Chick-fil-A: the aftermath


I wrote in July and August about Chick-fil-A and gay marriage. I thought it was a passing trifle. Lo and behold, the story continues to evolve!

 

Let me tell it from the start, in stages:

 

1)  The provocation. Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, talked about the chain’s contributions to various anti-gay-marriage causes, clucking and smirking about his Christian values (“We’re all still on our first marriages,” he said).

2)  The backlash. The Henson company pulled out of a marketing deal with them. Boycotts were called.

3)  The backlash to the backlash. Various conservatives, led by those two intellectual giants Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, declared their solidarity with Chick-fil-A, and invited their fellow True Believers to come eat a chicken sandwich on the first of August. Thousands responded. (It turns out that it’s easier to get people to get involved in politics if there’s food involved. I think we should start letting people vote at McDonalds and Burger King and KFC; participation would go through the roof.)

4)  The backlash to the backlash to the backlash. Gay activists had kiss-a-thons at Chick-fil-A. These were less well attended and not much covered by the media.

5)  The political reaction. A number of northern and western localities, including Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco, declared that they would look very carefully in future at any applications made by Chick-fil-A, questioning whether a business that had self-importantly declared itself intolerant should be allowed to open a franchise in those cities.

6)  Now it’s a freedom-of-speech issue! “They can say and believe anything they want,” one side said. “You can’t forbid them to do business just because you don’t like what they believe.” “Oh yes we can,” the other side said. “They have the right to freedom of belief and freedom of speech, but they have no right to open a store in this or that place. We’ll see about that.”

The whole thing simmered for a while, and was almost forgotten, except that a few people realized that eating a chicken sandwich isn’t quite the same thing as making a political statement.

Then suddenly:

7)  Chick-fil-A redefines its policies: “’The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,’ Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Tracey Micit said in the statement. ‘Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.’” They also say they are reevaluating the contributions being given to anti-gay-marriage groups. (Why? Because they want to expand their business beyond their traditional Southern base, and they’ve suddenly discovered that it might not be good for business to be known as “the chicken place run by bigots and homophobes.”)

8)  Chick-fil-A’s conservative / Christian supporters suddenly don’t like them so much.

9)  Da capo. Dan Cathy (see #1) says nothing has changed since this summer.

And so forth.

Maybe sometime I’ll tell you all about the guy at Papa John’s Pizza griping about how he has to pay for his employees’ healthcare!


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Chicken sandwiches, gay marriage, and freedom of speech

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I wrote last week about Dan Cathy, CEO of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, who made a big contribution to an anti-gay-marriage organization, and bragged about his morals as he did so. (He made a comment about “all of us here being on our first marriages,” which I think is pretty comical.) He and his company promptly got dumped upon, most publicly and most appropriately by the Henson Company, which broke ties with Chick-fil-A (Henson used to manufacture toys for their children’s meals).  The Hensons then contributed the money they’d received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, a prominent gay organization.

 

 

All of this I love.

 

 

The next part becomes more complex.

 

 

Leaders in four American cities – Denver, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago – have talked about forbidding the expansion of the Chick-fil-A chain in their cities. Is this okay? I’m not sure. I dislike homophobes and prudes, of course, but I can’t forbid them to own businesses, and I’m not sure if I can justify zoning them out of whole cities.  If they were openly flouting the law – refusing service based on sexual preference, or something like that – I might think differently.

 

 

This is the lovely thing about America. You can be as ridiculous as you like, and no one can really tell you to shut up about it. You can be against gay marriage, or women’s suffrage, or the Emancipation Proclamation if you like, and you can even put up big banners in your place of business announcing your political beliefs.

 

 

You’d just better be prepared to lose quite a bit of business.

 

 

To be sure, the homophobes are rallying around the chicken place. Mike Huckabee, the Christian zealot, and Rick Santorum, the animated sweater-vest, have encouraged other zealots and bigots to join them at Chick-fil-A on August 1, to show their “support.” (It’s like the Civil Rights Movement in reverse: lunch counter sit-ins to deny people their rights!) I also saw a lovely photo of Sarah and Todd “Secede From America” Palin picking up their chicken sandwiches and smiling pretty for the camera. (CNN played Pink’s song “Stupid Girls” as background as they relayed the story. Excellent commentary.)

 

 

The natural response for the gay and gay-friendly communities is to boycott Chick-fil-A. Some organizers, more interestingly, are organizing “Gay Day at Chick-fil-A,” to be held on the same day as the Huckabee/Santorum hate rally. This will create, um, an interesting dynamic.

 

 

Myself, I’m with the boycotters. This will be easy for me, because there are no Chick-fil-A franchises in Rhode Island.

 

 

(I was never much for chicken sandwiches, anyway. I’m more of a burger queen.)

 

 

Rick Santorum, the false prophet

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I have begun sketching out little pieces about Rick Santorum several times over the past few weeks.  Every time, I work myself into such a blinding fury, I short-circuit myself and go back to square one.

 

 

So I will now try again.

 

 

Rick Santorum is a Catholic politician from Pennsylvania.  I say “Catholic” because it is important in his case.  I would not, for example, say “Mitt Romney is a Mormon who used to be governor of Massachusetts”; it would really be irrelevant and borderline offensive (although I don’t have much respect for Willard M. Romney).  Santorum makes a big deal of his religion.  He is intensely anti-abortion.  No, check that; he’s intensely anti-birth control.  Birth control is, after all, against the will of God.

 

 

Hello, Mahmoud Ahmedinedjad!

 

 

Presidents have to be religious.  If they’re not, no one would vote for them.  Someone recently retold the story of Eisenhower joining the Presbyterian church shortly before the campaign season in 1952, so that no one could accuse him of being irreligious. 

 

 

But Santorum is insisting on his religion.  He intends to run the country based on his religious principles.

 

 

Does this make you break out in a cold sweat?  It does me.

 

 

Let’s face it: lots of Americans are irreligious.  I grew up in a non-churchgoing family, in a Western state to boot.  We were not unusual.   Going down the list:

 

 

        Dad never seemed interested in religion.

        Mom was baptized Catholic, but never really practiced it.  She talked about it a lot in her later years, but never acted on it.

        Eldest brother was married in a church, but has never (so far as I know) practiced any religion.

        Eldest sister was proudly non-religious to the day she died.

        Younger sister married a moderately devout Seventh-Day Adventist and became observant.  She told me, very seriously, several months before her death in 1995, about things she planned to do in heaven.  I told her, with similar seriousness, that she would have to look for me and Mom in Hell, because that’d be where she would find us.  We both laughed over this.

        I went to a Catholic college, (predictably) converted to Catholicism, practiced it on and off for some decades, and have as of this date sworn off it.

 

 

Here, Rick Santorum, is the typical American family.  How many potential votes do you count there? 

 

 

One.  Out of six people.

 

 

And she’s dead.

 

 

And I would like to think that my sister Susan would be smart enough not to vote for a preening phony like you.

 

 

So that makes zero.

 

 

So huh.

 

 

Why Ron Paul should not ever ever be President of the United States of America

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I wrote the first draft of this blog just after the Iowa caucus, and I am revising it after the Florida primary.  The Iowa caucus is something between a state fair and a freakshow; it mostly demonstrates the voting preferences of white evangelical Christians with nothing better to do on a cold Tuesday night in January in Iowa.  The other primaries thus far have also been freakshows, as far as I’m concerned: Gingrich posturing in Florida about a moon colony, Gingrich in South Carolina making a particular point of disrespecting poor people and black people.

 

 

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both made strong showings back in Iowa.   Santorum I’ll deal with another time.  Right now I just want to say a word about Ron Paul.

 

 

I used to think that, as a libertarian, he was (in the words of Douglas Adams) “mostly harmless.”  He was for the legalization of drugs, for example.  He seemed friendly to women’s rights and gay rights (at least in the abstract.)

 

 

Then, recently, some of the newsletter stuff from the 1990s has been coming to light. 

 


Here is a link to it.  Please read at your leisure.  It is abominable.  It basically rescinds all of the civil rights legislation of the last fifty years. 

 

 

In brief: Ron Paul says that the government has no right to dictate guidelines on hiring.  If you, as an individual, do not see your way clear to hire black people, or women, or Hispanics, or gay people, that is your right.  Those people whom you’ve disadvantaged (blacks, women, Hispanics, gays, et cetera) can just go out and find other employers.

 

 

Do you see where this leads?

 

 

Uh huh. 

 

 

If Citizen X doesn’t like black people and doesn’t want to hire them, for whom would he vote: Ron Paul or Barack Obama?

 

 

Naturally.

 

 

And would Ron Paul welcome his vote?  Naturally he would.  He welcomes all those who share his world-view, for whatever reason.

 

 

If, in some odd alternate universe, Ron Paul actually captures the Republican nomination (which he probably won’t, but I’ve been wrong about things before), how many black people, how many Hispanics, how many women, how many gay people would vote for him?  Not many.

 

 

Ron: we, the American people, do not choose to employ you.  Go find another employer.

 

 

(And if I should be wrong about all this, and he somehow through some reverse miracle climbs into the Presidency: Jesus Buddha Allah Krishna save us, it’s the Mayan calendar 2012 apocalypse after all.)


 

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