Monday, August 6, 2012

Week of 08/06/2012

Two Wrongs Still Do Not Make It Right
– by David Matthews 2

I have a message for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino:

Thanks for nothing!

I want to believe that you meant well, Mister Mayor, I really do. But I have to laugh at your attempt to do something to speed up the same-sex marriage issue.

And by “laugh”, I don’t mean jokingly. This is not the “funny” laugh. It is more along the lines of “what the hell were you thinking if you were thinking at all” kind of laugh.

So Dan Cathy, president of the Chick-fil-A cheap chicken sandwich chain comes out and says that he supports the supposed “biblical definition of a family”. Let’s set aside the fact that the actual “biblical definition” of marriage is pretty broad and includes things that no modern-day Christian would ever attach their name to. It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Cathy is opposing same-sex marriages, and he’s using the Christian bible as his justification for it instead of just admitting that he’s bigoted.

For this, Mayor Menino, you decide to roll-up the city’s “Welcome” mat and publicly tell Chick-fil-A to find another city to expand to, citing Boston’s, and I quote, “long history of expanding freedom”.

You have got to be kidding!

Are you aware of the phrase “Banned in Boston”, Mayor Menino? It’s not just the title to an album by GG Allin.

“Banned in Boston” was a saying that got started in the 19th century when your predecessors began following the dictates of religious leaders in criminally banning anything that was deemed “offensive”. If there was a theatrical play they didn’t like, your predecessors would chase it out of town for them. If there were books they didn’t like, your predecessors would have those books seized and the authors and distributors arrested. Movies would supposedly be shut down the minute some minister deemed them to be “smut”.

I’m sure the famed Baltimore writer H.L. Mencken could vouch for Boston’s supposed “long history of expanding freedom”. He certainly wasn’t afraid to express his thoughts on the subject. Oh, wait; Mencken was jailed by your predecessors for selling issues of his magazine, “The American Mercury” in Boston.

How about Lillian Smith, whose interracial romance book “Strange Fruit” dealt with a rather taboo subject? Certainly that would qualify for “expanding freedom”, right? Oh, wait, that was also “Banned in Boston”.

How about the late author William Burroughs? I’m sure he could have recalled those fond times when his book “Naked Lunch” was being celebrated in your city. Oh, wait, it wasn’t celebrated in Boston. It was banned.

So much for your city’s great and illustrious history of “expanding freedom”!

But let’s put aside the evangelical-style revisionism of your city’s history, Mayor Menino, and get to the real issue.

You don’t like Dan Cathy’s statement or his opposition to same-sex marriages. Fine. As a citizen of the United States, you are more than welcome to express your dislike of his opinion.

But that does not entitle you, as Mayor of Boston, to then tell Chick-fil-A, as a business, to not set up shop in Boston! Your position does not entitle you to pick-and-choose which businesses you’ll pompously “allow” into the city based solely on the personal opinions of its executives!

It would be one thing if the chicken franchise had explicit policies preventing same-sex people from working there or preventing them from walking into those restaurants. If they hung up a sign that says “Deviant Sinners Keep Out”, then that would be one thing. But here you have a company executive expressing his personal and political belief, and for that, you are wielding your authority as Mayor of Boston to punish the whole franchise.

It was wrong when the Boston Watch and Ward Society did it in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it is wrong when you do it today!

But even worse is the consequence of your pig-headed action, Mayor Menino. You’d like to think that you were doing the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered populace a favor.

You haven’t.

In fact, you may have sent their cause backward, not forward.

Let’s get brutally honest here, Mister Menino… by your words as Mayor of Boston, you have made Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A, and evangelical Christians in general into the victims on this issue! And if there is one thing that evangelical Christians are so sickening skillful at, it is milking the “poor helpless victim” card to the fullest possible extent, even – and especially – when they are the true agitators.

Thanks to you, Mayor Menino, the rest of the nation will have to endure weeks of jingoistic rhetoric from talk radio and cable news stations about how “big bad government is silencing God-fearing Christians for exercising their First Amendment rights!” And, no, the irony is not lost here, since it has been the “God-fearing Christians” that originally used the government to silence people like Mencken and Smith and Burroughs for exercising their First Amendment rights. It was the “God-fearing Christians” that invented the moniker “Banned in Boston”.

Even worse, this is jingoism for the sake of capitalism! From the same people that once argued that we all need to shop after 9/11 “lest the terrorists win”, the supposed “faithful” are now being told they have to spend as much money they can on Chick-fil-A “lest the gays win”. The evangelicals will do everything in their power to make sure that Chick-fil-A reaps record profits from this point on, “lest the gays win”. How’s that for a political legacy? You’re now the man behind the “don’t let the gays win” crusade for Corporate America.

Like I said in the beginning, I’d like to think that you meant well, Mayor Menino. You just don’t know who you are dealing with here. You cannot use guilt and shame against these people as you would, say, a Hooters restaurant or a bookstore that decides to sell “naughty” magazines. They have no guilt and they feel no shame over what they do and who they support. Not to mention they wrote the book on that kind of tactic.

The old saying is true, Mister Mayor; two wrongs certainly do not make a right. You don’t overcome the mindsets of people like Dan Cathy by using their own tactics. You do it by letting them demonstrate to the world how their own positions are wrong.

That, by the way, was how my predecessors - Mencken, Smith, and Burroughs - overcame yours, Mayor Menino.

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