It seems like nowadays half the world’s involved in a race to exercise to power of the purse to further their side of the culture war.
You have the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Nick Jonas refusing to perform in North Carolina as a way of protesting the recent “bathroom law,” the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The legislation was passed to counteract local ordinances that allow transgender people to use the restroom of their choice (among other measures aimed at eliminating LGBT discrimination). Companies like Deutsche Bank are also pulling their business out of the state.
In retaliation, the American Family Association–a Christian activist group–is leading a boycott of over 700,000 people who have signed a pledge saying they’ll boycott Target due to its new policy of allowing customers to use the restroom that matches the gender they identify with.
There was also Georgia’s Religious Liberty Bill, which sought to create for protections for business owners to refuse service and fire employees based on the grounds of deeply held religious beliefs. Governor Nathan Deal ultimately vetoed the bill after big companies like Disney, Apple, Time Warner, and the NFL threatened to take their business elsewhere if the law passed.
Look, these are complex issues and the solutions aren’t always as black and white as they appear on the surface. It’s nice to want to allow everyone use of the bathroom they feel comfortable in, but there are people out there who will abuse the system to hurt women and girls.
At the same time, though, is saying you can only use the restroom corresponding to the gender on your birth certificate necessarily the best solution? That makes it weird for people who have gone through sex change operations and who look and sound the opposite of what they were born as. Wouldn’t sending a buff, transgender man who used to be a woman (but is attracted to women) into the ladies’ restroom be the exact opposite of what social conservatives want to achieve?
Personally, I’m in favor of letting business owners decide what they want to do with their bathrooms. It’s called private enterprise for a reason. It’s your property, you set the rules. I think the business owners who are on-site are usually better than remote government bureaucrats at detecting dangerous situations with customers in their establishments. Let business owners decide who they want to allow into which bathrooms without fear of being sued or fined.
In the case of public restrooms, like at schools or government facilities, maybe we can come up with a compromise. Like more single stall restrooms. Maybe we can leave elementary school bathrooms like they’ve always been, because we really don’t want to put young children at risk and kids that age shouldn’t be thinking about gender dysphoria anyway.
Those are my opinions. Everyone has his or her own, and that’s fine. The beauty of our nation is that we live in a pluralistic society with a wide variety of opinions on culture and politics. Everyone’s free to hold and express their own point of view without fear of government oppression. That’s the wondrous right we call freedom of speech.
However, it isn’t only the government that can limit freedom of speech. We can inadvertently do it to one another.
Now, I firmly believe that everyone should be free to do or not do business with whoever they want. If you don’t like someone, what they believe in, or what they stand for, and you feel you’d be acting against your own conscience by providing them your service–that’s fine. We all have differences and we should resolve them personally. Why do we have the get government or the courts involved in everything?
I also believe that there are probably times when a good old boycott is warranted.
But I think part of being a responsible and mature member of society is knowing when to exercise the powers you have. There’s a difference between being an advocate for your convictions and being a bully. Because there’s a point where “I can’t support this institution because doing so would further the evil I’m trying to combat” becomes “I disagree with your point of view, so I’m going to force you out of business unless you agree with me.”
If everyone (or a less popular minority group) is afraid of voicing their opinion–of exercising their right to free speech–due to the threat of being run to the ground economically, then we’ve created a consumer-tyranny. Oppression via the market.
And if you decide to boycott everyone whose point-of-view differs from yours, you’re probably going to end up having to live off-grid to survive. So because I’m conservative I’m going to stop shopping at all the local supermarket chains because their leaders donated to Obama’s campaign? Or if I’m liberal, I’m going to stop taking my prescription medicine because the higher-ups in the company that produces it shared pro-traditional marriage remarks on their Facebook profile?
Of course, if you want to live that way, go ahead and do it. Again, I believe people should have that right. But I just don’t think it’s a healthy way of living. I disagree with some of my closest friends and family on a number of social and political issues. Some of my friends and work associates are very liberal but that doesn’t interfere with our relationship. Even my siblings don’t favor the same presidential candidate I do, but I’m not going to stop talking to them over that.
I guess it all comes down to: live and let live. Just live and let live. Sometimes you do have to decline. In the much cited example of Christian bakers, for instance (like the bakery in Colorado that’s been successfully sued for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding), it would be nice if gay couples tried to understand the sacred, sacramental nature of traditional man-woman marriage in Christianity.
Providing a cake celebrating same-sex marriage really goes against that conviction. No one’s saying these bakers in these situations don’t want to serve gay people in general. They’ll gladly cookies, bread, and even any other kind of cake for any other event. But people have all kinds of deeply held beliefs that you just have to respect. There’s no reason to try to run them to the ground over it; a cake isn’t a basic public good like running water–no one’s going to die without it and it’s not like it can’t be bought at any other bakery.
And even when you do compel someone to comply, by boycott or by the court, what have you really achieved? Have you persuaded that person that your opinion is right? On the contrary, you’ve probably made them more against you, more firm in their beliefs.
Is anyone going to change their opinion on the North Carolina “bathroom bill” because Nick Jonas canceled his show (let’s be honest, most would probably consider that a good thing).
Even Target probably won’t change its policy in the face of boycotts.
Instead of trying to force each other to do what we want, why don’t we try better communication, some more understanding, and a bit of compromise.
Maybe the first step in all of us learning how to live together harmoniously is accepting that we won’t always get everything we want.