Everything Old Is Chic-Fil-A Again

Chic Fil A vs Saudi Arabia

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.

Advertisements

The Non-Case of Veterans v Robertson

Veterans vs Robertson

Don’t you love these memes that express outrage about the discrepancy of attention paid to two completely non-related issues? Aren’t they even better when they paint an inaccurate picture about who’s getting worked up about what, and why?

I’ll admit that it gives me a headache to think or write about the federal budget, which is why I try to avoid it, but like many Americans, I think we should help support our military veterans after they leave the service. Whether you agree with the causes of the wars in which they fought or not, these people selflessly put their lives on the line and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

That’s what makes the veteran benefit issue so vexing, and yes, a great many people have batted one or both eyes about it. The recent budget compromise passed by the Senate applies a one percent cut over ten years to the cost of living adjustments for military retirees with twenty years of service who are still of working age. In other words: If you’re retiring from the military after 20+ years, but you’re still under age 62, the federal government won’t be bumping up your benefits as much to help cover the rapidly swelling price tag of simply being alive.

Many Congresscritters and their constituents find that unconscionable, and I can understand their anger. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that the passage of this deal maybe averts another shutdown (I’m sure there’s still some way to screw this all up). To loosely paraphrase Frankenstein’s monster: SHUTDOWN BAD! Still, it kind of sucks to ask veterans to foot the bill for keeping the government running.

Now, about the second part of this terrible meme: nobody’s really losing their minds about the fact that Phil Robertson thinks homosexuality is a sin. One side is going crazy over the fact that Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality, prostitution, and various other morally questionable activities, then displayed breathtaking stupidity regarding the plight of black Americans during the pre-civil rights era; the other side is going crazy over the fact that A&E made a business-savvy decision to suspend him. (A third subgroup thinks the entire thing is a publicity ploy; we cannot discount that possibility, but if so, it’s a sick one.)

Being upset about what Robertson said in no way precludes one from being upset about what’s happening to veterans’ benefits. In fact, both issues need addressing. Robertson’s comments could (and should) open the door for further discussion about tolerance in America (and why some people seem hell-bent on preventing our society from becoming more accepting of various ethnic groups, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, etc). The veterans’ benefits debate should draw peoples’ attention to how we elect to spend money in this country, and how we treat those who have served. There’s room at the table for both discussions. Please don’t pretend that one issue subtracts from another.

A Real Philemma

Philemma

One of these days, a celebrity I actually like is going to say something stupid. When that day comes, I hope I don’t find myself thinking of ways to excuse his or her behavior.

As soon as I heard about the firestorm that grew up around Duck Dynasty patriarch and ZZ Top Fan Club President Phil Robertson, I knew I’d be writing about it. It’s not that I care about Duck Dynasty – nothing could be further from the truth – but this has all the makings of a Paula Deen style scandal. In fact, it’s bigger than the Deen scandal: Deen’s reprehensible behavior could only be hand-waved away by saying that she was a product of another era, but Robertson’s old-fashioned bigotry supposedly has the backing of the Big Man himself. Of course, that all depends on your reading of the Bible (Shh, don’t tell conservatives that there are different opinions on religious matters – it just upsets them), but the religious right is perfectly happy to conclude that anybody who finds Robertson’s recent comments in GQ disgusting must be violently anti-Christian, and therefore worthy of scorn.

What did Robertson say that was so appalling? Man, what didn’t he say? Robertson’s GQ interview is a veritable grab bag of ignorance and bigotry. Said Robertson:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

Dear God. I simply don’t know where to start. Robertson is with the blacks, because his family is white trash? So does Robertson actually conflate black people in general with “white trash”? That’s not a flattering comparison by anybody’s standards. And if Robertson failed to witness the suffering of blacks under Jim Crow, then it was only because he was blind to it. I cannot believe that Robertson spent his entire life huddled in an isolated bubble where all the local black people were just as happy as they could be about the hand they’d been dealt. Robertson must know that was not the situation everywhere.

But racial insensitivity aside, what does Phil Robertson think about gay people?

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong… Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right. It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical

You know how sometimes you realize you’ve said way too much but for some reason your mouth just won’t stop running? I think Robertson experienced that about the time he started discussing vaginas and anuses. I’m so sorry, gentle reader, to have exposed you to that. Nobody should have to think about the places Phil Robertson does or doesn’t want to stick his wang.

The first thing that’s blatantly obvious is that Phil Robertson doesn’t understand anything about homosexuality; or to be fair, he understands about as much as he thinks he needs to, which is nothing. He manages to work bestiality into his discussion about homosexuality, as if they are two sides of the same coin. Of course that isn’t true: a gay man or woman is no more likely to have sex with an animal than a straight man or woman is, but that distinction is not important to somebody who wants to make homosexuality sound as icky as possible.

Also, Robertson seems to think that human sexuality is driven solely by our attraction to various orifices. Unfortunately for him, this idea doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny. A gay man is not gay simply because he wants to…you know. He’s gay because he is attracted to men, not their body parts. How does Robertson not understand this? Oh right, because he doesn’t want to.

Now let’s be honest: you don’t have to interview Phil Robertson to guess how he feels about certain social, religious, and political issues. I’m sure the bigwigs at A&E knew from the start that the Robertson clan would have fairly staunch Christian conservative values, including an open disdain for homosexuality. They took a chance on the Robertsons because they thought the show could be successful, and it has been. Robertson was just speaking his mind: no matter how abhorrent his beliefs are, he is still entitled to them. But just as with the Paula Deen kerfuffle earlier this year, people need to understand that A&E is a business, first and foremost. They are not bound by the Constitution to respect free speech, which means they can make their own decisions about which of their stars’ comments they will support. Robertson was either gutsy or foolish – depending on your point of view – for admitting to feelings that a reasonable person would know were controversial; now come the fireworks. Nobody should be surprised.

Say What Now?

Born That Way

At first I thought this must be the work of a troll. It’s so ignorant; it seems to have been created specifically to cause maximum offense. But no, there’s a whole Facebook page of crap just like this. Unless you’re looking for a way to rid yourself of that annoying faith-in-humanity you’ve been feeling recently, I do not recommend that you visit the page.

So where do we start? Well, not that it matters to this jackass, but most experts favor biologically-based theories regarding the origin of homosexuality. Allow me to clarify. There doesn’t appear to be a “gay gene” – a molecular on-off switch that determines whether a baby will be gay or straight – but there are genetic factors that can make a fetus more susceptible to hormones in the womb during gestation. Although the topic is still controversial, many experts feel that a combination of genes and the uterine environment prepares a baby to lean toward homosexual or heterosexual (or somewhere in between) in the fullness of time.

So it may be true that a baby isn’t born gay – but neither is he born straight. Babies don’t have sexual orientations, merely potentials and years to develop. But the ball has already been set in motion when the baby is born, and the developmental sequence that leads to the child fancying men or women is guided by factors that are quite beyond his control.

Naturally, you reject all of those conclusions if you don’t like gay people. The homosexual/smoker analogy reveals what this memer truly thinks about homosexuals. He apparently imagines that all teenagers are straight until their gay peers introduce them to homosexuality. “Come on, just try it,” they say, promising the unsure teen that it will make him look cool. So he tries it, and before you know it he’s got a three-boyfriend-a-day habit.

Just as there are smoking cessation programs to help a smoker kick the habit, there are “reparative therapy” programs to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. The difference is that there’s no scientific evidence that reparative therapy is necessary or even possible. You can eliminate a man’s craving for cigarettes without changing who he is, but when you try to tamper with his sexuality, you’re messing with his identity. You can train a man to talk, walk, and act straight, but you cannot make him be straight. In the end, reparative therapy does not create heterosexuals; it creates actors trapped in a farce they are socially forbidden to bow out of. That’s no way to live.

Well That Seems Harsh

Look Mittens

Did you know that the word faggot once referred to firewood? According to some stories, older widows in the 19th century would scrape together whatever money they could by gathering and selling firewood. They were known as faggot-bearers, which apparently got shortened to faggots. It was a demeaning term even then (and how nice to know that the practice of ridiculing the poor is not new). To be a faggot meant that you were as burdensome to society as the firewood was to your back. Although the word originally referred to elderly woman, it could be applied more broadly to women as a whole.

Perhaps that’s how the tag became attached to effeminate homosexual men. Like other derogatory names given to women (such as nancy, sissy, or queen1), the word faggot must have naturally popped into the lexicon of anybody who was terribly afraid of homosexuality without actually understanding anything about it (but I’m being repetitive).

I have no idea whether any of this is true, by the way. It has a certain folk etymology feel to it, but I’m no expert so I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to confirm or refute my recounting of the history of this most odious term.

Now then…in the top part of the meme a chap with an odd hat makes a joke about men who think women belong in the kitchen. It’s mildly funny, in my opinion. If the meme had stopped there I wouldn’t have labeled it a Stupid Bad Meme. This oddly-hatted fellow speaks truth: any man who has ever uttered some variation of the phrase “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” is a tool.

But then, an Awkward Portraits alum confides to his cat Mittens that the first guy is a faggot, which means that Hattie is (A) an effeminate homosexual (B) an elderly woman, or (C) a bundle of firewood.

Or…a fourth option: Cattie doesn’t really care about Hattie’s sexual orientation at all; he’s simply using a derogatory term for gay men to refer to somebody he finds annoying or with whom he disagrees.

Memes sort of come with an implied agreement. If you pass along a meme, you are giving your approval to the content of the meme (unless you run a hilarious blog in which you tear said meme apart). Since somebody passed this meme along, it means that he accepts and agrees that faggot is an okay word to use for people you don’t like, and by extension, that gay people are bad. It also implies that anybody who dislikes the “women in the kitchen” mentality is bad as well. This meme is really working overtime to be offensive.

Mittens didn’t sign up for any of this.


1. Being called a queen might not always be bad for a woman, particularly if she wears a crown. But it’s still pretty harsh for a man.

No Words

SwagFag

I had to look up “SwagFag” to find out what it meant. Thank you, Urban Dictionary, for simultaneously enlightening me and excising the last vestiges of my hope for humanity. (WARNING: That link contains a lot of potty-mouth language. Sensitve readers, beware.)

For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, a swagfag is a person who overdoes it just a teensy bit on his swag. Swag is stolen property… no wait, that’s what it used to mean. In the era of hip-hop culture, swag is a person’s style, or the way in which one presents himself. It’s often associated with boastfulness, as if a person’s swag is a means of displaying to the world how rich, successful, and sexy he is.

The derogatory term “swagfag” refers to a person who is trying too hard to look ill. No, not unhealthy. Ill. You know, dope. Bad. Radical? Okay, I’m not really up on hip-hop lingo, but you know what I mean. The word “swagfag” is terrible; it associates something annoying (a person who tries too hard to be cool, but who fails miserably) with homosexuality. Hasn’t there been enough of that already? Our language is being infused with new words and phrases that take it for granted that being gay is bad. I don’t mean good bad. I mean bad bad. Sorry, I’m trying.

As if that weren’t awful enough…there’s this meme.

Obviously the creator of this meme (and its propagators) think that killing people – even annoying people who try too hard to show off their swag – is hilarious. And, as if it weren’t enough that this guy is going to commit multiple acts of murder, he apparently intends to do it using military-grade assault penises – sorry, weapons. Mr. NRA is going to end the life of a person you think is annoying every time you share this photo (and while he’s at it, he might as well terminate a few regular fags too, right? I mean, it’s not like they’re people, right?)

This meme is disgusting, and I can’t believe that anybody would find it funny. Oh wait, I just read my own blog. I can totally believe it.