Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Don't Boo

When I was a child, maybe 11 or 12, my parents took me to the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City. I don't remember much about it, to be honest. I had a really good view, it is possible I had a friend with me, and the weather was cold.

However, it was the first year they were letting a group of people who were gay march. Whether they were police officers, or a social group, or a dance team - that is lost to the ether. What I do remember is there was a gap in the parade, an unusually long space between one group and the next. As the gay pride group marched toward us, a man to my right started to boo. Loudly. Repeatedly. Enthusiastically. The closer the gay banner got to my section, the more noise he made. Then a gentleman to his left, a tall man, British, with thin hands wrapped in fingerless gloves turned to the naysayer and said, very distinctly, "Don't boo. If you don't agree, don't clap. But never boo."

I have never, ever forgotten that.

Today, CFA is allowing people to boo. Loudly. Repeatedly. Enthusiastically. The one near my hometown is packed, all three adjacent parking lots filled to overflow. One friend in Virginia saw a line wrapped three times around the store. Another friend in Pennsylvania saw 32 cars lined up in the drive-through.

I believe CEO Dan Cathy has the right to free speech. He has the right to say that he does not believe in gay marriage. However, when he uses corporate money (supposedly $3 million so far) to donate to causes that are trying to suppress gay marriage, then he is no longer operating as a private citizen but in his role as corporate employee. And yes, CFA still has that right as a corporation to make a stand one way or another. The Jim Henson Company very publicly just made one in response to CFA by pulling all of its toys, ending any future participation with CFA, and donating all of the money earned so far through the partnership to gay rights. All of this is perfectly within their purview of citizens, corporate and private to make their views known.

My problem is the lines and lines of people who believe that they are best served by showing up to say boo. Their speech isn't free - they are paying $5.25 per sandwich, $3.49 per kids meal, and $2.99 per ice dream shake to say that they do not support gay rights. They are saying boo to someone else's life, to someone else's marriage, to someone else's kids, to their parents, to their family. Every ka-ching of the cash register is another boo, and another, and another.

When a family member is dying in the hospital, friends and neighbors usually lend their support through gifts of food, free babysitting, lawn care, etc. They don't go to the hospital and yell boo through the doors. But today, every person buying a CFA sandwich is doing just that. Instead of holding it open, they are locking it closed, because you see, gays don't have the right to visit their dying partners in the hospital.

When a wedding is celebrated, people stand when the bride comes down the aisle in respect. They don't boo through the vows. But today, every person ordering waffle fries is doing just that. They are jutting their legs out to trip her aisle after aisle so that she can barely make it to the altar. Instead of singing during the ceremony, they are shouting, because you see, gays don't have the right to marry.

Today, people are booing. Loudly. Repeatedly. Enthusiastically.

Just like they did about slavery.

Just like they did about suffrage.

And now they are doing it about same sex marriage.

One day, they will be embarrassed that they booed. That instead of standing by or standing up, they instead kicked the legs out from under others. One day, the taste of that chicken fried in peanut oil, those fries cut in waffle patterns, and those high-fructose corn syrup drinks, loaded in calories and food coloring, will no longer nourish, but sicken then.

You don't have to clap. But never, ever boo.


  1. So well said!! An important lesson we can teach our children. Thank you.

  2. That was great! Thank you! I wish people would educate themselves more about what they are really supporting. It breaks my heart that anyone thinks they have the right to judge someone because they are different than you.

  3. Nice. Thanks for taking the time to write.