There are many things in this life that bring us together. Music is one, pizza another. Baseball sometimes. Oh and also, puppies.
Dividing lines in America, though, are still brightly lit and sometimes they surprise even this jaded New Yorker.
Take for example the recent dustup over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Depending on whom you ask, the law would either protect religious liberty or give a pass to folks who want to discriminate against anyone they saw as objectionable. (Governor Mike Pence quietly signed a “fix” to the bill yesterday.)
Caught in the crosshairs of this kerfuffle is Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Ind. When approached for comment by a local news reporter, the owners publicly stated support for the bill, saying they would refuse a request to cater pizza to a gay wedding. (Any fellow gays who would want to have your wedding catered by a pizzeria, a word please.)
In today’s social-media climate, it’s not enough to just say “oh wow, I don’t agree with that.” Or, “you go, girl.” Simple disagreement is like so 8 years ago, before Twitter, Facebook and Yelp. Let’s take a moment to witness the “hyper” in “hyperbolic”:
Or what about this gleeful post on DailyKos that celebrated how the restaurant had to shut down:
“Hahahahahahaha!!! Because of the backlash over the statements that it was a ‘Christian establishment’ and wouldn’t serve gays, Memories Pizza is closing ‘until things cool down.'”
All this noise reminds me that we tend to take political footballs and run them down the field like we’re Marshawn Lynch, pissed off because someone stole our bag of Skittles.
The Atlantic put up a post that absolutely nails it:
“The owners of Memories Pizza are, I think, mistaken in what their Christian faith demands of them. And I believe their position on gay marriage to be wrongheaded. But I also believe that the position I’ll gladly serve any gay customers but I feel my faith compels me to refrain from catering a gay wedding is less hateful or intolerant than let’s go burn that family’s business to the ground.”
I’m proud to say I love having voices around me that disagree (including the ones in my head). I WANT discussion and dialogue, because without it, we’re no better than apes who sling their own shit at each other. I love my friends with differing opinions no less than the folks with whom I agree. But if the era of quiet disagreement is over, then we owe it to ourselves to find the 21st Century equivalent.
Do I want any and all people to have access to the best and most awesome meal on the planet? Yes, #PizzaforAll, please. Do I simultaneously want the folks at Memories Pizza to be able to refuse service as a private establishment if they so desire? Even more so, yes. Do I ever in my lifetime want to see a gay couple’s wedding catered by a pizzeria? I could think of no greater offense to the institution of marriage, so no.
I wrote Pizza for Good based on the simple premise that pizza is so beloved, so widely cherished, that it can be used as a change agent in local communities. To join people from all walks of life. Scott Wiener’s “Slice Out Hunger” raised freakin’ $30,000 in one night last October by offering donated pizza for $1 a slice. My pizza-related charity ARTvision Atlanta has raised more than $55,000 over nine years of fundraising. Pizza has the power to bring us together.
Here’s my proposal. Like with any business, the fewer people you disqualify for personal reasons, the greater your business will be. That’s not an opinion, it’s math. If I owned a pizza joint—and that might yet happen one day, you never know—I’d want it to serve everyone, not just one segment, or only my compatriots. All. But that’s my choice, just as it is Memories Pizza’s.
No personal choice of conscience, no matter how boneheaded or misplaced, deserves the type of death threats and vitriol Memories Pizza received. Even though they had to close because of it, the GoFundMe page set up in their honor has raised more than $500,000 and counting—and there’s talk of them reopening again sometime in the future.
I can see a day where a controversy like this actually changes minds, instead of sending people to their respective corners to fume, raise money, rant, raise ire and get back-slaps from people who already agree with us anyway. I hope the judgment of Memories Pizza becomes just that eventually. A memory.
Speaking of which, many of us can agree that Mara Getz knocked it out of the park with her “Star Search” rendition of “Memory” (I’m talking to you, Rachel Brown). Not all of us can agree on the merits of body glitter, though, and that’s OK.
We’ll be better off as a people if we celebrate, augment and agree on what we share in common instead of exploiting what divides us. Invariably those divisors are not as imposing as they look. ❐
UPDATE: “Because pizza should be use for good.” I agree… A new GoFundMe drive has been set up to benefit LGBT homeless youth, through Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund. Click over and check it out… they’ve raised more than $60,000 so far, trying to match or exceed what The Blaze raised for Memories Pizza.
UPDATE II: Just sent a Facebook message to Memories Pizza to see if they’d be willing to do a joint event with me sometime in the future. I’ll post again to let you know what I hear.
UPDATE III: Memories Pizza read my message on FB, so I’ll update again if I hear something. invitation remains open!