Tolerance. In the wake of the recent online and in person Chick-Fil-A boycott/support debacle, I got to thinking in depth about this rather exacting word. But even more than this, I got to thinking about how this word is implemented in our daily lives.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be tolerant, what tolerance represents, and how this particular word is frequently misused; all too often thrown around like a used bar napkin. And all of my thought left me with a single question: Is the “outrage” on both sides of the political fence really legitimate outrage, or might it be its own brand of intolerance frocked in sheep’s clothing?
Chick-Fil-A’s head honcho openly supports a “traditional marriage” and a “traditional family” per the Biblical definition, to the best of his understanding. And this same head honcho said so publically, in an open forum. Yet his statements were much to the chagrin of the LBGT community. Just hours after the words came out of Cathy’s mouth, there began an uproar of fabulous proportion. There was a flurry of online chatter; an outpouring of negativity on Twitter, Facebook and throughout the dregs of the liberal media. People were pissed. Hate speak abounded. Arguments were born. Nobody won.
In an answer to the outrage from the radical left, the nation’s evangelicals and a host of first amendment supporters rallied to action, with “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”; probably giving Chick-Fil-A the single best fiscal day it has had in its history. And again people were pissed. Hate speak abounded. Arguments were born. Nobody won.
However, who in this “war” is being tolerant and who is being less than? That is an interesting question, with a complex answer.
Here are the facts:
Dan Cathy said he supports “traditional marriage”. He didn’t say he is “anti-gay”. He didn’t say that his company won’t hire gay people. The words, “gay people shouldn’t have rights” never crossed his lips. All he said was that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman.
And while I don’t personally agree with Dan Cathy’s stance regarding same sex unions, I will support his right to say it with my dying breath. Why? Because we live in a country were we have the right to believe in any religion we choose, to support the dogma of that religion and to announce how we feel, even if that feeling isn’t popular.
You see, it’s not my place to judge Dan Cathy for his lifestyle or his beliefs anymore than it is my place to judge the LBGT community for theirs. And guess what? It isn’t yours either. Principals only mean something if you stand by them when they are inconvenient. That includes the principal of tolerance.
The private, charitable organizations Dan Cathy funds? These things are also not my business. Nor are they yours. What Dan Cathy does with his money is also his right. What I do with my money is my business. What you do with your money is yours. Get the picture?
To believe that Dan Cathy is a homophobe, an intolerant ass and a villain based on his statements alone, makes you the very definition of the word, intolerant.
Yet, when it comes to tolerance, when it comes to fighting for rights, I have to ask: Have we, as a people, learned nothing from history?
Hate only ever begets hate. Hate speak only begets more hate speak. And on this highly emotionally charged, socially polarizing issue, I have seen my fill of hate from both sides. It’s not productive. It’s not forward thinking. And frankly, it’s a waste of time.
Instead of hate, why not love your enemies; why not tolerate them for their faults and for their affronts to you (be they perceived or real) with loving kindness instead of hateful rants and ravings? Because, as history has taught us, that is the only way to truly create change.
Dan Cathy isn’t the enemy. Chick-Fil-A is not the poster child for hatred and bigotry. People aren’t being brainwashed to be homophobic through the strategic use of chicken sandwiches any more than they are being brainwashed to “turn gay” by watching reruns of “Will and Grace”. The problem with the world today is that we allow the fanatics to run it, to polarize the remaining few of us who remain sane, and to anger those of us who remain firmly planted in the principals of right and wrong, of justice and injustice and of what is really tolerance and what isn’t.
Maybe it’s time to think about the principal of your fight instead of the person you want to pick a fight with? Perhaps it’s time to improve your argument, as opposed to raising your voice? If you can do this, it might just be the one thing that changes the world in a time when the world desperately needs changing. Find a middle ground.
That is, of course, unless you are too Chickin’.