I have a mirror site where I also post my blog. That site gets a lot of traffic and therefore my recent post on Prop 8 and El Coyote has attracted many readers and many comments. Emotions are high, and with good reason. And with high emotions comes differing opinions and alternate solutions. But what is important to remember is that, no matter how you see the situation, if we all want the same outcome, if we’re all working toward the same goal, then we are all on the same team. We saw the divide created by the Bush administration’s moniker, “You’re either with us or against us.” Fortunately, life is not that black and white. But that way of thinking will turn friends into enemies, will weaken the strength of numbers, will make the road to attaining the goal that much more difficult.
As for El Coyote and the protests and boycott underway, there are differing views. This is mine. I hate that anyone has to wait for equal rights. It tears me up inside. And I would never ask anyone to support a restaurant that does not support equal rights. And I’m not asking anyone to personally support El Coyote. However, what I am saying is that the manager of El Coyote, Marjorie Christoffersen, gave money privately through her church to support her personal belief, which in this case was Yes on Prop 8. And yes, her family owns the restaurant. However, this donation was not done through the restaurant nor any corporation affiliated with the restaurant. And the restaurant staff and floor manager have publicly stated that they DO NOT share Marjorie’s views. Had Marjorie done this through El Coyote, then asking for a mass boycott would be fair in my eyes. As it stands now, people are asking others, beyond themselves, to inflict damage on an establishment that does not, itself, support Yes on Prop 8. I understand that the money Marjorie makes in her life comes from her job at El Coyote, but I have to support EVERY individual’s right to make their own decisions about what they believe in politically, socially, financially and religiously. Even if I find it sad and unfortunate and extremely closed-minded. In my opinion, we must all be careful to not discriminate against other people’s beliefs and their right to have those beliefs and express them in their private lives. Roseanne Barr has urged for a broader boycott of every organization which has large numbers of Mormons on its executive payroll (the Mormon church gave heavily to the Yes on 8 campaign). While I understand the sentiment and I certainly understand the feelings behind it, I must also add that this can be a slippery slope and one that can easily be seen as fighting discrimination with discrimination. While I do not share the views of the Mormon church, nor do I support their fight for Prop 8, I can’t support what I see as discrimination against Mormons. There is a campaign to cut the tax breaks allowed to the Mormon church. I support that. To me, that’s the correct approach. The church used this money toward a political goal. That is illegal. And it came directly from the church. Even protesting outside the church is called for. Not because they are Mormons, but because they are spreading inequality. However, one shouldn’t try and get the members of that church to denounce their faith, but to try and get them to understand what they are doing and the effect it has on human lives.
If Marjorie had hung Yes on Prop 8 signs up at El Coyote, or had made a donation to that cause through the restaurant, that would be a whole different situation. But that’s not this one. This seems to me, at the moment, to have more to do with hurt, betrayal and anger than with reason. I do not see ANYTHING POSITIVE coming from this boycott of El Coyote. Again, let me reiterate, I am not telling anyone that they should go there. Only that they should consider what they believe they will gain by telling others not to go in an attempt to negatively impact the business.
Some have suggested that this is an act of civil rights, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But this is not the same situation as that. The desired result there was to give black people the right to sit anywhere they wanted on those buses. And that’s what they got. That’s what they deserved. All I see here is an attempt to hurt Marjorie because she hurt others. I see punishment. And no clear goal or resolution. Perhaps people want Marjorie to step down. Okay. Again, she made a private donation. Like it or not, it was not and is not a reflection on El Coyote or any of the people who work there. Just Marjorie. Or perhaps people would like to see her denounce her faith. When Marjorie was asked if she would donate money to No on Prop 8, she burst into tears and said, “I will not.” Are we really asking this woman to change her beliefs, to denounce her religious community right here right now on the spot? Is that fair? And is that the goal?
What I see is a widening of the gap of understanding. We should all be more evolved than Marjorie. And in doing so we should understand her in a way she seems unable, currently, to understand others and their rights. However, with a different approach, one of education and understanding, she may have come around, or a nugget of truth may have been placed in her heart and mind that may have manifested into something wonderful. Remember, many of her favorite customers are gays and lesbians. She is someone who has real faces to place on the choices she is making; she has people who could express their hurt, sadness and sense of betrayal to her directly. People she sees as human beings, despite her inability to currently comprehend what her actions mean to their lives. This was a wonderful opportunity potentially lost in a maelstrom of anger and disappointment. What has been achieved, most likely, is a deeper rift. Marjorie will most likely embrace her church and its community even more deeply now. Here’s an example: When I learned my sister was going to vote for John McCain, I called her up and, instead of yelling or accusing or telling her she needed to change her views, I told her I was here to answer questions she may have and to help her understand exactly what she was doing so that when she voted, no matter who she voted for, she would be voting from a place of understanding and not just blindly hearing talking points and/or misinformation. I let her know that I thought a vote for McCain would have a direct negative impact on her and her family, as well as millions across the globe. We then talked for an hour and a half. She thanked me for this approach and shared with me that when someone she knew had gotten angry with her and had thought her crazy and attacked her for thinking of voting for McCain, that reaction made her want to vote for McCain even more. Not a very logical reaction, but a strong emotional one. And an understandable one. My instinct was to get upset and rant at my sister, but I refrained, asked myself what I wanted the result of my conversation with her to be, and changed my approach. I respected her. And she listened and engaged. That does not mean she voted for Obama. I truthfully don’t know who she voted for. But there’s a chance she did, where before there was none.
So, while I do understand the emotions at play here and mean in no way to diminish or belittle them, I do believe that what is happening over at El Coyote is not something that will help the cause, but simply help fuel more anger, hatred, resentment and, ultimately, result in more people taking a longer time in coming around to understanding this. Marjorie is not a villain. She is a human being. And right now she’s one of those people who will soon be relegated to those unfortunate few who can’t let go of their frightened beliefs, like those who still maintain that blacks or women should not share equal rights. But Marjorie is also one of those people caught in a very confusing and difficult position. She is being asked to choose between her church, religious community, and lifelong beliefs and her friends, patrons, and public community. This is not a choice that most people will be able to make overnight. It’s confusing and frightening. It requires a complete reworking of how you see the world, who you trust, what you’ve believed in the past, what you feel in your gut, even how you see yourself and what kind of a person you believe you are. Given time, patience and understanding, Marjorie COULD become one of the movement’s greatest supporters. But that will never happen if you force her or try and punish her for her personal beliefs and her right to engage them. Again, I’m talking about what she does in her personal life, not her professional one.
No one can stop gays and lesbians from attaining their equal rights. It’s happening. Here. Now. The fact that this was even up for a vote, the fact that there are protests, the fact that stars and newscasters and journalists, mothers, fathers, kids are all speaking out publicly against Prop 8 is momentous. And growth and change is painful. And that’s where we are. In the midst of growth and change. And all I ask is that we find ways to embrace that which will move us forward more quickly, that which will educate, that which will close the divide and the misunderstanding. And not that which will fuel the hate and sense of victimization. That is too easy a path to go down. And that will make the whole process longer and even more painful. Ask what you want your end result to be. And then ask what is the best, smartest, most evolved way to go about attaining it. If you think boycotting El Coyote is the way, then it is your right to do so and I support your right. However, I think there is a better path, a path that isn’t steeped in the anger, resentment and hurt of the moment, but one that sees a bigger picture and understands that everyone involved is a human being. And one that allows the hurt and anger to be addressed and dealt with and felt in a constructive manner, and not one where we become victims of our own hatred and slowly find ourselves turning into the very people we hope to change.