Americans on both sides of the political spectrum delight in painting the opposition in the broadest strokes possible, to the detriment of everyone except those who stand to benefit by the resulting polarization. It was bad enough when people refused to see shades of gray in public figures; everyone was either good or bad. Now, thanks in large part to the perpetual campaign and twenty-four hour news, “good” and “bad” aren’t enough. Everyone is either Good or Evil.
The current Chick Fil-A controversy is a good example. I have weighed in rather firmly on one side, yet my reasons are not at all what those who ostensibly agree with me tend to argue. I don’t eat at Chick Fil-A anymore. It’s not because Dan Cathy is Evil. I don’t know Dan Cathy. Never heard of him until a few weeks ago. (It’s his father, Truett, whose picture appears in all the restaurants.) For all I know he’s a good man and fine father who happens to hold a social/political opinion far removed from at least one of mine. That doesn’t make him bad, no matter how far apart we are on this. Some of his recent comments make him sound a little intolerant and close-minded, but that’s his right, and has nothing to do with my personal boycott.
The issue here is solely how Chick Fil-A spends money I give them. The money in question moves from the business to the Chick Fil-A Foundation to organizations that take positions I find abhorrent. I won’t let them use my money for that, as is my right. They’re not bad, or evil. In my eyes, they’re just wrong about this one thing. It’s a big enough thing in my eyes to justify action on my part. Period.
If Dan Cathy wants to spend his personal money on these groups, that’s his business, and I’d have lunch at Chick Fil-A tomorrow. True, his income likely comes almost exclusively from Chick Fil-A, but once it enters his personal bank accounts, it’s his; what he does with it is none of my business. (Unless he wants to run for public office, which may place him in a position to make his opinions into law.)
That may seem like splitting hairs to some. So be it. To me it makes a difference. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. That has nothing to do with how the Walton family spends its obscene fortune, and everything to do with their business practices. (How they treat their employees and how much of their merchandize is from China, for example.)
A representative democracy only works if people of good will can discuss their differences. It’s not working now, largely because that isn’t happening. We’d better start soon, or what’s left won’t be worth fighting over.