Have we forgotten The Golden Rule?
Freedom seems to be a rather relative thing. As the joke goes, I want the freedom to do what I want, but I don’t want my relatives to do what they want, since that will end up hurting me.”
Freedom has to be more than a relative thing, but it seems to always depend on which end of the Freedom Stick one is holding.
We like to think of “freedom” as applying equally to one and all. In reality, freedom is rather situational. Take, for example, the freedom to do whatever work you want to do. Well, you are free to apply for the job of doing the work you want to do, but you are only in the running to get that job to do that work IF you meet the employer’s
requirements. And being in the running does not guarantee getting the job. And getting the job does not guarantee that you can or will do the work, either well or at all.
Now consider the freedom to get married. Recently, same-sex couples in Las Vegas have been “granted” the freedom to marry here. Yea for freedom! Yet wait… can that in any way impact the freedom of anyone at all in the business-world?
I feel that if I owned a business, anyone who spends legal tender at my place of business for either my goods or my services — and does not in any way disrupt or hurt my business — would be more than welcome.
But did you catch that qualifier? We cannot dismiss that tiny little qualifier: “…and does not in any way disrupt or hurt my business.”
I am not a lawyer — although I used to play one in my dreams — yet it seems to me that a business-owner is not obligated to conduct his or her business in such a way as to put himself out of business. If, for example, a tattoo parlor’s owner decided to remake the place into a parlor just for women, or just for the over-70 crowd or a couples-only establishment (for whatever reasons), then that is what they would stand for and that is how they would hold themselves out to the community (just like any senior communities around town, or any day spas for women only, or any couples-only dance establishments, etc.).
Therefore, being “forced” to allow the typical (or usual, or not-so-typical or -usual) male customer, or the first-time-getting-a-tattoo teenage boy who wants to impress his friends, or the small group of non-coupled friends — who signed a pact to get “Live free or die” on their forearms — into their place of business to get tattoos in spite of the business’s established image and particular atmosphere, seems to me to be one of those “I want my freedom to use your place of business, but I don’t want you to have your freedom to exclude me because of your ‘special’ image or atmosphere” (reminding us once again about the relativity of freedom).
So what if forcing that business to be like all the other tattoo parlors in town eventually spoils their business and they lose all their customers and have to close down — did you want to say, “Tough”?
So on to the point. As long as there are other tattoo parlors that will accommodate anyone, providing it is operating legally and the customer is legally able to agree to the tattoo, and no one is being denied a tattoo on any personal basis or bias — other than not meeting the criteria of the establishment (being female, over 70, or a couple), it makes no sense for any man or young person or single person (depending on the particular establishment to which we’re
referring) to force their way into that establishment that very decidedly wants to maintain a different kind of atmosphere and clientele. As long as the business is consistent in the way it deals with its customers and public, it seems like the business has a right to develop its own look and atmosphere and style, as long as it is NOT anti-men, anti-youth, or anti-singles.
Which brings me up to same-sex wedding planners. There may be some same-sex wedding planners already on the scene — even though it mightbe a brand-new business opportunity here in Las Vegas, and although it, too, might be criticized for being “exclusive” to a certain clientele — but chances are just about any wedding planner could make
that tiny adjustment for the same-sexness of it all. However, what if one simply could not adjust to that difference — perhaps because of some ingrained belief that such a union is not “God’s will” or perhaps for something as simple as not having a cake-maker on board who is willing to create two grooms for the top piece on the cake? It should
not matter; if that establishment cannot, or chooses not to, be totally on board with planning a same-sex wedding, the happy couple should go to one that will make their union day a happy occasion all around. One would think they would want that happy, joyous, free-flowing, all-around good will pulsing through every member of those involved in their togetherness day.
Here again we might have a case of “I want to have the freedom to force you to accommodate me, but I don’t want you to have the freedom to tell me that it goes against your religious grain or against the religious grain of someone on your staff.” Remember, this is NOT the only wedding planner in town, and theirs is NOT the only cake-maker in town. I would kind of wonder, right about now, that when it comes to love (perhaps the reason why a couple wants to get married in the first place), why the couple wouldn’t want all those involved to be involved wholeheartedly and with joy in their hearts. Why wouldn’t they prefer to have all the relevant elements of their wedding planned in happiness and with good will?
Sometimes people forget that one’s business often reflects one’s beliefs. For example, female business-owners who don’t have a single thing against men in general may prefer to have all-female establishments, whether for the atmosphere that they can provide their clientele, or for the privacy that women may prefer. (I once belonged
to an all-female exercise club and liked it that way since there was a lot of dressing and undressing and slipping in and out of mineral baths and hot tubs and the like.) And if one ran a sanctuary- or retreat-type of establishment that required customers/clients to be quiet — to consider the peace and serenity of all — one would certainly be justified in keeping out the rowdy crowds who could not stop the chatter and clatter of their ordinary ways. Why would it then
seem unusual or unacceptable if one were steeped in a certain religious tradition (whichever religion or tradition it might be), and one lived one’s life within those religious parameters, that one would then open a business and continue believing along those same religious lines? It wouldn’t be strange at all.
Some people will see prejudice or “ism” where there isn’t any. Some people just want to not be forced to accept the ways of the world that they find offensive; that they do not accept — imagine being forced to remove your yarmulke, turban or hijab because the sight of it might upset other customers; or to be forced to serve meat or allow the eating of meat in your vegetarian restaurant, something you’ve spent your life avoiding.
Some people simply want to go for a different look and feel to their business — such as catering to the female trade or the elderly market — or carry on with their business in the best way they know how in keeping with their business plan, their religious beliefs and their traditions.
I say you still can’t beat The Golden Rule. In this case, it would be:
Allow for everyone else what you would want others to allow for you.
That way no one will go around forcing their “freedom to…” on someone else’s “freedom not to…”
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.