your priorities.
Perhaps I’m incredibly naive, but I fail to see why this turned into such a national firestorm. Don’t like a company’s product or what they stand for? Find an alternative. Want to see things change towards whatever you support? We’re still a democracy, vote for the candidates that can help make it happen. Forget about the federal government making all the rules; go to your local and state representatives, too. Like they say, “every wave starts with a ripple.”
We don’t all have to reach a consensus and support one cause…frankly, it’d be pretty freaky if we did. But for heaven’s sake, we can all try a little harder to be civil about it. Conversations turn ugly so quickly. It’s not altogether popular right now to be humble and nice (have you SEEN how much American Idol has suffered since Simon left?!), but give it a try. You just might like it.