Sneakers Bistro and Cafe in Winooski, VT has somehow started a controversy recently. They put up a sign in a local rotary that read “Yield for Sneakers Bacon.” Which seems innocuous enough. But after complaints from a local woman who said she was a vegan and “member of a Muslim household” (which is slightly ambiguous – perhaps not Muslim herself, but at least related to some), the restaurant removed the sign.
Part of the issue – apart from being offended by the endorsement of pig meat – is that the sign was put up on public property. So the city was also endorsing bacon, by association at least. So there is some validity to the complaint, though it’s an unusual sort. You can’t post religious materials on public property, so what one might call “religiously insensitive” materials are something one could have a logical gripe with.
Of course, one might wonder where the line would be with this sort of thing. Religious doctrine is extensive and varies a lot between various religions. As is often pointed out, wearing clothing made of two materials (i.e. poly/cotton blends) is technically a violation of Jewish/Christian dogma. Should we ban the wearing of such fabrics in public areas? Obviously not, but is that so different from disallowing a bacon related sign?
Still, offended citizens are offended citizens, and if there are enough people who agree, it’s bad business to display the sign anyway. So if your restaurant is getting a bad reputation in the town, and that reputation is spreading onto the internet, fix it. Right?
Not so, according to a ton of hate Sneakers has received since deciding to pull the sign down. Facebook pages have popped up dedicated to spewing bile at the small business. “Please try to tell as many people as you can around there about this ISIS loving anti-American business,” wrote one commenter. “Let’s run them out of business and then run the owners out if the USA. They can go open a place in Palestine.”
“Thanks for supporting and giving into the Muslims! I’ll never eat at your restaurant!” another commenter wrote. In this commentor’s opinion, we can logically substitute “Muslims” for “terrorists.” Because he lost his moral compass in 2003.
The irony is that so many commentors are calling this an issue of free speech, and yet they’re angry about the bistro’s exercising that freedom. Last time I checked, freedom of speech included the freedom to be quiet, too.
I often hear that “freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.” This is often said when some bigot gets into the news by outing themself as such (Dan Cathy from Chick-fil-A, the Duck Dynasty guy, etc.). The point being that just because you’re allowed to say whatever you want, doesn’t mean that you won’t have to suffer consequences for saying it (having your fried chicken restaurant boycotted, a drop in ratings for your show, etc.). But it seems like the people who support those who have made inflammatory statements will get angry if the speaker changes his mind and apologizes for offending people.
I understand this from unenlightened rednecks (note: not all rednecks are stupid – I’m from the south, and know that they come in many varieties) who are happy that a reality star or restaurant owner publicly stated he hates someone. But are we as bacon lovers not better than that? Do we not possess a little more civility?
The thing about bacon – and the reason it has become such a craze – is that it is almost universally beloved. Muslims and Jews do not eat it; and we can respect their religious views. Vegetarians and vegans do not eat it, but even they enjoy bacon substitutes. In the pork-eating world, everyone from the richest CEO to the poorest of the poor loves bacon. So, like the world itself, bacon lovers come in many shapes, sizes, colors, genders, religions, creeds, sexual orientations…all walks of life! As such, I think we can and should respect diversity.
So if one among our ranks – such as the bacon-loving owner of Sneakers Bistro and Cafe – decides he doesn’t want to offend someone with his love of bacon, let’s not give him a bunch of crap for it, okay? It would do more damage for the reputation of bacon lovers if we shoved our love of bacon in everyone’s faces and refused to back down when feelings got hurt. We’re bacon-maniacs – not jerks.