Not everyone will agree that we lost, and truly, there is no one refereeing who designates the winner and loser, but it is extremely easy to make a case that says we lost the battle over chicken. Right wing nut, Matt Barber, goes much farther, suggesting that our loss set the gay rights movement way back 20 years. I don’t think that is true, but I do believe what should have been a real positive bump for Gay Rights turned very ugly, and the anti-gay right won.
On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter. Marriage Equality will be won in the courts and eventually it will be won at the ballot boxes. The fiasco over Chick-fil-A won’t impact the courts at all, but it will slow down our acceptance by the general electorate, and that is a shame. The sooner we see a victory at the ballot box, the quicker that Full Equality will be reached. And the final goal must be full equality and nothing less.
On the other hand, it matters in a big way because it is the loud and nasty Far Right who deal in misinformation, half-truths, and falsehoods in ways such that our queer youth is inundated with shame-based messages and hate speech, and a skirmish like what we saw over Chick-fil-A only fuels that fire. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we are responsible for that, only that we feed into it, and that doesn’t help anyone.
So why did we lose?
1) We lost because our anger overwhelmed any positive actions. For example, did you see the video of the guy who went to a Chick-fil-A drive thru, ordered a glass a water and then went off on the poor cashier who was being utterly nice to him? The Twitterverse and Facebook were overflowing with such stories and pictures. Or as Evan Hurst of Truth Wins Out put it:
None of us are ever going to live or die based on nasty MSG-laden diabetic bigot chicken. Really. Seriously.
Now I love Evan to death and what Truth Wins Out does, and I could be convinced that he was at least partly joking here. But only partly. His arrogance is in full force:
The underbelly of America that showed up the other day in hordes to advance their pre-diabetic states at their local Chick-Fil-A won’t be back, at least not that often. It’s a tad too healthy for them. That’s saying a lot, but it’s true.
And before you start bashing me for saying nasty things about Evan, I want to highlight some brilliant stuff he said too. But my point stands. We are collectively so angry and looking for an outlet. Anger may be too mild. Some of us are seething. Thus is the result of living as second class citizens everyday.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Truly, when Dan Cathy made his remarks, and the media began to talk about it, it was his perspective that seemed obnoxious. So much so that he tried to walk it back, and Chick-fil-A went into damage control mode. But then Huckabee got his grand idea and queers everywhere went into panic mode. If we had done nothing, Chick-fil-A appreciation day would have come and gone with little fanfare. But we couldn’t let that happen. We had to have a fight, and a fight we had, and we lost.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that we have every right to be angry, and frustrated that we do not have equal rights. We have a right to be so angry that we want to scream. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. There is no constitutional right to anger, but it is the most reasonable and sane response to the way we are treated by many. And, it isn’t that we are angry, but it is all about what we choose to do with the anger that will end in a positive or a negative result. During the Act Up days, we would say, our grieving has turned to rage! But Act Up was very clever with how it channeled that rage, and that’s the difference between winning and losing.
2) We lost because we lost control of the message. It was not about Chicken, or even about one person’s religious beliefs and his right to give voice to them, but that is how it ended up, and anytime it comes down to (or perceived to be about) freedom of speech, there is no winning. But the real point was about how discrimination was a core business strategy; a business built on Biblical Teachings, and the inconsistencies associated with such a thing. We often talk about the rapid influx of Religion into government, but here was a prime example of Religion influencing the public sector. The “free market” where it is supposed to be all about business, not faith. Religion can not be an acceptable reason to discriminate against people in any sphere, public, private, or governmental. This over-reaching of Biblical Teachings- that was the real issue, and we got so caught up, that the other side took control of the message, and turned it into free speech. Free speech trumps all.
If you don’t believe me, consider that guy on youtube, berating the Chick-fil-A cashier. He was defended by many queers because what he was doing they called free speech. Ha! Bullying is bullying and unacceptable no matter who is doing it, and when we let something get called “free speech” then it is our own fault for not countering that with the truth.
3) We lost because we have a selective idea about what fairness and equality looks like. Think about it. How much we heard things like “we don’t want your business in our city…” and that is what our side was saying. Sounds exactly like the rhetoric used to other and isolate us, doesn’t it? Here, we succumb to the same tactics being used against us, as if that makes it right. It doesn’t and our so-called righteous indignation got called out big time.
4) Lastly, in my opion, we lost because we mistook the smoke and mirrors distraction for the enemy and totally missed the mark. You see Chick-fil-A is simply a symbol of the enemy, which is actually the people who are working so hard to keep full equality from being our reality. Yes, one of those people is Dan Cathy, CEO of the Chicken, and yes the business is run on Biblical teachings. But it is totally possible for someone to be religious and not be involved in anti-equality efforts. The reality is that the anti-equality crowd is actually quite small, but highly vocal and extremely well funded by a few very very rich people and organizations. The whole Chicken Appreciation Day was nothing more than a publicity stunt. They can get a bunch of people out on a single day and get a few photos and it looks as if it is armies of folks, when in reality it isn’t. But to the media this plays so well! That’s what I mean by smoke and mirrors. The anti-equality folks need to make it seen as if they have a large following, so these types of publicity stunts are crucial. And, it is really just a distraction from the real issue and that is the tons of money that a few wealthy spend to stymy pro-equality efforts. And the money flow continues unnoticed, because we were all focused on the publicity stunt.