I just got off the phone with Elie Khoury, owner of Larry’s Great Western Meats. For a guy who can’t be very happy with me, he’s very understanding. He believes me. He knows I meant him no harm.
Neither of us could have anticipated what happened. So, for the sake of justice and fairness, this column is going to try to clean up the mess I unwittingly made for Mr. Khoury.
I started writing Human Matters 530 weeks ago. But this is the first time I’ve ever written a column with such a specific audience in mind.
Specifically, this column is for all you folks who read my column last week, then called my friends at Larry’s Great Western Meats and assailed them, criticized them and otherwise accused them of not serving gay people. You even called Elie’s wife names. You frightened them.
None of you wrote to or called me.
Somehow, someway, you decided my column said Elie and his employees don’t serve gay people. My column does not say that, of course, but there you have it.
To say I’m astonished doesn’t begin to describe it. The irony is I’m not sure whether I’m guilty of underestimating or overestimating the folks assailing Larry’s.
If you need help recalling last week’s column, go here: http://bit.ly/1EA19DR.
So, today’s column is a “helper column” for last week’s column. Again, it’s not for everybody. Just the folks who called to unjustly tarnish the good name of my friends at Larry’s Meats.
I got plenty of other letters from readers who don’t require a “helper column.” Which is to say they merely read and digested what my column actually said, then responded.
So, here’s the new, helper column.
Once upon a time, I was standing in Larry’s Great Western Meats. I shop there often. Great quality. Great service.
Plus, I have a soft spot for American small business. I think it’s the backbone of the American ethos.
I’ve shopped at Larry’s since 1996. Lots of times. No one there has ever asked me whether I’m gay, nor checked my heterosexual credentials at the front door before admission. Nope; the folks at Larry’s just keep smiling, keep welcoming me (and everybody), keep sharing their product and cooking knowledge, and keep dishing up high quality.
Last time I was at Larry’s, I saw a sign behind the cash register that said, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Now, Dear Column-Challenged Reader, stop and take a breath. Because nothing else I’m going to say has anything to do with Larry’s Great Western Meats. At all.
Don’t want to blur things for you. Larry’s isn’t even an illustration of anything I’m about to say next. Just a “jumping off place.” Just the last place I happened to see a sign I could have seen anywhere.
I was curious about the sign — not because it hangs in Larry’s Meats — but because it hangs in lots of businesses across America. The sign presupposes ideas about rights and ownership.
And, given that the news has been filled with the controversy of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the sign — not Larry’s Meats — made me think of the various cultural evolutions and devolutions in my lifetime. How the modern ways we fight for justice can sometimes, oddly, wreak injustice.
Specifically, I really was wondering what rights a small-business owner does indeed retain regarding who he/she will or will not serve and for what reason.
That’s what the column was about. The column wasn’t about Larry’s.
And, in many ways, I was being glib about the sign, because everyone knows the sign in fact carries no legal clout whatsoever. Nobody goes to court and argues, “But, but … I have a sign!”
That’s it. I was inviting people to think about civil rights. But also individual rights.
Not to mention this strange, bullying group-think that seems be to driving America these days.
Thus endeth the revised “helper column.”
So, if you made a defaming phone call to Larry’s last week, you were out of line. Wrong. Inaccurate. Call them back and apologize. Larry’s does not adapt or adopt business practices around the issue of psychosexual orientation.
Or better yet, go to Larry’s. I recommend the New Yorks. They are ridiculous.
Oddly enough, this strange little local dust-up might have made my column’s point in spades:
Is it just me? Or are we, as a nation, a little twitchy these days?
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or email@example.com.