Why Does It Matter if a Sandwich or an Ice Cream Has a Position on Gay Marriage?

Friday morning, I was reading SCOTUSBlog’s real time reporting of the Supreme Court’s decisions.When the same sex marriage opinion was released, my thoughts were as follows:

  1.       5-4, no surprise
  2.       Same Sex Marriage is legal, no surprise
  3.       Kennedy wrote the majority and Scalia wrote a dissent, no surprise
  4.       Right now every divorce lawyer in the country is updating his/her website.

Why yes, I am a cynical bastard.

After the decision was announced, but probably before most people had even read it, the reactions to the opinion started coming in fast and furious. Rainbows started popping up everywhere on the ol’ interwebs, competing for virtual oxygen with postings on the Confederate Flag.

  • As I noted on twitter, I was profoundly disappointed by the lack of skittle based puns appearing in my twitter feed following the Court’s announcement.

And then I saw a friend on Facebook had re-posted a link to Ben & Jerry’s and their “I Dough, I Dough” Ice Cream and the Corporation’s approval of gay marriage. My immediate reaction was of utter bemusement. A few years prior, this individual had been very vocal when Chik-Fil-A had come out against gay marriage. She had called for boycotts of the chicken restaurant because their stance was incompatible with the selling of sandwiches. The fact the company was anti gay-marriage was to her, proof they would discriminate against gays and lesbians.

That had been a very common position back then. The Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle had been merged with the outrage in liberal corners concerning the Supreme Court decision in the Citizen’s United case. This came up again when the Supreme Court issued the Hobby Lobby decision, upholding the right of a small business to not offer birth control to employees. The outrage boiled down to this: Why was a corporation getting involved in political matters, such as gay marriage and reproductive rights.

But yesterday, my friend, and many other liberal/progressive types were happily posting various tweets, pictures, and ads from corporations espousing celebrations of gay marriage.(Reason.com has a posting with some of the ads).The anger against corporations meddling in political affairs suddenly forgotten.

On the other side, a lot of conservatives who were happy with Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby were grousing about the pro gay marriage ads. One person in a Facebook group was talking about how he spent the day unliking companies who posted such ads. So, the question is clearly: If it was fine when Chic-Fil-A took a stand, why not when Chipotle takes one? Or vice versa: If you thought it was wrong for Chick-Fil-A to take sides in the gay marriage debate, why are you fine with Chipotle doing the same thing?

The answer is obvious, of course. These folks are not taking principle stances, but rather those of convenience. Corporations are evil, soulless entities raping and pillaging the planet, but only when they don’t agree with your position. (How many people realize that Ben & Jerry’s is not own by Ben and Jerry, but by Unilever, a multinational French corporation that in addition to making ice cream, also makes soap?). Or, corporations have the right to speak out on issues, but only if they agree with you.

I had thought about calling out my friend and the gentleman in the FB group on this hypocrisy but didn’t because nothing would have been resolved and I would have been going down a rabbit hole of defensive justifications and misplaced recriminations by them and their allies all day and all night. Well that, and because I had no problem when Chick-Fil-A did it and I have no problem with it now and was in no mood to play devil’s advocate. Saturday Night maybe alright for fighting, but Friday night is better spent with a beer or two.

What was on display by Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle was evidence of actual, functioning American style capitalism: sell what you can and use whatever justification to sell it. (Why else do we have mattress sales for Washington’s Birthday?) The Corporations were confident their views would not harm, but help the bottom line. As Calvin Coolidge remarked, “the business of America is business.”

The best portrayal of American Capitalism comes from the the musical Chess. The musical is about a politically driven, Cold War-era chess tournament between an American and Soviet grandmaster. (They are loosely based on Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov). When the first match is about to begin, everyone files into the hall where the game will be played, singing  “Opening Ceremony.” After the diplomats sing the geopolitical implications of the match, they are overtaken by the merchandisers. Their portion of song includes the following:

When you get up in the morning

Till you crash at night

You will have to live your life

With bishop, rook and knight

Clean your teeth with chequered toothpaste

Wear our vests

Our kings and queens on bouncing breasts

Isn’t that American Capitalism?

So go out on Monday and buy a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and wash it down with a Miller beer. But before you do so, raise the glass and toast American commercialization.

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