The Observer is a great lover of language, which makes us a great lover of conversation, which makes us a great lover of debate. We've been witness to a lot of debate in recent days over House Bill 1228, the bill that sponsor Rep. Bob Ballinger hopes will turn this state into a haven for Church of Ganja devotees smoking the stankest of the dank on every street corner without legal repercussions. Wait. Did I say "will allow religious-based halfway houses for convicted child molesters who 'found Jesus' in the clink to relocate next door to your kid's school"? I actually meant to say "will protect religious freedom."
Every time HB 1228 comes up online or in public, there's always one person who appears, as if drawn to the spot by a dog whistle, to say: "These business owners built their restaurant/photography studio/bakery/store with their own two hands! They pay the bills! They should have the freedom to refuse service to The Gays if they want!"
Now, The Observer is no lawyer, obviously. If I were a lawyer, I wouldn't be writing this. Instead, I'd be somewhere writing the brief that will eventually buy me a new boat once I file suit over one of the many, many clearly unconstitutional laws passed by this legislature — a legislature which, The Observer predicts, will someday be known as The $50 Million Dollar Legislature because the laws they've passed this session will eventually cost the taxpayers of Arkansas a cool 50 million clams in attorney fees and settlements. But I digress.
Back to the point, I'm no lawyer, but I am a freelance arguer. So here's The Observer's response to those who use the ol' "But they built it!" argument:
See those taxpayer-subsidized power lines running to that restaurant? See all that fresh, clean water running out of the taps? See the sewer lines running away from that restaurant, to the fragrant wastewater treatment plant at the edge of town? See the highway running outside, that connects to other highways, that connect to other cities, all the branches of that taxpayer-funded tree bringing customers in to enjoy your delicious coconut cream pie? See that legal, government-backed currency in your register? See the cops who'll rush in at the ready if you get held up? See the firefighters who'll come — siren blaring, ears of the firehouse Dalmatian flapping — to save you if the joint catches fire? See the soldiers out there in the dark (free to serve gay or straight these days) making sure you have the freedom to choose between pork chops or meatloaf for the special on Thursdays without first considering what the appointed head of the local Politburo might want? See the courthouse full of clerks, bailiffs, judges and prosecutors, making sure you don't have to pay a weekly kickback to some dirty cop, AK-47 toting warlord or self-appointed potentate in order to do business? See your workers in the back, birthed in taxpayer-subsidized hospitals, educated in public schools, alive to sling hash and wash plates because they were protected on their way to work by yield signs, stoplights and cops running radar to make sure some idiot didn't try to get his 1991 Chevy Silverado up to 140 miles per hour on the freeway? See that meat and dairy in the cooler, free from E.coli because of some government inspector? See the thousand other things that I helped pay for, all of which you are free to use to find your American Dream, my treat, because I understand that's what it costs to live in a safe, prosperous and open society? See all that — dare I say it? — SOCIALISM you use to help make your daily bread, cook it up golden brown and get it to the table piping hot for your customers?
That's me, pal. That's my big, happy, gay-tolerating ass. That's every American. That's the generous financial support of your 318.9 million business partners: all colors, all creeds, all faiths (or none), all sexual orientations, all gender identities. And until you're ready to buy 500 acres with gold you panned out of the river, and move your diner to the middle of your spread on a road you chopped through the wilderness yourself, and build a village there for like-minded customers, and fill your sinks with water hauled up from a well you dug, and power your fridge with solar panels on the roof that you soldered together yourself, and serve only food that you raise and harvest and slaughter all by your lonesome, and sell food only to people who do the same, and barter with them for every crumb without a single U.S. dollar changing hands, I do believe I have a little say in who gets to sit down in your dump and eat a cheeseburger.