Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Last week, I walked by an Atlanta Chick-fil-A crowded with customers. While some may have been regulars, others were likely there to show support for the socially conservative views of the restaurant chain’s founder. Good for them!

Though I vigorously disagree with Truett Cathy and his son Dan, who have contributed heavily to anti-gay causes, they have every right to their beliefs and to back them with their money. If they want to entangle their privately held company in controversy, they go forth in a great American tradition of free speech and free association.

For my part, I hold with the other side — those social progressives who have chosen not to do business with Chick-fil-A. The boycott, too, has a long and honorable place in the American civic tradition.

The Chick-fil-A showdown was sparked earlier this summer when Dan, the company’s president and chief operating officer, was interviewed on a conservative radio talk show. His comments, though inflammatory, were not unusual among ultra-conservative Christians, who confuse homophobia with piety.

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” he said.

The Cathys have long contributed to organizations that oppose full equality for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage, and this isn’t the first time their activism has brought sharp criticism. Liberal college students have been fighting campus Chick-fil-A locations for the past year.

But this time, the reproach from gay-rights supporters caught the attention of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a conservative Christian himself. Now a radio talk show host, he declared last Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” The battle was joined.

Having long ago considered the politics of Chick-fil-A’s founding family — their religious views are well-known in metro Atlanta, where the company is headquartered — I don’t partake of their chicken sandwiches or waffle fries. Thereby, I honor both my waistline and my convictions. I grew up in the segregated South, and I learned at my parents’ knee not to give my money to businesses whose owners so offend my beliefs.

The non-violent boycott was one of the staples of civil rights strategy, a way of forcing merchants to consider just how strongly they endorsed Jim Crow. Some merchants were happy to lose patrons as long as they could hold onto their bigotry. But many preferred to hold onto their profits.

The well-planned and disciplined boycott is also a perfect method for drawing attention to injustice, as civil rights advocates from Martin Luther King Jr. to Cesar Chavez understood. The Montgomery bus boycott, which was famously kicked off by Rosa Parks’ arrest, is a textbook case (quite literally), one of the most successful such tactics in modern history.

As the Chick-fil-A controversy has raged on, some conservatives have complained that equal-rights advocates are trying to strip the Cathys of their free speech rights. That’s just nonsense. The First Amendment gives them every right to their bigotry.

But it also gives their opponents every right to call on fast-food diners to eat more beef. There is no constitutional right to offend people without consequences.

I would point out, however, that local leaders such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have gone too far in suggesting they would try to exclude new Chick-fil-A outposts from their cities. As long as the stores meet local zoning requirements, they have every legal right to open where they see fit. If Emanuel doesn’t like the company’s politics, he can boycott, as I do.

He won’t be missing much but several hundred calories of Southern-fried fat, with a heaping dollop of homophobia.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's re-election campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a non-stop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations, and barefaced lies.

Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.

"Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting Covid-19 fatalities come November 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.

Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.

As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: he'd steal the silver dollars off a Covid victim's eyes and demand an investigation of Joe Biden

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota to limit attendance at a September 30 fly-in rally, in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2500 Trump supporters bunched up without masks on the tarmac, ten times the agreed limit.

Health Department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."

Any questions?

The Trump Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%."

But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his October 17 speech. Reporters documented 130 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his factual claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned Covid-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.

Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said "we're doing well."

Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is simply nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from Covid-19."

Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries, have handled the pandemic even better.

It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.

No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination" he tweeted the other day "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

Yeah, well they all report the same World Series scores too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?

(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian Covid infections. Go figure.)

Meanwhile, the rallies go on; a bizarre spectacle people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become Covid-19's Typhoid Mary, an Irish cook who unwittingly infected 53 people back in 1906.

But unlike Mary, he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.