CHICAGO -- Did you enjoy the unofficial National Eat Fried Food for Freedom Day on Wednesday?
I declined to participate after awakening to typically hyperbolic emails from the local tea party inviting me to my local Chick-fil-A restaurant to fight against the "lefty movement (that's) working tirelessly, taking away our free speech and the right to have a 'mind of our own.'"
It's not every day that I agree with the tea party and though the "We will not be silenced! WE are America" part of the rah-rah e-blast laid it on a little too thick, the very fact that they are correctly outraged at the Chick-fil-A controversy illustrates how close we are to becoming a nation of intolerants.
Check out this line in a recent CNN opinion column: "Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, proudly proclaimed his opposition to marriage equality and drew flak from politicians and citizens nationwide, who said Cathy's position made the chain unwelcome on their turf."
How about this from a Los Angeles Times business column: "In an interview with a Baptist publication and an appearance on a devotional radio program, Cathy unburdened himself of the view that gay marriage violated God's plan. ... Cathy's outburst ignited a very predictable outbreak of partisan posturing centered on the choice: ban or boycott?"
Wow. OK, guys, I'm 100 percent in support of gay marriage, too, but let's tone it down a bit.
Cathy did not, as the hysterics surrounding his comments have consistently mischaracterized, make any proclamations -- personal or corporate -- or unburden himself of some long-held secret.
Cathy just responded honestly to questions from a reporter who writes for Baptist Press, a publication that unabashedly describes itself as "News with a Christian Perspective" -- in a story that very even-handedly describes comments Cathy made earlier to the news journal, The Biblical Recorder, stating that he does not claim Chick-fil-A to be a "Christian business."
From all the fuss, you'd think that Cathy had taken out an ad in The Wall Street Journal condemning all gay people. But it only seemed like he did, based on a few politicians' overreaction to way-overdone headlines about Cathy's personal beliefs.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel vociferously backed an alderman who decided that Cathy's marriage views should disqualify his company from doing business in his part of town. "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago's values," Emanuel said, further energizing gay community advocates to start a boycott and helping trigger Christian conservatives to stage mass Chik-ins Wednesday to support the fast food chain.
What a dumb way to waste political capital. It was a tremendous misstep on the part of all those who willingly refused to separate the CEO's personal beliefs from his corporate policy, and try to use their city's bully pulpit to score political points. It backfired.
Look, you know you've pushed liberalism too far when The New York Times weighs in with an editorial railing against values-based discrimination: "city governments should take care not to be seen muscling aside businesses whose owners don't agree with their views."
In Chicago, even Cardinal Francis George -- the leader of the city's archdiocese who got in trouble last winter for comparing gay rights activists to the Klan -- chimed in: "My understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval."
Our understanding of being Americans once was based on the idea that people with different ideas of how life should be lived could co-exist peacefully by respectfully agreeing to disagree. But that America seems to belong to the past.
Today -- to use same-sex marriage as an example of just about any other heated political issue -- it is apparently no longer enough to be pro-gay marriage. One is also expected to show solidarity to the cause by despising the idea that some people still believe in male-female marriages and, in turn, publicly demonstrate intolerance against the people with those beliefs by attacking their livelihoods vis-a-vis abstaining from eating chicken that's rumored to be heavenly.
And for what? In the end, the masses of people backlashing against the backlash by gobbling chicken in opposition of gay marriage got even more attention.
Intolerance is ugly and destructive no matter which direction it flows. And any army of advocates that decides to wield such a mighty weapon stands to sink to the level of those it calls its oppressors.
Esther J. Cepeda is a nationally syndicated columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.