I smiled and let her know that she can eat wherever she wants. That's her prerogative and none of my business, especially in a professional setting. But, she wouldn't let up. She continued on about how she knows that they have a bad reputation, however have I ever had their chicken? It's just the most delicious thing on Earth! And, really, she supports gay people and has lots of gay friends, but mmm....chicken.
This dialogue got me thinking about the cognitive dissonance between knowing your money is going to a cause you say you are against, and spending your money there anyway because you like their products.
But, then...Duck Dynasty happened.
The man pictured above is one of the biggest stars in television history. His name is Phil Robertson, and he is the patriarch of the family that makes up the cast of a reality TV show on the A&E network called Duck Dynasty. Their show is going on their 5th season, and their 4th season premiere was the most watched nonfiction cable show in all of television history. 14 million people tune in to see he and his family going about their day making duck calls and living in the luxury that their incredibly prosperous business grants them.
They also pride themselves on being Bible-thumpers (Robertson's words). Now, why Phil Robertson ever thought it was a good idea to give an interview to GQ magazine is beyond my ability to comprehend, but he did. And it's a doozy. (I very much encourage you to go read the entire article for yourself as there are a LOT of misunderstandings on all sides of the argument about to be discussed due to people getting their information from social media rather than the source article.)
In the article, Robertson offers up his opinion on things like Jim Crow era civil rights (for no apparent reason):
I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
So, things were just great for black people during the 50s and 60s in the south, because Phil Robertson said so.
However, I'd like to allow for the proper context for some of the upcoming comments. Robertson begins his discussion of sin and religion and how Bible/Christian-centric his family is with this statement:
We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television. You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.
In the article, Robertson apparently goes on about how America was founded on Christian values, but that they have been diluted or all together lost. He tells the article's author, Drew Magary, that, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”
Then Magary asks him what is 'sinful'. His response:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Robertson then recounts a time where he beat up a bar owner and his wife for reasons untold, then his wife paid them off with their life savings, and they left Arkansas. When asked if he felt he should track down that bar owner and make amends, he said he didn't want to dredge anything up and that he put the incident behind him. I guess that makes it okay to beat people up, as long as you can pay them off and put it behind you.
I encourage you, again, to read the rest of the article. He goes into why insurance is a terrible scheme and that you should favor prayer over healthcare. He makes Islamophobic (among other religious groups) statements, and says that his end goal is to use his platform to 'convert souls'. When asked, his son says that the next generation of Robertson's agrees with what their patriarch says and that they proselytize whenever the opportunity presents itself.
All of this has sparked a nasty debate.
I'm sure from reading the article and the major quotes listed here you can guess at the finer points of the arguments for the many sides of the debate raging on a social media presence near you. What I'm more concerned about in this article is the tacit agreement that I've seen from people who, in the past, openly declared their status as an ally to the gay community.
See, there are lots of people saying things like 'What he said was terrible, and I support gay people, but the show is entertaining, so I'm still going to watch it.' (Paraphrased very badly from the combined statements I've seen across Twitter and Facebook.)
To me, this is like the chicken sandwich from my co-worker. She says that she is pro-gay rights. That she knows Chick-Fil-A actively works against gay rights. But, the chicken is delicious, so she will continue to eat there because she likes it.
Let's define something, shall we?
Cognitive dissonance is when you attempt to hold two inconsistent ideas in your head, but create this magical wall between the two so that you can continue to do the thing you want to do by ignoring how it relates to the uncomfortable idea.
Example 1: I was told by my doctor that I need to eat healthier to live longer. I love to eat five pieces of pizza every night for dinner. I choose to ignore the uncomfortable thoughts about how unhealthy it is to eat that much pizza every day and continue doing the thing I want to do in opposition to the advice of my doctor.
Example 2: I love my gay friends, and I believe they should have the right to get married. I love eating at Chick-Fil-A. I find out that Chick-Fil-A's profits go, in part, to organizations that actively work against my gay friends' right to get married. I choose to ignore the comfortable thought that my money is partially going to keep my friends from getting married, because I like the chicken sandwich and want to continue to do the thing I like.
Example 3: I love my gay and/or black friends. I believe they should have equal civil rights. I also love the show Duck Dynasty. I find out that one of the main characters on the show, as well as other cast members, does an interview in which he gives bigoted statements against my gay friends and/or my black friends' civil rights history. I choose to continue watching Duck Dynasty, because I think the show is entertaining, and choose to ignore the uncomfortable feelings that my support will continue to allow them a platform and funds with which to spread those statements to millions of people.
Cognitive dissonance is a strange lie that we tell ourselves. It is our way to make us feel better about doing something we know goes against what we believe or how we feel we should behave. But, more than that, in many instances it can be dangerous. The smoker whose CD keeps them smoking, because they ignore the warnings and science. The cheater whose CD keeps them unfaithful, because they ignore the potential consequences of getting caught.
The 'friend' or ally of an individual in a minority group who outwardly says they support their friend's cause, but then patronizes businesses because they like the products.
The feminist who ignores how Hobby Lobby treats its female employees, because they don't want to find another place to buy craft supplies.
And I think therein lies my exasperation. The idea that you, the supposed ally, simply cannot be bothered to change your habits, because it's uncomfortable. It might take something away from you. You might never get to eat your favorite fast food chicken sandwich again. You might not see the rest of next season's Duck Dynasty. You might have to order your craft supplies online. You might be somewhat inconvenienced in order to support your friend or cause or group by not giving your money to a business that actively uses that money and platform to work against that friend or cause or group.
Remember, TV shows are businesses, too. Viewers = Ratings = Ad Dollars = Paychecks for people on the show. Watching the show is helping to line the pockets and supports the views of the people on the show.
Allies, you might need to start getting a little uncomfortable. The hoops I have to go through in order to make sure my Partner can be covered on my insurance are embarrassing. You don't have to go through them. Affidavits have to be signed. Statements have to be given. Additional forms have to be filled out. I have to let my employer know how long I've been in my gay relationship with my gay partner in my gay life. And, still, because I'm not family, issues can arise. Much of my life is inconvenienced by being gay.
You can find somewhere else to get a damn chicken sandwich. There is another TV show on one of the thousands of channels out there you can enjoy. There is another craft store, or there is the internet for all your crafty needs.
Allies need to realize that your tacit approval of these businesses, shows, and public figures makes us wonder just how far your support really goes. You support your gay friends, but do you support them enough to go to a different drive-thru when that craving for a chicken nugget comes? Do you support your friends enough to find a different television show to watch?
If you can't even change the channel or find a different fast food restaurant or patronize a different business, how much of an ally can you call yourself?
Love and Lyte,