Sunday, August 23, 2009

Orson's Game

There's a little burger stand near my place that I positively love. Juiciest burgers I've ever tasted, and I am a fiend for a nice juicy burger.

One day, the owners of the restaurant started telling me about how they get their tomatoes from this wonderful tomato farm. Now, I'm not a huge tomato person. Really, I could take or leave the tomato on my burger. It's just not an important part of the experience for me. But the owner was so excited about this tomato farm that I decided to look it up online, and I was dismayed by what I found out.

Oh, not about the tomatoes they produce. In fact, they do have a reputation for growing some tasty tomatoes.

No. You see, I was dismayed to find that these tomato farmers are white supremacists, and they're quite vocal about it, too. They serve on boards of organizations that seek to oppress minorities and strip them of their rights.

After that, I was really torn about going back to that burger stand. Some other patrons decided that they were going to boycott the stand. When the boycott was announced, the people who grow the lettuce for the stand spoke out, saying, “Hey, we're not white supremacists! In fact, we actively support all kinds of human rights measures. If you boycott the stand, we will suffer, too!” I appreciate the plight of the lettuce farmer. Still, I can respect the position of the boycotters. The restaurateurs didn't publicize the lettuce as being an important part of what makes their burgers so incredible. No, they talked up the tomatoes. Its the tomato farm whose name is now known far and wide in association with those juicy burgers. Not, alas, the lettuce farm.

As for me, I did go back to the stand, and I still enjoyed the burger, though I had to rationalize to myself that it was okay because I don't care for the tomatoes much one way or the other. If the restaurant owners themselves, the people who put all the work into grilling those patties and making those burgers so tasty, the people I actually hand my money over to, were the white supremacists, I never could have gone back.

However, I really wish that they would get their tomatoes from somewhere else. Surely there are excellent tomatoes on the market that aren't grown by vocal white supremacists, and I'm of the mind that the tomato farm of white supremacy does not deserve our support.

None of this is true, of course. (Well, I am a fiend for a nice juicy burger. This cannot be denied.) This is simply my analogy for the controversy around Orson Scott Card's involvement in the new Xbox Live Arcade release, Shadow Complex. Card is a science fiction author and vocal opponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians, who currently serves on the board for the National Organization for Marriage.

The game is set in the “universe” of his Empire series. While playing the game, I didn't feel that his contributions could possibly have had too significant an impact on the overall experience. If I hadn't been aware of the association as a result of publicity given to his involvement, I never would have suspected. The game's setting and plot seem generic enough that I would have just assumed the creators were riffing on Metal Gear Solid.

Some have boycotted Shadow Complex due to Card's involvement. I did not. I purchased the game and I enjoyed it, recognizing that it's the work of a great many people, many of whom don't agree with Card's views. Still, as a member of the queer community and an ardent opponent of discrimination based on sexual orientation, Card's highly publicized involvement in the project doesn't sit well with me, and I really wish that Chair Entertainment had found someone else to get their tomatoes from.

(And I'm fully aware that those who oppose marriage equality will object to being likened to those who discriminate on the basis of race, but I have yet to come across a compelling argument that there is any appreciable difference. Denying someone rights on the basis of sexual orientation is no less reprehensible than doing so on the basis of race or religion. It is a sad commentary on just how far we still have to go with this issue that, while almost all of us are quick to condemn the views of those who discriminate based on race, discrimination against gays and lesbians can still hold such widespread approval.)


On a more uplifting note, check out these awesome Courage Campaign volunteers, including "straight Mormon feminist" Joanna Brooks. They're an inspiration. Please help make marriage equality a reality.


Brian said...

You said this much more eloquently than I ever could have (especially that last paragraph - that was awesome), but here's my take:
I hope you don't mind that a stole a line of yours :)

Michael said...

That was an interesting entry, but the analogy doesn't exactly work. If I wanted to support the restaurant and the other suppliers for that burger stand without supporting the white supremacists, I would order my burgers without tomatoes and tell them why I did that. I would encourage others to not boycott them altogether, but to ask for no tomatoes as well, and tell the burger stand owners that the tomato boycott would continue until they buy from another supplier with no problems. If I really wanted a tomato, I could bring some slices from home that I bought from a different tomato farm. However, Card's involvement can't be removed from the game, so it would be like having to buy the burgers without the option to have no tomatoes, and they serve it that way whether you like it or not. I suppose to make the burger analogy work, you can't throw out the tomato slices after you are served the burger with them on, and you are required to eat the whole burger with the tomatoes on it, or you are not allowed to eat the burger at all. So the burger stand analogy offers another option that the real Card game situation does not.

So since you bought the game, it would be like you have chosen to give money to the restaurant owners, and all the suppliers, which includes the white supremacists. If the lettuce suppliers are hurt financially, the boycotters can find another way to support them, like finding out where else they sell their product to. If support for the restaurant is desired, other items on the menu without tomatoes can be ordered other than the burgers with mandatory tomatoes. In real life, you can buy more games that have nothing to do with Card from the companies that you support. The most important thing is the message and to stand against those that would take away from your freedoms, rather than give in to apathy since you just can't say no to their product.

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