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Who would have thought buying a chicken sandwich with a pickle on it could become a political statement?
Two weeks ago, the political donations and faith-based beliefs of the 91-year-old founder of Chick-fil-A were of little concern. In the past week, it has dominated social media and newspaper front pages and altered the dining habits of thousands ... at least for a day.
I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about the political posture of Zaxby’s ownership. I do know I love their chicken fingers.
Until recently, most political debates involving chicken seemed to revolve around KFC and animal-rights advocates. Maybe it defines me as insensitive, but the treatment of critters that I’m consuming doesn’t register high on my conscience.
To me, the Chick-fil-A debate is as much about free speech as it is traditional marriage vs. gay rights.
When an individual offers an opinion, the choice of expression should be respected by all freedom-loving Americans.
And when that individual encounters disagreement and negative feedback, that is to be expected, too.
Freedom of speech does not protect us from consequences of that speech.
One key problem in public discourse on issues today is the immediate labeling of the speaker. It’s simple to disregard a person’s opinion with a label.
Call them stupid or uninformed. Call them liars or backward. Even helpful, explanatory words like conservative and liberal have been turned into labels.
And most of all, if your organization can call them a hater, that’s the ultimate. In those circumstances, we all must disregard their thoughts or be branded as haters, too.
It’s an ugly but effective technique.
The difference in this case is Mike Huckabee, a conservative talk show host who is a former Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor. He suggested a way to change the debate, which was being dominated by politicians and press groups attacking the restaurant chain.
Huckabee suggested people who agree with the company’s ownership spend Aug. 1 expressing their appreciation with their purchasing power. And the response was overwhelming.
Typically, those under attack in these hater campaigns cannot find a way to respond. Anything they say seems to prove the point of the name callers. But expressing their views with their wallets did not.
Traditional marriage can be a beautiful thing. Defining it as the providence of haters is a step toward further undermining the institution.
As a society, we must not advocate or support discrimination. Chick-fil-A does not refuse to hire or refuse to serve people in same-sex relationships. The rights of marriage and legal qualifications are matters for the legislature to wrestle. The arguments belong there and not in fast-food restaurants.
Here’s where I come off in this issue: I’m not going to research the political beliefs of every business or its ownership. I continue to spend money based on quality of service and products.
And at the same time, I will continue to respect the relationships of acquaintances, co-workers and family members that please them, even if it’s not my way.
We’ll figure this out quicker together than we will calling names.
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenews