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Opinion Free speech not without cost

George HasaraInitially, I lacked interest even reading about the current Chickfil- A controversy, let alone writing about it. However, as the headlines kept popping up and I heard more people discuss it, it became apparent that this story has (chicken) legs to it. Also, it's a good test of the adage that “all publicity is good publicity.”

Recent published remarks by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy supporting “traditional” marriage has triggered a media feeding frenzy, pitting gay rights activists against conservative and religious activists. The situation is perplexing. There is nothing particularity newsworthy about Cathy's stated views. As a devout Southern Baptist, why would remarks opposing gay marriage be a surprise? It would be headline material if he took the opposite position. Nevertheless, a proxy cultural war has started with the restaurant chain as the battlefield. Last week saw scores of Chick-fil-A supporters flock to the franchises in a one-day customer appreciation day that produced record sales. Later in the week, a gay rights “kiss in” was held at various restaurant locations as a way to demonstrate solidarity with their side of the debate.

Those demonstrating against Chick-fil-A could well make a economic impact against the company's president but also could affect the livelihoods of individual franchise owners and employees. One should try to be discriminating while fighting discrimination. On the flip side of the chicken fillet, those patting themselves on the back for supporting the “right” kind of business shouldn't be so cock sure. If you drove a Chevy to the Chickfil- A appreciation day wearing Levi Jeans, bought a Coke and paid with a Bank of America card, you supported companies that have supported gay rights. Political/social purchasing can become rather schizophrenic.

There is an interesting aspect about the gay backlash against Cathy and Chick-fil-A. Even today, there are many who wish gays would just keep quiet and not be vocal or public about their sexuality. Now, it appears that there is pressure for fundamentalist types to keep their preferences on the down-low, so as to not upset the sensitivities of certain people. It sounds like a variation of “don't ask, don't tell,” so we can all pretend that the world is the way we want it to be.

Some Cathy supporters are trying to frame the issue as a matter of defending free speech. Speech may be “free” but it isn't without cost. While protests against Chick-fil-A may have the effect of dampening free speech, it doesn't prohibit it. Ironically, Chick-fil- A has a history of actually shutting down free speech in regards to “protecting” its trademark of “Eat Mor Chikin.” Those who use a similar catch phrase such as a Vermont small businessman who sold “Eat More Kale” t-shirts can expect a cease and desist letter along with a formidable legal team to back it up.

While people are free to patronize or not patronize any business for social or political reasons, I prefer to make purchasing decisions based on product, price and service as well as other business related features. The proprietor's world view does not have to match up with mine for a sale to be made. If it did, the Hasara Yellow Pages might consist of a single page. Over the years of being in business, I have made small donations to local organizations that span the political spectrum. Your simultaneous support and protests are welcome. I can use the publicity.

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