Let’s not be stupid, redux


Oh, hello.  I didn’t see you there.  I was too busy pounding my head against a wall.  Excuse me if I sit down?  It’s made me a mite woozy.

What’s that, you ask?  Why am I beating my head against the wall?  Because people who are ostensibly on my side are so offending my values that I may now be forced to eat at mother-fishin’ Chick-fil-A on principle.  I’ve already written about this once, but apparently the Stupid is quite catchy amongst the mayors of gigantic, heavily-Democratic cities.  First Menino, now Emanuel:

The anti-gay views openly espoused by the president of a fast food chain specializing in chicken sandwiches have run afoul of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a local alderman, who are determined to block Chick-fil-A from expanding in Chicago.

“Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values,” Emanuel said Wednesday.

Why?  Why, why, why, why?  Are we so lacking in confidence about the rightness of our beliefs and the growing support within the general public that we must abuse the powers of the state?

I don’t want to win this way!  I don’t want the other side to be able to justly complain that they were bullied into quiescence.  I don’t want those in positions of power to be able to determine which speech is publicly acceptable and which must be quelled, even when I agree with the viewpoints they are endorsing.  As much as I want to be legally married, I want to live in a country where freedom of speech is guaranteed even more, and I cannot express how much I resent being forced to state things in those terms.  I shouldn’t have to stipulate that, and my powerful allies shouldn’t be putting people like me in such a position as to make us feel compelled to do so.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way, and voices louder than mine are making the same points.  It’s bad enough to deal with the policy goals of those whose agenda conflicts with my civil rights.  We shouldn’t have to worry about our own side making things worse.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. “Why? Why, why, why, why? Are we so lacking in confidence about the rightness of our beliefs and the growing support within the general public that we must abuse the powers of the state?”


    I can’t help but think there is a certain smugneess and righteousness within the gay rights movement today. It’s as though they have decided the case has already been made and they are just waiting for all the ‘bigots’ to die or be shamed into reform. My friends on Facebook have been very matter-of-fact in just assuming there is no longer a debate on these kinds of issues. If you aren’t on board, you are a relic of a hateful past. No more debate, get on board or be left behind.

    I’m not saying I agree with Chick-Fil-A but the oposition has gotten out-of-hand.

    • Oh, sweet mother of mercy, but I’m afraid you might be right.

      A while ago, I remember a protracted discussion in the comments following one of Tod’s posts on the main page about whether it was OK to call people who opposed gay rights “bigots.” Jason and I got into a back-and-forth about whether it’s ever appropriate to do so, with him essentially saying “no” and me saying “maybe sometimes.” (Jason, if I am misrepresenting your views, I hope you won’t hesitate to correct me.)

      I do think there is genuine bigotry than underlies some opposition to equality for gays and lesbians, and I don’t think it’s always a bad idea to say so. But bullying is bullying is bullying. I wholeheartedly object to the president of Chick-fil-A’s beliefs, but he has a right to believe them. Cowing people into pretending otherwise is stupid and short-sighted, to say nothing of chilling when one considers it in terms of civil liberties.

      • I was just telling someone that it seems like there is a lot less outrage from gays themselves and it’s more from their straight supporters. Maybe it’s just finally become fashionable in the mainstream to be a gay rights supporter?

        I admit though that I am a bit biased in my sample group. I interact daily with you and Jason and North and I can’t help but think you all are the most non-righteous gay men I have ever met (and I hope that sounds like the compliment I mean it to be). It’s not that I am repulsed by homosexuals with a cause, but it’s nice to know there is nuance within the gay community.

        • Heh. Oh, I am probably too prone to righteousness, given the right circumstances.

          I really want to win, but I really, really want to win the right way. I don’t want people to pretend to support my side, I want them to really support my side. If I were sort of tepidly supportive of gay rights, but more supportive of Chick-fil-A (a not altogether preposterous possibility), the statements of Menino and Emanuel could well tip me in the other direction.

    • Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s pretty clear that there is no longer a debate. There’s one side screaming nonsense, I guess, if you want to call that a debate, but those people *are* a relic of a hateful past, and waiting for them to be ashamed, die, or otherwise go away is a pretty eminently sensible strategy. This is not to say that there aren’t people in the middle who are ready and able to be convinced, as there obviously are a very large number of those. But pretending that this is a thing where both sides have real arguments is just foolishness, and there’s no reason not to point that out.

      All that said, it still isn’t the state’s job to prevent them from believing nonsense.

      • I’m essentially in agreement, Ryan. (FWIW, the exchange I’m referencing is here.) But I think we do ourselves no service when we: 1) take for granted that all right-thinking people must obviously believe in the justness of our cause, or 2) believe that the justness of our cause is sufficient to reason to behave unjustly.

        • I’m with you wholeheartedly on (2), but maybe halfway on (1). There comes a point where I’m just not really interested in negotiating. If someone says racist things, I don’t sit him/her down and have a deep discussion about why racism is wrong (unless he/she is a child, I suppose); I say, “Stop being a dick”. I realize there is some sense in which we haven’t passed the tipping point on LG (and especially not BT) issues that we have on race-related ones in society at large, but to the extent that we’re all educated people on the internet here, *we* have long since passed that point.

          • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling homophobia homophobia. Dan Cathy (the president of Chick-fil-A) is, if not an outright bigot, at least willing to use his religious beliefs to supersede my legal rights. That’s wrong, and it’s totally OK to say so.

            But we still have a lot of people to convince, and evincing disdain that they’re not already on board with our viewpoint won’t actually get them on board with our viewpoint.

        • Or, I guess, for precision’s sake, what we’re talking about here is not a discussion of why racism is wrong but whether racism is wrong. That’s the conversation I’m not willing to have with an adult. If you don’t already know, that isn’t my problem.

      • Ryan,

        EVERYONE has some kind of club that they belong to that they don’t want other people to join unless they meet certain criteria. Some of it is rationale, some of it isn’t. But opposition to gay marriage isn’t always based in hate. I have been in favor of gay rights since I knew what they were but I have been an opponent of gay marriage,ambigious and a tepid supporter (in that order). It’s never been about hate for me.

    • I’m of two minds. It depends on how the beliefs manifest.

      “I think that homosexuality is disgusting and immoral and will result in the destruction of our country as we know if but, hey, if they want to get married in a Unitarian Church, it’s a free country. Until they destroy it, anyway.”

      “I think that homosexuality is a matter of taste but we, as a society, have a right to dictate behavior on the part of our members. Sometimes you just have to put a lien on the liberty of some for the maximization of the good of the whole. If you’ve got a healthy relationship, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great role model somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to meet other people. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a significant other— you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. For the good of society, we have to have some limits. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

      The person who says something like the former strikes me as a fine American and, my god, I wish there were more of them. The person who says something like the latter? I wish they’d all move to somewhere else and if calling them “bigots” would speed that up, I’m happy to oblige.

      • I think that second quote is somewhat muddled and incoherent. Can you help me understand the connection between Obama’s comments regarding the benefits of infrastructure and government funding thereof, and legislating morality? For me the connection is not so clear.

        • In the time since I wrote that comment, I started feeling bad. I realize that I don’t have skin in the game anywhere near to the point that others do and my having friends who want to get married who can’t is bad, yes, but it’s nowhere near as bad as they have it… so my saying what I said was unnecessarily flip and might have even wandered into “completely unhelpful territory”.

          So I’m sorry about that. It was not my intention.

          To answer your question about my intention, one of the arguments that “The Left” and “The Libertarians” get into a lot is “how much is society owed?” and whether there is more owed than merely taxes (e.g. “behavior”). One of the discussions we had recently wandered into was whether “The Left’s” position could lead directly to such decisions as Bowers v. Hardwick and whether that made for a fundamental problem with the attitude that society can decide how much (and what kind) society is owed.

          The attitude that “you stand on the shoulders of giants” is, of course, true. My problem was when we get into “therefore, there are a lot of things you do that are my business”… and how, in living history, we have seen society say “these relationships are our business”.

          And, for the record, that strikes me as much more dangerous than one that says “it’s outside of our jurisdiction, even if we personally disapprove”.

          • Regardless of how much skin you have in the game, I don’t really question your intentions, my friend. Even in disagreement, I think highly of you.

            I do think your implied argument went a little bit off course. Comparing tangibles like technological investment and (to a somewhat less tangible degree) good education to intangibles like “values” is fraught, and gets us into apples/oranges territory. The degree to which “society” should invest in the former for the greater good is sketchy enough territory without drawing the latter into it, as well.

          • Then I’m left explaining the argument behind Bowers v. Hardwick without using “society has an interest in the following…” as a premise.

          • Er… well, since I haven’t spent much time recently trying to figure out how I would defend the Bowers v Hardwick decision, I fear I have no useful suggestion.

          • I’m not interested in defending it as much as explaining the thought processes that got them from X to Y. I don’t have to agree with Wickard to be able to say how the justices got to the conclusions they did.

            If, however, I don’t have “this has a significant impact upon interstate commerce, even if it is not in itself interstate commerce” as a premise, I’m left darkling.

  2. Yeah, stupid is right. Leading champions of “traditional marriage” often bring up concerns that the legalization of gay marriage will result in the infringement of the freedom of speech. These two mayors are buttressing these arguments. Not a prudent strategy, this.

      • What Kyle said is objectively pro-discrimination. Both of you need to retract your previous statements, for the good of the cause.

    • I have a friend on Facebook who openly advocates dumping the tax-exempt status of any church that refuses to marry gay people.

      Her heart is in the right place, but I keep trying to tell her that she is really, really not helping.

      • I remember passing by some absolutely ridiculous megachurches in the south, and hearing about churches with elevators & video screens, selling books and t-shirts and stuff, even preachers having bodyguards and rolling around in super-fancy cars. There were even people who openly said the reason they went to a particular church was because some local celebrity went there. Absolutely disgusting, and if I believed in a supreme being still I’d be inclined to wonder why said supreme being didn’t have a few lightning bolts cued up for the whole mess.

        Yeah, what she’s calling for in terms of using tax policy to make churches bow to a particular political agenda is ridiculous, I agree. But on another level…some churches ain’t churches. Maybe the tax exemption at all was a mistake.

        • There are reasons to re-evaluate tax-exempt status of some churches. These are just poor grounds on which to do so. I don’t think we’re really in disagreement here. If we scratch enough, maybe we are, but not obviously so.

  3. One of the few things I like about the US as compared to Canada is that freedom of speech is more strongly valued here. It makes me grind my teeth to read stuff like this.

  4. One thing I’ll point out that’s not entirely clear from the post is that Chicago already has at least one Chick-fil-a, a freestanding one on the corner of Wabash and Chicago (near the magnificent mile). It appears to be doing well.

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