Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freedom of Speech and Respect.

Those of you who do not live under a rock know that today is "Support Chick-fil-A Day." This day came about because a percentage of the public was outraged to hear that Chick-fil-A's president is against gay marriage. During this time of outrage, words like "homophobic," "closed-minded," "ignorant," and "judgemental" have been thrown out in regards to Chick-fil-A's character and the beliefs of its board of executives.

I am not here to refute that you believe that Chick-fil-A is those things. That is your opinion. We live in America and we get the freedom to have that opinion. You also have the freedom to form an opinion about me after you read the following sentence.

I support Chick-fil-A.

Those of you that know me probably think that I support them in the venue of their religious beliefs; you are correct. I support their choice not to be open on Sundays and I whole-heartedly support the fact that as a company, they cling to the Word of God and claim it as truth. I support their family-friendly environment and the contemporary Christian songs that they play in their restaurant. I think that we can also all agree that I support their Breakfast Burrito with Chicken, hold the peppers and onions...oh boy, do I ever.

This side of the argument is not what prompted me to write a blog today. I am writing this because I completely support the First Amendment and American's right to freedom of speech.

No where in the Constitution of this great nation does it every say that we, as a unit, have to get along and agree with everything someone else says--if that were true, there would be a lot of thirteen-year-old girls unable to protest their mothers...and then the world would explode. However, as human beings, we must enforce the code of respect for one another.

I was on Facebook today and a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to be financially supporting Chick-fil-A today with a purchase of a chicken sandwich and waffle fries for dinner. A few people commented in support of her statement...and then there was one: "I think that everyone has the right to their opinion, but I KNOW that we are not supposed to be JUDGEMENTAL. What's the difference?? Just asking."

That is a completely relevant question. Where is the line between opinion and judgement? Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this; just as their is no black and white answer to what modesty is or what "being a lady" is. To me, the border between judgement and opinion is what your intentions are when you are voicing these opinions. If you are simply stating something, that's an opinion. If your goal is to put someone down, hurt their feelings, or to make yourself feel superior, that is when a person has crossed over the line to judgemental. I also think that the avenue with which you choose to express your opinion and the tone of voice/body language with which you express it has a lot to do with which side of the line you are on.

Our generation is at a disadvantage with our complete submersion into social media. We can't read tones of voices and body language when we only see a Facebook status or a re-posted e-Card from someone and we, as a generalized society, are very quick to be on the defensive side of things, instead of the reflective side.

During this current event of ours, I have heard many voices wanting to take away Chick-fil-A's right to freedom of speech; after all, they have people working for them that may not agree with these beliefs and they serve people who may not believe--consequently, it would seem that CFA is pushing their beliefs onto someone, which although it is preached to be a bad thing in our society, many of those preachers do it anyhow.

With the idea of taking away CFA's freedom of speech, under the stated-above precedent, let me pose this question: Once we take it away from one person, when do we stop taking it away? When Dave Cathy retires and is no longer the President of CFA, can he then speak his beliefs as a mere individual? In the eyes of "all things fair", if we take away the Freedom of Speech from CFA, shouldn't we take it away from every major corporation in America?

Those people who may be offended by CFA's beliefs but whom work for CFA...they have the right and the ability to leave Chick-Fil-A and not be under their umbrella anymore. The customers who don't like the music in CFA, may I suggest that you bring your iPod to lunch with you next time...or simply stop eating there at all?

If we take away the freedom of speech from America, we also take away the right to protest when something doesn't go our way.
Your boss wants you to work Saturdays, but you enjoy sleeping in? can't say anything about it.
You want to go to NCSU, but the government has decided to make a lottery for college admissions and now you have to go to UNC--there's nothing you can do about it.
I express my belief in Chick-fil-A's beliefs and now you want to yell at me? Sorry, you can't--you gave up your own voice when you took away mine.
You really want to try Pioneer Woman's new barbeque chicken recipe? Oops! Can't...the government has issued a statement saying that the killing of animals for digestion is unlawful and now we all must be vegetarians who grow all of our own food in backyard gardens! Don't like dirt and allergic to grass? Sorry, if you want to eat, that's how you have to survive.

Now I know some of those sounded ridiculous and are quite exaggerated, but I'm asking you to look at the full picture (and if you don't believe me that these things could actually happen, go ask the USSR or China).

I am begging you to be respectful of one another. Watch what you say and how you say it. Those are people that you are talking about. When the Amendment One vote came about in North Carolina a few months ago, one of my favorite students went on a tyraid to her tablemate about how she "prays that those Bible-beaters, close-minded, ignorant, hateful, son-of-a-bitches don't get their way." The two of them went on and on about this at their table for at least ten minutes while they were working on their warm-up. I don't think that they were even aware that anyone could hear them. What I know is that they have no idea that after they left, I locked the door behind my children and sobbed at my desk for ten minutes because those names that they were using hurt me (and these were two of my favorite students--the most out-spoken one even wrote me a song about how much she loves me and performed it on the last day of school!). I often wonder if I had pulled them outside and communicated with them exactly what they were saying and how it punched me in the gut, how they would react.

These are people we are talking about. Whatever side of the argument you are on, you cannot deny that. When the news broke that CFA's Vice President of Communications had passed away during this hoopla, I saw a post on Facebook about how glad someone was that this "hateful cretin" was "off the face of the earth and can no longer spread propoganda." THIS IS A MAN WITH A FAMILY. This man worked forty hours a week (maybe more) to provide for his family, and because someone disagrees with one statement he made, one piece of his life, which truthfully he might not even believe in, he could just be doing his JOB, and you sentence him to an early death and the inability to watch his grandchildren grow up or his youngest graduate from college? Just think about it.

I am always very hestitant to speak my opinions on anything (confession: before I started typing this, my hands were shaking). My family seems to be split fifty-fifty on major decisions and very few things are worth the divide that hurt feelings and stepped-on toes can bring. In the end, I knew that I had to say something. I think one of the reasons that the "anti-Chick-fil-A" group is so vocal is because they are trying to find validation. Something that they believe in is being hurt or spoken against and they simply don't know how to handle it. People always try to find validation in sin--and yes, I do believe that homosexuality is a sin. However, I have many homosexual friends--some of whom I have actually lived with, that's how good of friends we are--and I would NEVER treat them as less than human because of this sin. Their sin is no greater or smaller than my own. I know I just made a lot of people angry (if you've gotten this far in my soapbox) by referring to homosexuality as sin, but I believe that every single word in the Bible is Truth and that it came straight from my Heavenly Father Himself. That being said, I also believe that the Lord is good and just and merciful and for some reason, because of a love that I will never fully comprehend--and I consider myself somewhat of an expert on love--my Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save everyone from their sins. Not "everyone minus the homosexuals." I hope my friends who struggle with homosexuality make it to Heaven--it will certainly be a party and there's no other way that I would want it.

The next time that you voice your opinion to someone through any venue, please pause for a moment, check yourself so you don't wreck yourself, and realize that the people of whom you speak are humans with feelings; a heart, hands, fingers, and toes, just like you. If you prick them they will bleed, if you were to poison them, they would die; they are warmed by the summer and chilled by the winter, the same as you.

Chick-fil-A: I support your decision to be honest about what you believe in. I applaud you for your strength and courage to stand up and voice an opinion that has proved to be unsupported by the people with the loudest voices. Thank you for being honest and for not conforming. For a generation that preaches individuality and non-conformity, some of your (former) patrons certainly don't seem to want that from you.

America: Learn respect. Love your neighbor and listen to them. You might just learn something greater than you could have every imagined.