Well, I’ve received my favorite spam comment to date:
“I’ll not talk about your competence, the article simply disgusting“
Can’t shake the nagging feeling that I wrote that. And here’s an attempt to top it:
I have somewhat trepidly waded into the Chick-Fil-A thing, mostly on Facebook. But I try to keep it open and reasonable. It is my responsibility as a writer to do so, I like to think. And so far I have not mentioned my position on same sex marriage. I am sure assumptions have been made based on the side I am clearly taking, and perhaps I should come right out and reveal it. But I think it is most important for us to remember that what I am talking about when I address this controversy is not marriage at all. I am talking about the free speech consequences, the repercussions of reacting violently to someone’s disagreement, and the dynamics of this giant rift we have in America that grows with every social and civil difference of opinion. Marriage definitions be damned, I’m with Chick-Fil-A because we are not a country that tries to banish dissenters to the wilderness.
Here’s something I wrote yesterday on Facebook:
“I wonder how many people out there have bothered to find out whether the person signing their paychecks shares their beliefs on everything? Would they be principled enough to quit their jobs?
I have not asked my boss how he feels about same sex marriage, or God, or Chinese people winning gold medals in the Olympics. I expect and would understand disagreement on some or all of those topics. I would not demand that he be restricted from doing business based on those disagreements. But that might just be selfish, because I want to keep getting paid.
I do so like to think of the payroll department as the soothing balm of corporate morality.“
Seems obvious enough. You’ve heard about this guy who heads up a large corporation. His beliefs on a certain issue clash with yours and you feel so strongly about it that you don’t want him to be allowed to do business anywhere near you. What if that guy was your boss? What if that guy wasn’t Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A, but instead was Jeff Bezos of Amazon? He gave 2.5 million dollars to support same sex marriage in Washington state.
2.5 million dollars is a pretty bold statement, at least as bold as the one Cathy made in his interview, and has made through his monetary contributions. Yet the aftermath was absent two very critical things:
1. An outcry from the left about corporate money in politics.
2. An outcry from the right, and especially the religious right, about the character of Bezos or the right for Amazon to do business.
To date I have not heard of anyone marching outside of an Amazon building holding signs accusing the CEO of being an anti-Christian bigot. In the first two pages of a Google search for “boycott Amazon,” I found one link to a forum that had 7 comments, and another that had 6. Neither of them were particularly inflammatory. A couple of people saying they were going to boycott, a couple saying it wouldn’t be what Jesus would do. Kind of a ho-hum moment in American history. And that is exactly as it should be. As it should have been for Dan Cathy. So why wasn’t it?
Something I have noticed as a result of this controversy is that it has made a cliche out of something that should be a very serious question: Does disagreement equal hatred? The overriding theme from the pro-same sex marriage side is that the pro-traditional marriage side is bigoted and hateful. I don’t think that follows in any logical universe. With the usual caveats about occasional homophobes, there is absolutely no logical reason to think that a person who supports the traditional definition of marriage has anything at all against gay people. They simply have a value they have defined a certain way their whole lives, and would like to be allowed to keep it.
And in defense, the same sex marriage supporters don’t want to take that away, they just want to add to it. A man and woman can marry just like they always have, but now two men or two women can do it, too. Superficially, that’s perfectly fine. But you have to understand how important definitions are to the existence of a thing. If you redefine something, you are eradicating its original meaning from existence. If you redefine traditional marriage, then you are stripping it entirely from the canon of human existence. Nobody living will have the right to hold that value. This is why it is important to them – not because they hate anybody, but because they are up against an effort to strip them of their right to a core value.
The crux is that I think same sex marriage supporters are ok with that. Aside from the obvious aspersions I can cast about the hypocrisy of defying bigotry by denying rights to a certain group of people, I have to say it is sensible. It is sensible to redefine marriage if the traditional definition of marriage is bigoted. But is it?
The current dialogue insists that yes, it is. But I worry that calling it bigoted is a result of judging the strength of someone’s belief based on the strength of your belief in the opposite. A sort of contrived reciprocity of conviction, wherein a person thinks that because he would go to the ends of the earth to support a thing, anyone who disagrees with him must hate him. And that’s why it seems reasonable to one side that they sort of loosen up their interest in free speech when the other side speaks up. Once your conviction in a thing reaches the point where opposition looks like hatred, dialogue becomes impossible.
So what is this? A call, I suppose, to slow down and to calm down. The usual call to take a minute and ask the right questions, to get to know your opponent. Try to understand him instead of projecting your devotion onto his dissent. I know I don’t hate the people who disagree with me on this. And by “this” I don’t mean marriage, I still haven’t said anything about my stance on that. I mean the respect being given to the debate. Right now it’s as nonexistent as a redefined principle.