BUSINESS OF BIGOTRY - It's unlikely that most of us know the political, religious and philosophical beliefs of the CEOs and owners whose businesses we patronize. I have no idea what the founders of Subway might believe, whether or not Macy's board is a cabal of hate-filled bigots, or if the guy who owns that Italian restaurant down the street is a raving right-winger (though I do know he loves Italian soccer!).
We traverse the world, make our purchases and eat at our favorite establishments blissfully unaware of anything other than whether the product is good and the price is right. Until we hear otherwise.
While others appear to have known about this long before I did (not generally a fast-fooder, I'm surely granted late-to-the-table bona fides!), it seems Chick-fil-A makes a chicken sandwich so good that footballer Cassanova McKinzy chose a college based on the proximity of said sandwich. So good that some people drive miles to imbibe on a daily basis. So damn good that God said only straight people can eat them.
OK, I'm paraphrasing, but it seems Chick-fil-A's president (and son of founder S. Truett Cathy), Dan Cathy, has gotten himself into some deep chicken doo-doo for proudly and loudly declaring himself "guilty as charged!" for his support of that great Christian umbrella of homophobia, the "family values and traditional marriage" platform. Yep, he's a believer.
And not only has Mr. Cathy blathered all the usual fundamentalist talking points (i.e., "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," and "...thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."), but his company has reportedly put their big money where their bigger mouth is by donating nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups.
That's a whole lot of intolerance.
I've eaten only one Chick-fil-A sandwich in my life. Franchises have been sprouting up around Los Angeles and my husband, a noted lover of the better end of fast food (In n' Out being the gold standard), suggested we give them a try, particularly after making humorous note of the McKinzy story. So we tried. Not bad... a decent chicken sandwich if you're going to waste calories on fast food.
Would I drive across town to get one? No. Would I choose a school based on one's location? Hell no.
But it's better than a Big Mac and the seasoning is tasty. Then I read the press reports on all this anti-gay carrying-on and my stomach seized up... not from the chicken, but the chicken-shit statements of this Christian company president. God Almighty.
I've written before about the oxymoronic (take that any way you'd like) dogma of fundamentalist Christians (Can the Not Crazy Christians Please Speak Up?!), that unhappy mix of God-devotion, Bible-loyalty and cultural/secular intolerance and bigotry. It's a belief system that confounds those not in the "cult" because the very notion of Godliness would seem to suggest love, acceptance and open-hearted tolerance, yet this bunch finds these qualities impossible to apply to non-believers, particularly gays and lesbians.
Perversions of Biblical tracts are rampant, used as justification for behaviors and attitudes that would surely have Jesus rolling in his grave if the Man/God hadn't rose up out of there.
Blatant declarations of what most would consider unequivocal bigotry are espoused without a glimmer of shame or recognition of their shocking and regressive small-mindedness.
In fact, the words and actions of the very high-profile Mr. Cathy make me wonder (even if just satirically) if he's ever considered installing "Gays Only" signs over the back doors of their establishments ... I mean, we'll feed 'em, we just don't want 'em stinkin' up the place, right?
All in the name of God, mind you; all in the blessed name of God. Will they ever see the absurdity of that? That's a real question. And no. The answer is likely, no.
Mr. Cathy can believe as freely as the next person, I do not begrudge him that (regardless of my antipathy). But as the president of a company that feeds the public -- the big, unwieldy, melting pot public -- his stance against gays and lesbians is not only distasteful, it is stupidly counterproductive to business (and what could be holier than the bottom line?).
Boycotts are being organized, buzz is flying around the viral universe, people are leaving heated messages at both Chick-fil-A's and Mr. Cathy's Facebook pages. The chickens have come home to roost, the feathers are flying' and the clucking is not pretty (I think I just used every chicken metaphor possible).
Will it have an impact? I don't know. It depends on how many people hear about this and how many of those decide that no chicken sandwich is worth supporting ignorance and intolerance.
I do know my husband and I will not eat another Chick-fil-A. That's a start.
(Lorraine Devon Wilke is a writer, photographer and rock and roll vet. Visit her website: lorrainedevonwilke.com. This blog was posted most recently at huffingtonpost.com)
Vol 10 Issue 58
Pub: July 20, 2012