I’m warning you. There is at least a 50% chance that I will regret writing this. There is a 92% chance that I am writing beyond my own depth and understanding today.
Still, this is what’s burning in my mind right now, so I can’t help but pour out my opinion onto this page. I beg your pardon, because I’m sure I will need it.
In case you’ve been in a vegetative state for the last couple of weeks, Chick-Fil-A (CFA) has evidently come out of the closet (pun intended) as a gay-hating homophobic conservative juggernaut that is funneling cash to militant anti-gay groups in a clandestine conspiracy to stamp out every trace of homosexuality everywhere.
Everybody in the room stood up. Everyone punched someone else in the face, then ran away and assumed their usual tired positions in this same American culture war. The same well-tried battle formations.
Today I have a scattered array of thoughts on this:
First, why is Dan Cathy’s interview news to anybody? How could this have been a secret to anyone, with all the news that has surrounded CFA for years?
Every CFA is closed, every Sunday. Their mission statement about glorifying God is posted in plain sight within every restaurant. Their significant charitable giving to groups that advocate for the conservation of heterosexual marriage (and the opposition to same-sex marriage) is well-known and documented.
So how on earth does it come as a sudden surprise to anyone that CFA’s leadership might be opposed to gay marriage?
Someone please tell me why this is news-worthy.
In my view, this is not news. But if you can get someone angry again about the same issue they’re already pissed about, that will get you some site traffic! And that’s pretty much what’s happened in the last two weeks. Sensational headlines, and caricatures painted everywhere.
I was talking this stuff over with Nicole. We were reflecting on why people get so heated about this issue.
“Yeah,” she said, “I get that the gay marriage issue affects people’s lives, their rights, their marriage benefits, that stuff is really important.
“But what I don’t get is, why is nobody really getting pissed off about e.g. human trafficking? People are being beaten, raped, forced to work in bad conditions, people are dying … and nobody gives a shit.”
To me, that is quite interesting. That got me thinking.
What exactly is it that brings the gay rights controversy to protrude at the forefront of the public conscience like a raw nerve?
The most common justification that I’ve heard is that opposing same-sex marriage is opposing a basic human right, and that is what pisses people off so much. I think that’s a fine answer, but after hearing this for a few years, I’m growing skeptical that that’s really the prime motivator for most people in this fray.
Most people I’ve heard from that are incensed about the gay rights are not gay. Most of them don’t have any very close gay friends, if any at all. Okay, that’s fine, that’s allowed. But moreover, most of them don’t really talk about gay rights on a regular basis, or even general human rights, in any form, really ever at all. Most of them are also not particularly conscious about the brands they buy or the kinds of commerce they support, or the effect that their dollar has in the world. Most of them have little involvement in politics outside of this particular periodic indignance, and other common red/blue controversies like it. In fact, most of what I listed above applies to almost everyone that I know. It applies to me as well.
So, Nicole makes an excellent point here:
If the dignity of the human, and the universal enjoyment of basic human rights is really the rallying cry of these angry masses, then why is there not such a firestorm about, say … human trafficking?
Ever spent any time checking into that? No?
Here’s a taste. Millions of people every year are forced into obscene circumstances lacking any trace of human rights. Enslaved. Owned. Coerced into prostitution. Sold as playthings. Possessed as children to be soldiers or garment makers or agricultural workers. Their best years are stolen from them. Their lives are wrecked. Their dignity is discarded as superfluous. Their minds and hearts are mangled by abuse. What about that, huh?
Think your life doesn’t play into this thing? You’re so incredibly wrong. Shopped at Target lately? How about Abercrombie, JC Penney, North Face, Banana Republic, or Old Navy? If so, read this. The average middle-class American consumer is the single biggest supporter of global human trafficking. No question about it. Read a lot more here.
So why doesn’t anyone give a shit about human trafficking?
I have some conjectures.
First, attempting to boycott trafficking is effing difficult, because our affluent lives are entwined with ten-thousand globalized supply chains that are incredibly expensive and difficult to scrutinize. Moreover, most of your favorite brands probably use labor trafficking in some form, either for their supply of raw materials, or for assembly of goods. Yeah. The shadow of trafficking is almost unavoidable in our modern world, unless you want to give up your affluent comfortable consumerist lifestyle, and go back to buying things that are strictly locally-made. Or you could be Amish, if you like. Does that mess with your conscience? I’m not apologizing for that.
Second, perhaps more importantly for this particular fight — somehow the issue of gay rights has become militarized.
Who militarized the issue? I think it was us.
By “us” I mean conservative evangelical Christians, who over the last few decades have given voice to increasingly aggressive public stances on this issue. That, more than anything, is what I think has people so pissed-off.
It’s not the principle of it. It’s not that most people really care about the issue. It is instead, I contend, that the religious right has pushed the big red button over and over again. We (Christians) have set the American public on a hair-trigger. And so it’s no wonder that every new slip-up, every hint of hypocrisy or dogmatism or bigotry from any high-profile Christian, brings a new storm of outrage, condemnation, and the usual fanfare of boycotts.
I’m running out of space today. These reflections are unexamined, un-proofread, and biased. But hopefully useful, to at least somebody out there.