Whoa, is it 2012 again?
I’m asking because that was the year the Chic-fil-A / gay marriage kerfuffle erupted, inspiring some of the most nail-bitingly stupid memes ever to hit the Internet. I thought the meme-storm was mostly passé by the time StupidBadMemes opened its virtual doors half a year later. I thought I’d missed my chance to dissect a pro-Chic-fil-A meme. Not so! For reasons I don’t quite understand, this meme appears to be making the rounds again! Who says you never get a second chance?
Actually, this is a slight rewording of a meme I saw during the pinnacle of those heated conflicts of opinion. The original meme claimed that the owner of OPEC put homosexuals to death. I guess somebody realized that OPEC is an international consortium of oil-producing nations that has no distinct “owner”, because now the meme has changed to focus on one nation specifically: Saudi Arabia. Despite that small correction, there’s plenty of stupidity packed in here. Let’s take a look, finally, at what makes this meme so awful.
For starters, it misses the point entirely. Let’s be honest, the Chic-fil-A problem goes much deeper than some conservative businessman’s opinions on marriage. The charitable arm of Chic-fil-A, WinShape, donated more than five million dollars to anti-gay groups. When I say anti-gay, I mean really, dangerously anti-gay. Some of the beneficiaries of Chic-fil-A’s “charity” include:
- Exodus International – a now-defunct group formerly focused on conversion therapy, a controversial and potentially dangerous means of “converting” homosexuals to a heterosexual lifestyle.
- Family Research Council – a conservative Christian lobbying organization that was labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.
- Marriage & Family Foundation – formerly known as the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund; this was a project of the Marriage CoMission with the stated goal of encouraging corporations to use their influence as community leaders to guide America’s values back to the traditional family. (The Marriage & Family Foundation and the Marriage CoMission appear to be extinct, although WinShape donated nearly three million dollars (PDF, scroll to page 22) as recently as 2011.)
These are just a few of the organizations that were once supported by WinShape – and therefore by Chic-fil-A – whose purposes included blocking marriage equality. I can’t speak for everybody, but when I personally decided to avoid Chic-fil-A, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to line the pockets of the Cathy family; it was because I didn’t want any of my dollars to find their way into projects that would ultimately hurt people – if not physically, then by denying them access to the same basic rights I enjoy.
If you’ve been a Chic-fil-A supporter and/or a staunch advocate of “traditional” marriage, this is the point at which you’re likely to cry “Hypocrite!” I intend to answer that charge in a moment, but first…we need to discuss another major flaw in this meme: the notion that there is any such thing as “traditional” marriage.
I understand why people speak of “traditional” marriage: it comforts and appeals to conservatives. But a quick peek in the history book shows us that the idea of marriage evolves from century to century and from culture to culture. In other words, “traditional” marriage is akin to “traditional” language, or “traditional” fashion. Marriage cannot be pinned down like that.
Consider my wife and me. Although we have what conservatives would call a “traditional” marriage, our union is not typical of marriages throughout history. We did not marry to seal a political pact. We did not marry for the benefit of our families. I did not pay a dowry for my wife’s hand, nor did I have to win her in combat (although my wife tells me that would have been really hot). I don’t have more than one wife, and I don’t expect my wife to be subservient to me. We chose each other because we were in love. Is our marriage traditional? In many other places and times, people would not think so.
The notion that the conservative American Christian definition of marriage is backed by centuries of tradition is a myth. Even in the last hundred years, our country has seen significant revisions to laws regarding who could and couldn’t get married, and to the expectations of husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage, as Stephanie Coontz pointed out in a 2012 article written for The Daily Beast.
When same-sex marriage opponents pretend that their views are steeped in tradition, I feel they are falsely attributing the authority of history to their opinions. In fact, history grants no authority to any one position regarding marriage. Each generation must decide anew what is and isn’t a marriage, and many conservatives seem to be threatened by the possibility that the next generation’s decision might not go their way.
So, am I a hypocrite? After all, I do purchase gasoline, which is produced from petroleum, which is drilled in some countries that do have horrible human rights records, especially where homosexuals are concerned. How can I knowingly give money (and apparently, my assent) to one organization that threatens homosexuals while boycotting another?
As much as it rankles me to say this, it would be nigh impossible for me or most other people to get by without gasoline. Much as I hate it, I am dependent on it. I live far enough from my workplace that walking and biking are not feasible options. Short of buying an electric car, there are no tenable solutions I could employ to avoid consuming fossil fuels, or to avoid giving money to companies that do. If anybody knows of a way I could avoid all petroleum products without disastrously disrupting my life, believe me: I would be ecstatic to hear it.
While Americans are forced to support OPEC, I still believe we should set an example for those nations by improving the way we treat homosexuals within our borders. Just because we must (currently) endure the evils of OPEC doesn’t mean we must tolerate the evils of local anti-gay organizations. Conservatives who agree with this meme are missing a vital distinction: Chic-fil-A is not OPEC. We need oil, at least for now: we don’t need chicken sandwiches.