Thursday, July 26, 2012

Agreeing to Disagree

A month ago Clark and I were talking about our favorite fast food places and I said, "I love Chick-Fil-A, but I won't eat there because of all the money they donate to anti-gay causes."

Clark sighed. "It annoys me when people do that," he said. "It's the same logic that people use to say that public school teachers shouldn't be able to donate money to political causes, because their money comes from tax dollars. It doesn't make sense. You're paying for a service, not for a political belief. What they do with that money is their business, not yours."

I countered that I see the two as different situations. In one, you're seeking to legislate what individuals can or can't do with their income; in the other, you're choosing not to give money to a corporation because you don't want them to use your money to hurt people. Clark acknowledged my point but maintained his position. Part of building a relationship is learning to show your partner enough respect to allow him space to disagree with you. Clark and I have both been working on this a lot lately. It goes against our natures as stubborn, opinionated people, but we're worth the effort. :)

Like Hawkman and Green Arrow, Clark and I sometimes disagree on political issues. Unlike Hawkman and Green Arrow, we rarely resolve our disagreements with maces and arrows. 

At any rate, it's been interesting for me to see the Chick-Fil-A situation explode in the past week or so, and to find myself on a different side of the controversy than I would have expected. If you haven't been following along, I'll get you up to speed: Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy was asked point-blank whether the company opposes same-sex marriage, and he answered, "Guilty as charged." He cited the company's traditional family values as the basis for their opposition. And then the shit hit the fan. Facebook memes calling for people to boycott the company spread like wildfire. The Muppets backed out of their partnership with Chick-Fil-A. The mayor of Boston wrote a letter refusing to let Chick-Fil-A open a restaurant in his city. And, of course, Jon Stewart made fun of Cathy.

On the one hand, I'm happy to see that there are so many passionate supporters of gay rights. I see the country getting closer and closer to a point where equal rights for all people is an obvious conclusion. At the same time, I'm a little uncomfortable with the vitriolic nature of the response to Cathy's statement. As supporters of gay rights head toward becoming a majority in the US, we run the risk of bullying those who disagree with us into submission. I want to win the fight for equality by convincing people that I deserve the same rights they do, not by making people who disagree with me feel stupid. (Full disclosure: My natural tendency in arguments is to try to win by making the other person feel stupid. Thankfully Clark is patient with me while I try to overcome that tendency.)

I'm okay with the Muppets pulling their products out of Chick-Fil-A's kids' meals. That's their way of voting with their wallets, just like I do by not eating at Chick-Fil-A. I'm a little less comfortable with the mayor of Boston's response, just because he's representing an entire city of people and I'm not sure his statement accurately reflects the feelings of every Bostonian. I suppose elected officials do that all the time, though, and Bostonians will get their chance to re-elect him or not based on how well they think he has represented them. When Jon Stewart called Cathy an asshole, that definitely crossed outside the bounds of my comfort zone. I love The Daily Show and Stewart makes fun of people all the time, so I guess what makes me uncomfortable is that I don't think Cathy is actually being an asshole. He made a public statement of his beliefs. I find his belief system to be narrow, ignorant, and closed-minded, and I disagree with his conclusion, but I believe he has the right to express that belief. To be fair, Stewart is not threatening Cathy's right to free speech. The law ensures that Cathy can say whatever he wants, short of hate speech, without being incarcerated or hung for it. But in order for our society to really thrive, I think we need to go beyond acknowledging the legal right to free speech and get to a place where we actually show people respect even though they disagree with us.

In other words, a successful society requires the same kind of mutual respect that a successful relationship does. I knew there was a reason my discussion with Clark was relevant to the rest of this post.


  1. It's important for all of us who believe in diversity to stand up to bullies like the mayor of Boston and the Chicago alderman. Otherwise, we are just as narrow-minded and bigoted as the people we decry.

    As the Boston Globe put it:
    "If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage."

    And it really would. Can you imagine?

  2. Excellent point, RC. Thanks for sharing.