• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Cakeshop and Red Hen: Birds of a Feather

July 2018


Without hypocrisy, if I should be so bold as to make such a sweeping claim, there is no humanity. The latter ceases to exist if not for the other—deflating once the former’s gone. Strange though at first glance this may seem, I think hypocrisy is endemic to man. We’re born with it. It’s well-neigh written in our bones. It’s in our DNA, stamped and inscribed, and we can’t put tongue to thumb and rub it away.


Yet to say it’s endemic might be to not go far enough; hypocrisy is not only endemic—it’s positively essential. It’s as vital as is the blood to the heart, the breath to the lungs—the electric currents to the excitable nerves. And, frankly, hypocrisy is quite as constant, imperceptible, and invigorating too.


Those organs—be they cardiac or pulmonic, nervous or not—are complex, of this there’s no doubt, but they become mere pulsating stress-balls and simple bags of inflated meat when compared with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is life’s true complexity. Examine it under the microscope, and you’ll never look away. Rather psychologic than biologic, it’s the subtlety that keeps us alive—the vivacity that keeps us kicking, guessing, and invested from one day to the next. It’s the one thing of which we’re all made—be your image in that of God or of your own mind.


It’s for this reason that I never wrinkle a lip nor twist a brow when I hear the common hypocrite speak. Just as well, dare I look into the mirror a movement later, that selfsame hypocrite is me. But the sheer cognitive dissonance on display as of late is something I see not in the common man, nor in myself, nor in the natural and decent society. Yet it should be said that cognitive dissonance isn’t exactly equivalent to hypocrisy. They might be appendages of the same tree, but they aren’t the same. Cognitive dissonance is hypocrisy to the extreme. It’s a corrupted and exacerbated form of pretense—an insidious, disingenuous disease. It’s the conflict associated with acting contrary to thought and the attempt to quiet the divergence between the two.


The likes of which I speak, this cognitive dissonance, were most prominently on display but a few weeks ago. It was then that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at a homely little restaurant outside of Washington D.C. Then, there, and in the evening’s aftermath, the cognitive dissonance of the left took its root, took control, and like a contagion spread and settled in.


Accompanied by a group of seven, amongst whom were close family and friends, Sanders sat down at the charmingly, albeit not originally-named “Red Hen” for a meal (as it turns out, restaurants with the name “Red Hen” are nearly ubiquitous, strutting about in all cities from one coast to the next). It was intended to be a low-key, down-home repast, far from the bustling and blood-thirsty city and man from which and for whom she speaks. But the Red Hen’s staff was in a pickle: serve with an insincere smile its toothsome, rustic food to a woman with whom it disagrees politically and vehemently, or refuse her mere presence.

Seeking direction and finding it not amongst itself, the staff called the restaurant’s owner. In haste, she arrived and put the matter to a vote. The plebiscite complete, the staff determined that Sanders must go. It simply couldn’t countenance such a repugnant person spoiling its eatery, its sanctimony. Liberal scruples, in this case, outweighed all else. Politely, Sanders took her leave and quietly, the night continued into day. The uproar emerged only later when the tale leaked and the media outlets collected it.


The action taken by the staff of the Red Hen was immediately seen as a victory for the values of the left. The expected outlets (The Huffington Post, Slate, Vox, MSNBC, and the like) showered with commendation the restaurant’s staff for having stood firm in its belief. Approbation for the Red Hen flowed through pundit’s lips after having witnessed it give Sanders the slip. They applauded the fact that the Red Hen’s ideological commitment was insuperable. Its high ideals went completely unperturbed. Even in the face of inevitable financial loss (imagine the bill and the tip squandered from a hungry group of seven in a restaurant whose dining area can barely fit that many) it stood resolute. It put before all else its liberal scruples, laying them out for all to see. It brandished its Democratic bona fides, and from those standards, it never budged.


Now, if you dare, grab your closest writing utensil and strike out the words “Red” and “Hen” and replace them with “Masterpiece” and “Cakeshop”. Don’t be so quick to erase what you’ve done! Allow yourself a moment and let the revelation of the replacement settle in. You’ve just replaced the innocuous with the odious, the vaunted with the vile, the enlightened, liberal Red Hen with the contemptibly Christian Cakeshop.


Has so much time passed that we’ve forgotten about the recent Supreme Court case—the very cause célèbre that had everyone talking and liberals scathing—but a week or two ago? If in need of a refresher, I’d be happy to oblige. It was a case in which a religious baker pushed back against a state’s dogmatic imperative coercing him to render his services to a client. He was told by the state of Colorado that he must, perforce, bake for a gay couple with whose way of life he disagreed on religious grounds. Forget about the freedom of religion granted him in the Constitution, or that—perhaps more importantly—of voluntary association likewise guaranteed, he was told, that at the risk of all else, he must turn his ovens on, grab his mittens, and bake. He was told that he must get on with his confections, though this time under the compulsion of the state.


Yet is he so different from the Red Hen? Can not the same laudatory things said of the latter be said equally well of the former? Was not Jack Phillips’ (the bearded owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop) resolution not to serve a client with whom he disagreed ideologically and religiously as worthy of our approbation as the Red Hen’s decision to do the same on nearly the same grounds? Wasn’t Phillips merely standing up for his scruples, however reactionary and unenlightened they may be, against a way of life he considers repellent and anathema to his ancient creed?


Liberals have failed to acknowledge the dissonance. They excoriate Masterpiece Cakeshop while they celebrate the Red Hen, but truly—at their roots—the two cases are more similar than they are different. The baker Jack Phillips should be allowed to deny his services to anyone with whom he disagrees. I’m no fan of his religiosity, but I’m even less a fan of the blatant infringements on his liberty. Likewise, the owner of the Red Hen should have that very same right—that right to reject or accept into her establishment whomsoever she pleases. While you might contend that Sanders is a public official, and thus in her capacity invites upon herself especial molestation, I see in this argument no validity. Lest we forget, she is first and foremost an American citizen, and we should expect her to be treated in a manner no different from the way we would hope to be treated ourselves.


To recognize the inherent hypocrisy in our humanity is a first step. To face down and then overcome the cognitive dissonance, an ambitious second. If the Red Hen and the Masterpiece Cakeshop have taught us anything about ourselves and our country’s direction, it’s that these steps ahead of us are large and the potential cliffs over which we might fall are steep.

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