You know what? We had it made. The Republican state of Indiana finally went too far and wrote a law that essentially sanctioned discrimination against people perceived to be gay, and allowing business owners to justify it by claiming “religious belief.”
Oh, man, it was brilliant. We had an opportunity handed to us on a silver platter. Right there, we had a chance to start a national dialogue on why it’s very important for us to extend protection to LGBT individuals. But…
You see, Indiana’s law could never apply to discrimination against anyone based on race, religion or sex, because there are specific laws on the books against that. The only group of people not covered are LGBT individuals. That’s what made the law so odious – more odious, in fact than the other so-called “Religious Freedom Acts” – It carved out a premise for discrimination that would only apply to gay people.
So here is the O’Connor family, appearing on TV and promising to never cater a gay wedding, as if any gay couple would serve pizza at their wedding in the first place:
Keep in mind, she didn’t say she wouldn’t serve gay people; she actually said the opposite. Later, on Fox Business, the same woman said it’s not a sin to serve a gay person, just to cater a gay wedding. So her slight, while discriminatory, really wasn’t a demonstration of hatred against gays, but a hatred of gay weddings. It was bad, but it doesn’t put her on a par with the Phelps family.
I posted on this blog’s Facebook page that I thought it was a publicity stunt and that it would backfire. I suggested that they would get a lot of extra business in the short term, as the “Christian” bigots flocked to the place and profits surged. Of course, I got in early on; I was actually one of the first to even mention it. I had no idea it would become another example of the professional left blowing a prime opportunity to actually fix a law that needs fixing, and turn it into another personality witch hunt.
But that’s what happened. Once again, instead of turning this into an opportunity, we squandered it and made it about Memories Pizza, which is most certainly is not. Instead of turning them into an example of why we need change, we turned the O’Connors into martyrs. Instead of pointing out the error of their ways and recommending fixes, we turned them into pariahs and actually did the opposite; turning them into sympathetic figures. As such, a GoFundMe page was set up to benefit the family, and it’s raised more than $515,000 so far. (Another difference between right and left is that they support their own and we don’t. Ahem.) When they reopen, if they bother to reopen again, they will have more customers than they could ever have imagined. The nasty social media comments and the vitriolic articles on liberal websites and blogs did nothing at all to bring attention to the real issues; instead it’s all about a small pizza shop in Michiana.
In the meantime, the Indiana legislature has passed a bill that essentially fixes the law and takes out the clauses that would allow discrimination. But no one talks about that, and the fact that the legislature could change it back at any time, or 10 other states could write the same law while we’re whining about Memories Pizza. Who gives a shit about Memories Pizza? I care about discrimination against LGBT folks.
Their publicity stunt worked, thanks to us. Instead of using them as an example, we made an example of them. While I know many people think that’s helpful, by “sending a message,” the opposite is actually true. Shutting them down is not a victory. It doesn’t encourage other like businesses to toe the line, as we imagine; it actually rallies people behind them. As humans, we have a tendency to pull for the underdog, and Memories Pizza is now seen as an underdog that’s been bullied. And I find it hard to disagree. I have to admit I liked the parody website at memoriespizza.com, but the personal shit left me cold.
We should have nothing against these people; they’re ignorant. I don’t know if you’ve been living here long, but America has a lot of ignorant people. If our agenda devolves into picking off ignorant people, we’re never going to sell a progressive agenda.
As liberals and progressives, we have to learn where the line is, and what to focus on. The people who own Memories Pizza, the O’Connor family, are not the problem, any more than John Boehner or Karl Rove are the problem. One problem is the ideology that fosters laws like this, and the bastardization of Christianity into something reflecting the opposite of Christ’s teaching. Another problem is our refusal to enforce the concept of separation of church and state. Another problem is that the law protects almost everyone, except for those whose sexual preference isn’t heterosexuality. Those are the problems we face, not one little pizza shop that won’t cater a gay wedding.
Once again, we had a prime opportunity to make progress on important issues and completely blew it with our tendency to personalize issues.