Loud Voices

We all say we’re sick of the loudest voices monopolizing media attention; we wish real issues could be dealt with; we want real change to come about– change that leads to greater equality for people.

But we’re hypocrites and idiots. Morons. Reactionaries. Because we let ourselves be led by the nose, rather than leading with our heads. I’m so guilty of this that I get regularly ashamed.

I want people to be free to live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscience. I want a society where all people feel welcome, and if not accepted and loved, at least that they are not being made outcast. (Remember, I can’t MAKE a person or group accept or love another. That’s impossible, no matter how many laws are passed.)

But it’s never going to happen, because we keep letting loud voices dictate what we think and how we react, instead of stopping and thinking things through.

Take what I just said about equality. Stop and think about that. Critical thinking absolutely requires you to ask me, “What do you mean by ‘equality,’ Jared?”

Great question. Now ask yourself the same thing: What do YOU mean when you say you want people to be equal? If we’re honest with ourselves, we won’t be able to answer that question very easily, and with some honest introspection, we might find that we can’t come up with a simple definition of ‘equality’ in this context.

There’s just no simple answer. And that’s the first point here; when the GOP says the simple answer is lower taxes, they’re being indescribably dishonest. When the Dems say a government program should be implemented to help all Americans have access to affordable health care, that’s unbelievably simple-minded.

Both are idealistic positions, but both are dishonest, feckless, and do so little good that they might go the other way and do harm.

A successful life is not about taxes. It’s not about what the government can do for us.

Now back to equality. Do I, or you, mean equality of opportunity? Equal resources available for all? Equal results for everyone?

Honestly, thinking with your internal eyes open, is any of that really achievable?

Of course not.

That doesn’t mean we give up; it means we find an area where we can make a real difference and do what we can.

Now back to loud voices. Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-a, said that his company supports the *blarg* “biblical definition of marriage.” Setting aside the fact that there is no definitive biblical definition of marriage (you can’t settle this question by turning solely to the Bible), Cathy owned his position very boldly. A position he and his family are well-known for and that nobody really is surprised to hear about. Chick-fil-a is fairly well-known for being closed on Sundays, giving a solid percentage of their profits to charity, and for supporting employees in education and career goals.

Boston Mayor Menino responded by writing a letter to Mr. Cathy, scolding him for his beliefs and swearing that Chick-fil-a will have no luck in opening a store in Boston. Gay advocates around the nation have stood up and shaken their fists at Chick-fil-a, swearing to boycott the company. Heck, Ed Helms of The Office and the Hangover films has sworn off the restaurant in response.

Here we have some loud voices. You’ve got a fellow who thinks the Bible has defined marriage definitively and you’ve got the other side saying that Chick-fil-a discriminates against gay people.

What is discrimination? Is it a personal belief or an act of unjust or prejudicial treatment of a person, based on a perceived ‘otherness’ or difference, including age, race, gender, or sexual proclivities?

It’s the act. Google agrees.

Expressing a belief is not discrimination. Acting on a belief about someone else and treating that person prejudicially based on your perception of that person is discrimination.

Guess what? Chick-fil-a doesn’t discriminate. Its executive team appears fairly unified on what they think marriage should be, but go ask their cashiers if they’re not allowed to serve gay people. Ask their cashiers and other employees if one or more of their interview questions regarded the prospective employees’ sexuality.

Chick-fil-a doesn’t discriminate because it’s against the law. Dan Cathy probably doesn’t have any gay friends, but that’s his choice, folks. He might be basing his definition of marriage and his political opinions on a book that I love but know is flawed, but that’s his prerogative.

We’re allowed to be bigots in this country. No, we are. People and companies are generally not legally permitted to practice bigotry. So if we infringe on the rights of another person based on bigoted beliefs, we cross the line.

But if we choose to poison our own souls with bigotry and hate, that is allowed in this nation, because there’s no practical or acceptable way to legislate stupid thoughts and feelings.

Do you buy cars? Do you buy food? Do you sit on an office chair? Have you vetted the CEOs of each company that makes the things you use daily, making sure their beliefs mesh with yours? Have you made sure that they don’t do things in their private lives that you would disapprove of?

Just stop and think, that’s all I ask.

As for the Boston City mayor vowing to not let a company come and do business in his city based on the CEO’s beliefs, that is actually probably against the law. Because it’s discrimination.

Now, if Chick-fil-a was demonstrably discriminating (and of course they are by not letting chicken lovers eat delicious chicken on Sundays), there would be a case against them.

Personal beliefs vs. actual practice. We have laws against one of these things.

Calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-a is a wonderful, awesome, very American display of support for gay people. I love it so much and I love that there was also a call for supporters of Mr. Cathy’s beliefs to go to Chick-fil-a today. How great is it that these two sides can do these things without bloodshed or other awful things?

Of course, that assumes that paying $5 for an order of 4 small chicken tenders isn’t an awful thing.

I’ve come down pretty solidly looking like I’m with Mr. Cathy, probably. But look closer. I think he’s looking to the wrong place for a definition of marriage. I also think the federal government should be out of the marriage business as of many years ago.

Honestly, I also believe that a true Christian holds to her/his beliefs and questions them daily through study and prayer. A Christian without questions worries me.

I also believe that a true Christian actually believes the two great commandments are the proper foundation of her/his life: Love God and love one another. I love the Christians around the nation who have realized that they can believe that a committed, married relationship between a man and a woman is where the sacred sexual act has been ordained to occur, but who can remember that their beliefs are exactly that: THEIRS (and mine, actually and I don’t give a flying rat tail what you do in your personal life; my job isn’t to care about what you do in your pursuit of happiness) and that no matter what, no matter WHAT, it is Christlike to embrace and love and support ALL people.

I believe there are some important commandments provided by my God. I believe that if everyone followed them, the world would be a better place. I also know that not everyone believes the same thing as I do nor has everyone made the commitments and promises I have made.

And that’s the way things are and my life’s job is not to beat people over the head with dogma but to beat them up with my love and support and friendship.

Some other great Christian tenets:

Remove the beam from your own eye before taking the mote out of someone else’s. (Honestly, how many of us are beam free?)

He who has no sin, cast the first stone. (If anyone EVER casts a stone, they’re doing it wrong.)

God looks on the heart. (And it’s HIS job to do this, not ours.)

We’re imperfect.

I want everyone in this country to have equal rights. Not rights bequeathed by a government, but protected by a government. The only real liberty is individual liberty, and if you are doing something that makes you happy that isn’t infringing on someone else’s rights, rock that thing, love it, own it, and I’ll always have your back. Once you start taking away someone, ANYONE, else’s freedom, I’m your adversary.

Because freedom of choice is a sacred gift from our Creator. Life is a sacred gift too.

This has gone on long enough. Both sides have loud, unhelpful voices. It’s our job to stop letting those voices be the only voices heard. But can I ask a favor? If you’re going to make your voice heard, will you please stop and think things through? I’ll keep trying to do that too. I’ll fail pretty badly sometimes (I may have failed with this lengthy post), but I’ll keep trying to do better. I’ll try to love better, as well.

I’ve got some other words I’d sure like to define and encourage people to use correctly, but that’s another, bigger can of worms I’m not sure I’m brave enough to open.

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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