Dear Speaker Quinn;
First of all, congratulations on your recent nuptials! Having just been married myself, I was told that my life would be the same but completely different afterward. I find that to be true.
However, I write this letter to discuss something less pleasant – which is this whole Chick-fil-A matter. Frankly, I don’t like where it’s going politically.
Specifically, you recently sent a letter to the NYU President, which you wrote on government stationary and opened with the words: “I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council.” In that letter you asked the President to break a legal agreement NYU signed with a corporation who’s view you term “repugnant.”
This comes on the heels of similar letters by the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco that have threatened to treat Chick-fil-A differently than any other person and organization for no other reason than that you find them “repugnant.”
While I too find them repugnant, as a citizen – and a minority – I also find this all even more unsettling.
A while back, I wrote about this judge 100 years ago named Stephen Johnson Field that hated the Chinese. Absolutely hated them. While sitting on the bench, he was called to judge the constitutionality of the Pigtail Ordinance. Without getting into the specifics of the law, suffice it to say that it was meant to make life hell for a group of people he personally despised.
In other words, he found us repugnant.
I’ve always found this odd because we’re a lovely people but that’s neither here nor there.
In any case, everyone expected him to uphold the law precisely because they knew his personal opinion. He did not. Instead, he struck down the law as unconstitutional.
His reason was simple: As much as he hated the Chinese, he respected the letter of the law more.
His office trumped his personal opinions.
A more recent example is the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. You stood with Mayor Bloomberg when he said that cancellation of the mosque would be a “sad day.” I assume because, in that instance, the party singled out you felt personal sympathy with AND it was on the right side of the law.
Here, you don’t feel personal sympathy with Chick-fil-A yet, like the mosque, it is on the right side of the law.
In both examples, the law is clear: An organization cannot be discriminated against because of its beliefs.
Speaker Quinn, integrity means that one is the same person in public as one is in private. It requires consistency.
It demands that if you defend the constitution for a white person you must defend the constitution for a Chinese person.
The judge in the Pigtail Ordinance, while racist, had integrity. 100 years later, that means something.
I humbly submit that you’re letting your personal feelings interfere with your respect for the law. It’s easy to defend the defenseless and sympathetic; it’s harder to defend those that you personally find repugnant.
- The law allows a mosque to rent a space without concern that the government does not like its opinions.
- The law allows a corporation to rent a space without concern that the government does not like its opinions.
As a life-long New Yorker, I admit had conflicted feelings about having a mosque so close to where 9/11 happened. But in the end, the law is the law. And in the end, I supported it being there.
I would not want someone saying that I cannot live someplace because I am a Christian, or Chinese-American, or terribly clumsy.
I support citizens boycotting Chick-fil-A. I support citizens marching. I support citizens ripping them to shreds online.
But I draw the line at government telling us that its opinions supersede the law.
It’s dangerous when government officials use their positions of power to further their own personal agendas. To think otherwise sets a dangerous precedent.
History has shown, time-and-time again, that a world ruled by someone’s personal opinion is not a safe place for
Chinese, gay, black, Jewish, Muslim, disabled people to live.
Imagine a world where Michele Bachmann’s personal opinion ruled it.
We put up with opinions that are different than ours – even repugnant to us – because it’s what we do. The word is “tolerance.”
One doesn’t tolerate things, people, and opinions one finds lovely. One tolerates things, people, and opinions one finds repugnant. It’s what we do.
Location: in front of my first cuppa joe for the day
Music: if everybody looked the same we’d get tired of looking at each other