Just as the Kony 2012 phenomenon swept through the Internet earlier this year, so now does the current Chick-fil-A kerfuffle.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t about Chick-fil-A specifically, but instead about some things I’ve learned and observed over the past few weeks as I followed (and often commented upon) the controversy.
The comments Dan Cathy made about same sex marriage didn’t greatly disturb me apart from the notion that they were completely wrong-headed and just blatantly silly. After all, the president of the United States pretty much expressed the exact same opinions up until recently when we learned that his views had “evolved.” One can be cynical about that, as he is up for re-election and the timing of that “evolution” was, how do I put it, convenient. But, one can also be charitable about it. We tend to admire a person who is willing to change their mind on an issue.
Still, the comments in and of themselves were enough to dissuade me from doing business there. Truth be told, this was not anything near a huge sacrifice for me as I’ve only been a patron there less than ten times in my entire life.
When it came out that Chick-fil-A had given millions of dollars to groups who actively advocate for and use the power of government as a means to deny basic individual rights, it brought up the level of ire I had towards the company. If Chick-fil-A were to go out of business tomorrow, that would be just fine with me.
But, things rapidly got out of hand, as the issue became more inflamed. A call for a general boycott turned into calls for government action against Chick-fil-A. Various mayors and city council members vowed that they would not allow any new franchises within their cities. State-funded universities began campaigns to ban the stores from their campuses.
I must give credit where credit is due, as many liberal minded people opposed these actions. But there were (and are) plenty of people who support these measures.
This, of course, set off a counter-protest where people flocked to Chick-fil-A to show their support. I like to think of myself as a rather incredulous person, so I’m not overly impressed with many of the claims that this was a counter-protest in support of “free speech.” I’m sure there were people involved for whom that was their primary motivation, in that they were protesting an obvious overreach and stated threats from clueless and bumbling government officials.
No, this was a counter-protest that wrapped itself in the moniker of “traditional family values,” which the people involved believed were under attack.
The obvious point that needs to be made here is, one is not very credible if they say they are protecting “free speech” with one breath while advocating against another basic human right.
Thus, during and after the counter-protest, those who opposed Chick-fil-A began to ratchet up the issue. I received two private messages from friends on Facebook informing me that they noticed that I had “liked” Chick-fil-A’s page. They were sure, they said, that this was done in the past, but they wanted to point it out to me so I could correct that error.
Now things were getting downright creepy. It was then that several things occurred to me.
I witnessed very few people (on either side) being intellectually consistent about this issue. I decided to test this theory out by asking (on various threads and in person) this question, as can be seen in this blog post:
Only one person said yes to that question, and he made that decision long ago. The responses ranged from (and I’m paraphrasing, here):
It seems to me that these are very unsatisfying answers. My reply to these assertions would be:
Those are specific examples. The overall gist of the counter-arguments was that Romney will do all those things but also fight against same sex marriage, abortion rights, women’s rights, and financial regulation.
The counterpoint here is obvious.
The price that some people are willing to pay for same-sex marriage, abortion rights, women’s rights, and financial regulation is assassination, torture, deportation, murder, and misery elsewhere.
I rephrased the question:
I’ve received no answer to that question.
The inherent contradiction between the answers to those two question (though they are the same in every way, except for the people affected by the policies) is this.
People delude themselves in thinking that the first choice is at best virtuous, and at worst necessary, and recognize that the second choice is murderous.
But, in fact, both choices are murderous.
The last question I ask is, what’s the threshold? What act would the president have to do that would be so vile, so evil that you would not only withdraw your support for him, but actively oppose him?
If targeted, secret assassinations of American citizens by way of secret committee and operating a secret prison where people are tortured without due process on an island where no average American can ever visit isn’t enough for you to oppose him, where are you willing to draw the line?
I’m not overly optimistic about the answers I would receive to that question for this reason: Groupthink, identity politics, and the idea of “collective rights” makes us do incredibly stupid and evil things.
There are many people still alive who not only actively apologize for, but support the tens of millions of deaths that occurred under the Stalin and Mao dictatorships. There are many more who still claim that dropping two atomic bombs on Japan was “the right thing to do.”
Today, there are people who explicitly support assassinations, murder, and torture for ideological reasons. There are also many who implicitly support it because of their ideology.
Meaning, the concept of gay rights or women’s’ rights or class rights are more important to them than individual rights, namely the right not to be murdered or tortured. They are choosing the group they identify with over the individual. So long as the president perceived as working for these group rights, individuals elsewhere pay the price.
They are just as bad as the people counter-protesting in the name of “free speech” while advocating for the rights of Christian values. As long as Christian values are being upheld, the individual does not matter.
Groupthink clouds judgement. Mob mentality destroys it. The group infused with overwrought emotion and righteous indignation discourages dissent or reason.
I’ve known people in my life who have said bigoted things. Some of those people I love dearly. I know, to the deepest depths of my soul, that most of them are not bad, bigoted people. They have expressed mistaken views, which can change. If I didn’t believe that, I would not associate with them.
If I am intellectually honest, I must admit that others have the same qualities.
Acknowledging these simple things decouples you from what the group thinks and forces you to relate to individuals qua individuals. When you’re facing an individual rather than ideological groupthink, it tends to tamp down the anger a bit.
Which brings me to my conclusion.
The concept of rights based on identity politics is a ridiculous notion. I don’t believe in gay rights or women’s rights, or rights for the poor, rights for the rich, for the handicapped, men’s rights, transgender rights, American rights, terrorist’s rights, or for any other group rights.
There are only individual rights.
I fight for same-sex marriage not because I have many friends who are gay and have a personal stake in the matter. I fight for same-sex marriage because it’s a fundamental right, left up to only the individuals involved. I fight for the free movement of people across borders not because I identify as an immigrant, but because it is a fundamental individual right to go where you please, so long as you’re not hurting anyone. I fight for the rights of children not being murdered in Afghanistan, not because it gives me an ideological advantage over someone else, but because it is a fundamental human right not to be murdered from the sky.
I cannot and will not make a choice between them. I’m not willing to shrug my shoulders at one issue to gain an ideological victory on another issue.
People tend to get very indignant when I tell them I do not vote in national elections. Whatever reason I give them, it only makes them more angry. I’ve been told that I’m apathetic (clearly not true), that I have no right to complain (ironically ironic), that I am contributing nothing (obviously false) or that I should be ashamed (I’m not).
Countering these points almost always leads to more conflict.
That’s understandable. When it comes down to it, it’s a religious debate, and people tend to get very uncomfortable and defensive when their beliefs are challenged.
But the real reason I don’t vote is simple. I’m an individual. I try to face the world on those terms. I try to identify with everyone (regardless of gender, race, or country of origin) on those terms.
Voting is a mob action. Voting makes people view the world through a collective lens. It’s always an issue of “us” against “them.” When it’s “us” against “them,” the end result is always someone else suffering so you can get what you want.
Nobody should suffer because of my preferences. Nobody need die for abortion rights or the right to get married to whomever you please.
That’s why I am completely disengaged from the political process.
I don’t ever want to be put in the position where I hold the restaurant I eat at to a higher moral standard than the president I vote for.
Filed under: Culture, Foreign Policy, Public Choice
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