I was in Ohio last week, drove from Akron to Cincinnati, through Columbus, so I saw much of a state that remains a key battleground in the presidential election this fall and in politics in general. Obama actually has staked out a small lead on Romney in a state that is an absolute must-win for Romney, reflecting the tenor of the race right now (and really since the spring) -- that Obama has a small but persistent lead and unless something happens that turns that around, Romney's going to have a lot of trouble winning. Part of the reason that Obama is doing well in Ohio, though, likely has to do with the overplayed hand that Republicans in the state made last year with the since-repealed-by-voters SB5, which stripped union rights and made Governor John Kasich a pariah in his first year in office. And Obama likely does very well in the inner cities of Cleveland and Cincy and on the campus of Columbus, but less well in the suburbs and more rural areas. I spent my time in the state in Akron, which is not a city and probably very Republican, and in the outskirts of Cincinnati, about a half hour from downtown on the northeast side, which appeared to have more chain restaurants per square mile than any place I'd ever been, and definitely was not Obama country. I also only seemed to find only two types of radio stations that played in my rental car -- conservative / Christian talk radio and sports radio. And there's only so much info about the Bengals preseason that one can listen to, so I got a solid chuckle or two out of listening to the bigots on conservative radio and the nutjobs on this Christian station talking about adopting "snowflake babies" (which the rest of us sane humans would call embryos). But anyway, I happened to be at a Buffalo Wild Wings (because that is one chain restaurant I will support, goddammit!) on the night of "Chick-Fil-A Day", a celebration of intolerance that we as a nation haven't seen since, well, the last Tea Party convention? I don't know, it probably isn't that long ago because if we are one thing as a nation if not chain restaurant supporters, it's celebrating intolerance loudly and proudly. I actually didn't really know about or notice the protest that day and if I were home in my suburban tolerance zone of liberal central Jersey, where I couldn't tell you the nearest Chick-Fil-A and have never eaten at one, I doubt I would have noticed at all. But at the Wild Wings, a grown man who was spouting Republican talking points at the table behind me to his disinterested friends was glorifying the "protest" and hadn't been able to get into his local Chick-Fil-A at lunch because the lines were too long. And based on news reports of the day, it was pretty much a smashing success for the owners of the restaurants. Because if you can combine hating gays with eating greasy disgusting chicken-like products, well, you really can't get any more Republican than that, can you? And I say that as someone who ate his dinner that night at Buffalo Wild Wings. But I digress. Eating habits are another discussion, just a useful irony here.
What prompted me to write this post is that the middle-aged conservative white guy behind me at Wild Wings who couldn't have been more of an overweight stereotype of the typical Republican voter was actually kind of right about the talking point rhetoric regarding the "protest". In a way. He -- and those on conservative radio that day -- had perfected the conservative pivot that this protest was about the first amendment, not about hating "tha gays". And really that is the fall-back point for all Republican hatred, their "religious freedom" or "freedom of speech" or blah-blah-blah our divine spirit-guide divinely said in words that only I can hear that gays shouldn't marry, we don't hate, we just love our Jeebus. Idiots. But anyway, in this case, because the Democratic mayors of a few cities said "Chick-Fil-A" was not welcome in their cities due to its owner's anti-gay stance, the conservatives pivoted to "first amendment" rights and for once -- despite claiming their rights to hate as 1st amendment freedoms more times than you and I blink in a day -- because city officials were making public comments, the "government may not restrict the right to freedom of speech" part of that first amendment is accurate. And so I get it, you know. Conservatives hate the "government" (except they love love love their social security and Medicare and children's student loans and subsidies for oil companies and roads and bridges and unpoisoned water and air and foods) so this was the perfect confluence of conservative hatred -- government, "rights", and hating-the-gays, with a dollop of deep-fried fattening food, led by the conservative ideal, a seemingly nice and kind big fat man whose religion teaches him to hate (Mike Huckabee). It's all too perfect and it's tough to argue with since the mayors of those cities shouldn't have said anything.
But here's the thing... if you showed up to a Chick-Fil-A last Wednesday to "support" its owner, you realize you supported a bigot, right? You went out of your way, waited on long lines in the hot hot heat to eat really bad food, in order to support a bigot. I mean, they can pivot all they want and the Republican behind me in my Wild Wings can explain to his bored friends who just wanted a drink about how Rahm Emanuel was the devil incarnate (and his friends were like "Rahm who?"... "um, the mayor of Chicago") but really, you supported a bigot. Openly and proudly. I've said it before and apparently I'll say it until I'm blue in the face but what the fuck is wrong with this country?
The owner of Chick-Fil-A was on a radio show a couple weeks ago and made some assinine statement about how his god-person told him personally (I guess) that marriage is between a man and a woman and he supports that wholeheartedly. That sparked instant outrage among gay-rights groups and progressives who already knew but now could emphasize that this Chick-Fil-A owner had put his money where his mouth was by spending millions and millions of dollars over the past several years supporting anti-gay and anti-equality groups. So it wasn't just a single stupid statement of opinion (as almost all on the right have neglected to mention). This guy has been actively doing things to make some Americans less equal than others. Why? Well, pretty much he's a bigot. He believes what he believes because "God! The Bible! Two guys fucking freaks me out!" which, fine, he's a mouth-breather, that's fine, believe what you want, but he's using his wealth to convince enough voters to believe the same thing and therefore keep certain members of our society less equal than others. On purpose. And that's sickening. So you shouldn't go to his restaurants (for a variety of reasons) but if you don't really care or don't think it's worth it to try to find the least politically objectionable establishment to spend your money at (Wal-mart is way way way worse for a variety of reasons), then at the very least, don't stand on line in a protest at the restaurant on a specifically designated day to support his bigotry. You know, maybe go next week or something. Maybe eat a salad today. Or some Buffalo Wild Wings. But to actively voice your "opinion" that this guy's money and support of anti-equality measures is worthy of your support, well doesn't that make you, my fellow suburban Ohioan eating a plate of hot wings, doesn't that make you a bigot too?