There was a time in America when we allowed witch hunts to rule the day.
It cost 14 women and 5 men their lives. It also ruined the lives of 200 others as many were ostracized or plunged into financial calamities because they were accused of evil simply for believing or acting different.
Today those behind mass hysteria are much more polished than the pitchfork and torch crowd 327 years ago in Salem that used the judicial system egged on by the 17th century equivalent of flash mobs to take out those that didn’t conform to their perceptions of the world.
But just like their predecessors their goal is to penalize those who are different and use the power of the government to bring them harm instead of simply disagreeing with them.
Targets still include those that look or act different and/or have different values. Now, however, what was once a cottage industry fueled by prejudice and bigotry has blossomed into a dot.com powered movements that makes intolerance more invasive than ever thanks to the invention that we were told would being the world closer together — the Internet.
Two examples this month include soda and chicken.
In Sacramento, a youth-lead initiative from Stockton dubbed “Less Soda, Better Health” was part of a protest against the American Beverage Association at the State Capital. Their cry is simple: Big soda “is undermining our democracy and harming our communities, particularly children and communities of color.” The penalty they want for the modern-day equivalent of the supposed Salem witches is to shame those who partake in what they sell with a scarlet “T” by imposing a sin tax on soda.
In their defense, the Stockton youth involved in “Less Soda, Better Health” launched a boycott of Coke in August. Using social media for such an end is fair. But is it social justice to push for a tax on the consumption of something by others simply on the basis that you disapprove of it or can offer a long list of negatives tied to it? Yes there are special sin taxes on cigarettes and liquor but as far as products creating excessive health issues and death there were 37,641 people killed and nearly 2 million suffering permanent injuries in 2016 in automobile accidents. Why not a sin tax on car sales to discourage people from buying cars? It is as logical in terms of a justified social engineering strategy via the power of the government to save lives by imposing a sin tax on soda, liquor, and cigarettes.
Why is there a need to go beyond educating and boycotting for legal behavior that you abhor and perceive as a threat to health and life by invoking a penalty for practicing it whether is consuming soda or engaging in things that don’t confirm to your particular religious or political views?
There is a long way between condemning someone for behavior that doesn’t tow your line and burning them at the stake and taxing the hell out of someone that drinks soda but not coffee — which has its own long list of health drawbacks as well when consumed to excess. That said both actions share the same pedigree of using the power of government to bludgeon others for behavior you disapprove of or do not partake in.
The other involves the favorite punching bag of a growing number of activists — Chick-fil-A. The fast food chain is a target not because of what the company does but of their owners’ beliefs. Their sin, in a nutshell, is their faith that does not embrace gay marriage.
The fact Chick-fil-A opened their first store in Canada this month triggered a highly vocal protest at the grand opening. Activists incensed that anyone dare oppose same sex marriage carried signs and chanted “Cluck-off”. It’s witty, perhaps, but not exactly the proverbial high ground. Meanwhile exponentially more people created long lines waiting to get inside the store. Rest assured it would make those protestors happy if Canada imposed a $2 sin tax on any chicken sandwich sold by any commercial venture whose owners did not believe in same-sex marriage.
Those targeting Chick-fil-A may not be trying to harness the government process to penalize the firm but they have elevated their often loud and obnoxious protests to a tar and feather level — a cut beneath the pitchfork and torch level — that the victims of the Salem witch hunts would recognize.
I’d almost be disappointed not seeing some similar repetitive and predictable protest when Chick-fil-A opens in Manteca sometime before December.
What makes this all tragic — or more aptly pathetic — is there has never been a case or shred of evidence Chick-fil-A discriminates against gays or same-sex couples whether they are employees or customers.
If anything Chick-fil-A owners should be held up for practicing the true principles that are what can make America great — holding onto strong personal beliefs in your personal life but when you venture into the public square or marketplace you accommodate others that do not have carbon copies of your belief system.
I have no issue with those boycotting soda or Chick-fil-A for whatever reason they chose. I do think it is dangerous when you try to use government powers to selectively carve out penalties for those complying to your personal list of Bogeyman issues or use public protests not just to shame those that hold different views which is ominous enough but to try and hammer them into submission.
For the record, I will not be eating at the Manteca Chick-Fil-A when it opens nor do I drink soda save for a sip or two every once in a while.
I haven’t eaten meat — including chicken and fish — for 33 years. And no matter how good people say their chicken sandwiches are I’m not going to fall off the wagon at this point in my life. That said I’m not a politically motivated lacto-ovo vegetarian by any means and have been slammed by some vegans who basically say “how dare I” call myself any form of being a vegetarian because I won’t condemn hunting, the killing of animals for food, and because I wear real leather jackets. You’d think they’d be happy that I don’t eat animals for food.
As for the leather jackets, I do not think cattlemen raise cows for the expressed purpose of having their hides tanned and turned into clothing. Any bets that someone from somewhere will email me asking how would I feel if someone skinned me after I died and turned my skin into clothing? As grotesque such a point seems, it underscores how we live in a world where if your views don’t 100 percent match another person’s views you’re fair game not to have a discussion about your differences but to be scorned and ridiculed.
I also hope I don’t see the day when politically incorrect places like Chick-fil-A and 7-Eleven stores are all forced to collect a tax on soda consumption.
If you pay attention to the core groups that share issues such as taxing soda and trying to drive Chick-fil-A out if business they have a pretty dim view of the people that make both places a success.
America should be a place not just where all are accepted regardless of color, creed or race but also a land where you don’t obtain socio-economic piranha status because you are not part of the urbane “in crowd” du jour.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.