Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unhappy with the president of Chick-fil-A, the fast food chain expanding in Chicago with a planned restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood. It has one existing store in the city.
His chagrin involves Dan Cathy, the company president, voicing support for the "biblical definition" of marriage as between a man and woman. He said, "I think we're inviting God's judgment when we shake our fist at hime, you know,[saying], 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' And I pray on God's mercy on ur generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try and redefine what marriage is all about."
One alderman seeks to stop the Logan Square expansion and the mayor appears sympathetic. "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values. They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you're gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values."
Such moral qualms apparently don't come into play in assessing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his long history of anti-Semitic declarations. Farrakhan is assisting in trying to curb violence in several neighborhoods, dispatching subordinates known as the Fruit of Islam in at least a symbolic show of non-violent force.
The mayor is just happy to have as many community figures productively assist the anti-crime effort. So the "Chicago values" that leave him openly derisive toward a business that might create some jobs apparently don't similarly impact Farrakhan's involvement with reducing crime.
In bashing the chicken executive, he obviously enters a tricky area. A moral, ethical and social responsibility audit of companies could well raise lots of questions, whether it's shipping work overseas, dodging taxes or top officials holding particular social and cultural views on matters like gay marriage. He's smart and knows that.
As for what constitute "Chicago values," he could flesh those out in another forum and try to go beyond the caricature of tough, no-nonsense, Midwest truth-tellers. It's a pretty diverse metropolitan area, with saints and sinners and fragmented opinions and practices.
One would like to think there are core notions binding us, at least beyond wanting streets plowed of snow, obsession with the Bears, political apathy, obesity, not reading newspapers and distrust of folks on either coast. Maybe not.
But chiding Mr. Chick-fil-A while taking a pass with Farrakhan is a minor curiosity, smacking of a certain expedience (getting anybody's help in those hoods), even spinelessness (a politically ambitious elected official fretting over pissing off Farrakhan's constituency), and at minimum a smidgen of hypocrisy.
Says Jeff Seglin, an ethicist and public policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School,"It's difficult to how there's not an inconsistency."
Each matter, he suggests, involves "someone wanting to have a relationship to the city with a leader who espouses views that cast a group in a negative light. You could make an argument that any citizen is allowed to freely speak his mind. But as a civic leader, Emanuel's responses do seem inconsistent---tolerant on one hand and not tolerant on the other."