Yes this is another Chick-Fil-A post. I know that you may have already had you Fil of them(har har). It does seem that you can't swing a stick these days without being confronted by a story about CFA on the blogs, online news outlets, television, newspapers, and twitter feeds. This one, seemingly inconsequential company has become the focus of a debate we would normally reserve for a much larger event....like the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell for instance. And yet...this obscure fast food chain has been rocketed into the limelight. Hell...I can't even type this post without the customers in my store reading over my shoulder as I type and wanting to engage me in conversation about it...that's how big this is getting. And there seems to be some confusion as to what it's all about.
With everyone and their Grandmother talking about this(literally)...I didn't think I needed to be one more voice in the din. But...The problem is that nearly everyone has it wrong. Dan Cathy and his homophobic comments have become the focus of the debate, which has become focused on free speech, free capitalism, and freedom of religion....none of which has anything to do with why Chick-Fil-A got in the hot seat to begin with.
However, I had determined not be yet another blog post....until....it all came to a head for me this morning when I saw Jon Stewart's take on the issue on The Daily Show and that became the straw that broke the camels back. And so it is my turn to set the record straight and to hopefully offer a course correction to a debate that has gone dangerously off the rails. But first, The Daily Show clip after the jump....
I need to start off by saying that, normally I respect Jon Stewart and his show. Even though The Daily Show is entertainment, opinion, and satire you get a more balanced view of the news on his show than I have EVER seen on Fox News or CNN. However, this time they really dropped the ball by missing a rather large point that should have been easily uncovered by reading the front page of just about any other news source.....Following Chick-Fil-A's donation money and involvement with anti-gay lobbyist groups. Either they did not understand that or they simply did not do their homework. But no matter why they missed it, they're take on the issue is indicative of what I have read on much of the internet. this is extremely frustrating to me because that slant on the story is what CFA wants us to focus on.
As The Daily Show points out, Dan Cathy made some rather pointed comments about his views of marriage equality. We get it, Mr. Cathy and Chick-Fil-A subscribe to that belief and they are fully entitled to that. But here's the deal.....Everyone is talking about this as if his comments are what has the gay community up in arms....it is not. It has been common knowledge for years that Chick-Fil-A does not support gay rights or the gay community. I remember being aware of that before I even adopted my kids and that's at least five years ago right there. Correspondingly, I have not eaten there because I was already aware how they feel about me and those like me. In all that time it has always been their right to feel that way and no one has called them out our demanded a boycott because of it.
So What changed?
The reason why Chick-Fil-A began to garner the negative attention of the gay community is because it came to light that they were supporting organizations who were actively working to prevent and/or strip our rights away. First it was reports that they were simply donating food to anti-gay rallies...no big deal. but then it became public knowledge that they were donating up to three million dollars to organisations that lobby against our rights at the ballot box and in the halls of congress. The beneficiaries of their donations are some names very familar to us for causing real and demonstrable harm to the gay community. Perhaps you've heard of them....The National Organisation For Marriage, Architects of Prop 8 in California as well as similar ballot initiatives in New York, New Jersey, Minnisota and most recently caught trying to divide the gay community and African American communities against each other. There is also The Family Research Council... who regularly sends Tony Perkins to congress to testify against us, as he did in DADT and several DOMA hearings, and who advance the ideas that all gays are disease spreading pedophiles(the list of their actions against the gay community is rather long. I could not condense it.) Focus On The Family...another organisation who uses it's funds into scaring the community at large into thinking we are coming for their children and marriages. AND...as if that weren't enough, orgs that have practiced reparative therapy...including Exodus International. And now that some time has gone by, it would appear that three million in donations was too small a number:
THIS is the core of the matter and the point that gets conveniently forgotten when talking about why no one should eat at a Chick-Fil-A. They have crossed far beyond holding an opinion and ventured into the realm of taking palpable actions against the gay community by financially bank-rolling the organisations who DO cause us measurable harm. It is as if they had done these things themselves instead of by proxy....and by Dan Cathy's remarks they would.
So...is it just a chicken sandwich still? Is it still a matter of free speach? In my opinion the answer is no. And yet, I have heard countless comments from gay people and those supportive of us to the effect of, " I don't care...it's just chicken. The chicken is good, so I'm gonna keep eating it."...all with the implication that we are being bullies for calling their patronage into question. These are the same people who will get up in arms when it's a battle for marriage equality at the ballot box. Yet, if the chicken is tasty enough...we don't care where the money goes it seems.This frustrates me and while I am Mr. Diplomacy most of the time...I can't just let comments like those slide by...not when they end up as the "Yes on Prop 8" sign that is on my neighbors lawn reminding me that there are plenty of people around who think my family is worth less than theirs is and are willing to vote it into the state constitution. I think we are justified in calling people out in continuing to eat at CFA in the light of that knowledge. That's not bullying, and especially not for the sake of some abstract political concept. That is asking CFA to please stop kicking us in the nuggets...and if they don't, we get to kick back.
For every commercial on T.V that NOM has paid for...for every trip Tony Perkins takes to congress to incite the spector of the gay menace, that we then have to undo by making videos, blogging, protesting, and lobbying our lawmakers...all of is is made partially possible by the monies that CFA gives to these organizations. To continue to support them with our money is a statement that you simply don't care and can't be inconvenienced. And as Pam Spaulding points out, who needs friends who will sell you out simply for something as small as a chicken sandwich?
Which brings me to the conservative response to the boycott....Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. Here again, conservatives are doing what they do best...spinning the message into one of martyrdom. CFA is being billed as the victim of a huge gay bully and so they must all circle the wagons and rise up to defend family values by purchasing chicken sandwiches. Dan Cathy has been called a hero and anyone who's anyone is the conservative movement has fallen all over themselves to get a picture of themselves with a bag of Chick-Fil-A's goods...including Sara Palin and Mike Huckabee. This has caused support for CFA has become another one of the ways in which you can prove your conservative loyalty. The whole thing would be laughably ridiculous if it wasn't for the fact that many of the individuals proudly mugging for the camera in a CFA wanted to lead the nation. Lending their support for CFA sending a clear message to the world that gay people don't belong in that nation. That's all good though for them though, because CFA made record sales that day off the backs of their bigotted stance toward LGBT people...and as Herman Cain points out, they intend to turn that money right around and donate it to the same organisations that will continue to fight to make sure gays can not marry..and even if we do win at the ballot box...they will tie us up in court forever with money that smell suspicously like chicken. Thank you so much for your support of Chick-fil-A....
And what about the people behind the counter? For many gay employee's of CFA, it's just a job...a much needed job in this economy...but they signed up for a paycheck not an idealogical viewpoint. As they have expressed, boycotting CFA hurts them more than it will ever harm Dan Cathy. Yet, The comments that gay employee's inside Chick-Fil-A hear from their customers and fellow employees is beyond disgusting. One such employee was recently featured on The Daily beast. She initially wrote in protest to the boycott...and then CFA appreciation day rolled around and some stuff was said:
No one really stopped talking about the reasons why today was as busy as it was. The people I work alongside kept going on and on about how powerful it was to be part of such a righteous movement, and how encouraged they were to know that there were so many people who agree with Dan Cathy. They went on at great length about how it was wrong not just for gays to marry, but to exist. One kid, age 19, said “I hope the gays go hungry.”.....
…When this first started, I implored my friends and allies not to boycott. Now, if I didn’t work there, I’d be boycotting too. That much hypocrisy and hatred leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and the last thing I want to eat is their chicken.
And from the Huffpo:
One gay employee who works at Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., and asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job, says he is getting it from both sides. On the one hand, there is the customer who came in and said he supported Dan Cathy and then "continues to say something truly homophobic, e.g. 'I'm so glad you don't support the queers, I can eat in peace,'"...
...Gabriel Aguiniga, a gay employee at a Chick-fil-A in Colorado, also said the hardest part hasn't been hearing Cathy's comments. Instead, "[it's] constantly having people come up to you and say, 'I support your company, because your company hates the gays,'" Aguiniga, 18, wrote in an email. "It really takes a toll on me."
I do not believe any hurting the employees of any business. Most of them are people like me who are just trying to get by day to day. Many of them may not have had a lot of choice in terms of their place of employment...you take what you can get when the economy sucks. That said....I can not sit by and allow CFA to hurt my family and then let them roll over and pretend like I am the bully. They do not get to disown their actions....nor do any of the conservatives who lined up in defense of CFA. In contrast to the CFA boycott, when push came to shove...and Starbucks publically expressed support for marriage equality in the Washington state, guess who it was asking us to "Dump Starbucks"? You guessed it...The National Organisation For Marriage, one of the benificiaries of CFA's millions. It is funny that, at that time, none of them thought it was bullying to boycott Starbucks....not that Starbucks noticed. NOM still has their "dump Starbucks" petition up even though no one remembers it any more.
Did Starbucks do anything less than Dan Cathy has done? They simply added their name, along with the names six other prominent companies to a letter expressing support for marriage equality and their gay employees to Governor Chris Gregiore. And all of the sudden fundies were crying foul and pledging to sink Starbucks in the depths of financial ruin. Yet all Starbucks actually did was express an opinion, just like Mr. Cathy did...and they most certainly did not care about Starbucks first amendment rights then did they?
And finally....Not to beat a dead chicken, but we have been reading about this issue non-stop for the better part of a month now. I feel like a have a pretty good handle on the points of view on both sides. That is why, when I read this unrelated post by Alvin McEwen of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters I felt it applied to this debate. His post is about the comments made by anti-gay pastor Jack Hakimian and they struck a cord in me because they seemed to speak to the notion that Dan Cathy and CFA are martyrs for a cause...whether religious or political. When I read it, i nearly stood up and applauded, so I hope Mr. McEwen will forgive me for quoting it nearly whole cloth:
Your religion will not protect you from criticism. You don’t know us and based upon your words, you do not care to know us.
That’s fine. Our community doesn’t exist to get in your so-called good graces. Nor do we seek “tolerance” from you like some pet who has urinated on your favorite rug.
You can believe what you want and you can say what you want. But when you start talking about us, don’t expect us to sit in a corner and cry. And above all, don’t expect us to take your abuse with the pitiful good nature of a battered spouse.
We are not “things” nor are we “trapped in a lifestyle.” We are human beings and we will not settle for less than being treated like human beings. Your religion does not entitle you to take verbal potshots at us without the courtesy of a highly angry response nor does it entitle you to freely lie about who we are without the courtesy of a stern correction. Our lives will not be dictated by your fevered imaginations of what we allegedly do in the bedrooms. Nor will you restrict every aspect of our lives to those fevered imaginations.
I don’t care if you speak in tongues, can heal the sick, or raise the dead. You don’t have rights and privileges above us. You never have and you never will.
Basically, it comes down to this – if you can’t handle our response, don’t call us out in the first place.
For my part...and in closing...What ever happens with Chick-Fil-A in the long run, I do not think we should write their actions off as unimportant because they are a fast food chain. I for one know how much work goes into undoing the work of those they support. And while this may not be a ballot initiative or a federal court case...it is no less important to stand up for ourselves and our community.
I just found out that my city has recently approved a Chick-Fil-A to be built not more than three blocks from my home...in a county that overwhelmingly voted to strike down Prop 8. I am appalled at this. I know that they have every constitutional right to do business in my back yard but that does not mean that I need to be silent about it. You can bet your sweet fillet's my husband and I are going to be a part of the effort to let our community know what Chick-Fil-A stands for. Then we will see how easy it is for them to do business here. They don't get to do what ever they want and expect no response from us. We can not let them make us back peddle and keep explaining why we are doing this while they control the conversation. We need to keep this debate on target and let the world know that we don't care if CFA hates our guts...this is NOT a freedom of speech issue and it never was. They can continue to be public about their views until the chickens come home to roost.....but when they vote with their money, we get to do the same.
Until next time dear readers.....