If we criticize Chick-fil-A, should we criticize ourselves?

The three of us got to the bar and ordered some beers. Proper beers, mind you, because we are men of taste, or at least openminded. The sun was setting, the temperatures dropping, so we found a table outside on the patio. It was here where I demonstrated how seeing the big picture is just as important as having a set of ideals.

We got our food. I abstained from ordering meat, explaining my moral and environmental values. We talked and ate. The sun set. We talked and ate some more. Soon, we settled our tab, and stood up to leave. Sage asked Nate, “Aren’t you going to eat those?” motioning to the couple chicken wings he had left. Nate said, “No, you want them?” Sage shook his head, so I grabbed one and started to eat.

“Now this makes me think different about you being a vegetarian,” Sage said.

“Well, I never said I was a vegetarian.” I replied. “They’re going to throw it away.” I finished and grabbed the remaining wing. “It’s wasteful. The animals died needlessly if this goes to the trash.”

Our ideals must be in context

I thought about this when I heard about the protests against the management of Chick-fil-A for giving money to anti-gay groups. Many people, gay and straight, recognize the management’s actions as trying to prevent the freedom of gay people. But do they understand that the principle should be applied in context?

If we value liberty, we must value liberty wherever it is threatened. Is what Chick-fil-A is doing worse than what the Chinese government is doing, not allowing their people to vote? Should we be taking a stand and boycotting Chinese goods before worrying about boycotting Chick-fil-A?

Both groups are acting in disrespect. But they are different.

These two situations are different in how the motivations are acted on: China has accomplished their goal of taking people’s right to self-determination and liberty, and Chick-fil-A is trying to limit sexual freedom. If we choose to be actors in this life, we must decide, is it wrong, and if so, what do we do about it?

Life is more than ideals. It’s about the application of those ideals.

The difference between China and Chick-fil-A is important. Just as when I chose to eat meat that evening, it wasn’t because I stopped valuing animals, but because I saw their waste to be worse than not eating them.

Here in the US, most of us do not live in desperation. We have first world decisions that most of the world does not. Do we have the morals and courage of our convictions to change our lifestyles, even a little, in response to the disrespect from both Chick-fil-A and the Chinese government?

I say we do.

TED Talk Tuesday : The only absolute is whether you tried to do the right thing

Damon works in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and he faces the problem of programming ethics into computer programs. Think that’s hard? Then look at the moral framework you use in your own life and realize it’s much harder than you think.

What Damon talks about is how we, as the programmers and users of technology, must decide how to use this technology.

Plato tried to find absolutes of justice. Like the 1 and 0 of ethics. Good and bad.

John Stuart Mill said we must do the thing that results in the greatest good, a simple numbers game.

And then there is Kant. He may have had the formula, but it’s no easy method. In fact, it’s the hardest way for humans to live:

We must use our reason.

“The sad truth is that most evil done in this world is not done by people who choose to be evil.

It arises from not thinking.”
Let’s start a conversation. Is it right to buy foreign goods? Give our money to dishonest Wall Street bankers? Give the government the power to take our right to trial to protect us from terrorism? Take a job we don’t enjoy just for the money?

Don’t worry: There is no right or wrong.
But we must have a reasoning for our actions. Otherwise our lives aren’t really our own.

Here’s to a new year of doing what we want and knowing why we do it.