I was so glad to be in Chicago last week. That's when I heard (mostly via Facebook and Twitter) that hordes of smiley a-holes were descending upon Chick-fil-A locations to demonstrate their support for fellow a-hole (Chick-fil-A-hole?), Georgian, and fast-food gillionaire Dan Cathy's public denouncement of gay marriage. I was hundreds of miles north of the Mason-Dixon, in the former home of our Liberal president, a bustling metropolis overrun with murderous gang members but far fewer backward rednecks than reside in most Southern cities. (Atlanta is an exception to the redneck rule, obviously — but the areas that surround it sure aren't.)
And then I made the mistake of watching the news. Sure enough, Chicagoland (that's what these people call their metro area) had its share of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day mob scenes — people lined up, anxious to show the world just how much they hate the idea of gay people getting married, so much so that they were willing to wait an hour for a chicken sandwich. I kind of want to repeat that one more time to bask in the dull glow of idiocy: people — lots of them — who are morally and religiously opposed to same-sex marriage expressed it by buying a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries.
I turned off the news before I could get a good look at any of their smug, grease-covered faces, because it might have killed me. Or encouraged me to kill. I don't mean that. But since August 1 — which was followed by a pro-gay-rights Kiss-In a couple days later — it's basically been impossible to avoid thinking, talking, typing, and reading about Cathy's comment and the watered-down, fear-based "activism" it provoked in people who likely consider themselves Good Christians. I even had a dream last night about refusing to patronize Chick-fil-A during a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson, even though I was starving and it was closest to my gate. In my waking life, I haven't eaten there for years because of their politics and the bullshit right-wing organizations they support. Sure. Dan Cathy is entitled to his opinions as a private individual, as a public figure, and as a breast-meat mogul. But there isn't a person in this country — regardless of where they stand on the issues of gay marriage and/or fried chicken sandwiches — who shouldn't be totally grossed out by the fact that a fast-food joint has become the glad beneficiary of so much division and unpleasantness. They're breeding unhealthy people, and they're breeding an unhealthy country.
Scanning newspaper headlines has been frustrating. For example, the Washington Post article that reads, "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day a reminder that boycotts often backfire." OK, so people shouldn't make an organized effort to refuse to support businesses that proudly declare opposition to granting certain freedoms to an entire segment of the population because, whelp, it might "backfire." That makes loads of sense. Another story that really got to me actually took place in downtown Chicago, where some straight couples showed up at Chick-fil-A in wedding dresses and tuxedos to crash Kiss-In Day and oppose a comment Mayor Rahm Emanuel made ("Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values.") — but mostly just to be dicks and rub in the fact that they can legally marry. One of the women, Jennifer Cruz, is the current Mrs. Illinois.
Social media has been equally discouraging. An update on my Facebook page informed me that over the weekend three of my "friends" had "liked" Chick-fil-A in the past few days. So, even if they didn't show up at their local restaurant wearing a cow suit and a drippy sign that says, "God hates fagz," they still went out of their way to let people know where their loyalties lie, despite — or, more likely, in light of — the recent controversy. I contemplated unfriending those three people, but decided that I was overreacting, because I still might want to spy on them someday. I've had other friends — the real-life kind — defend Chick-fil-A. Not because they agree that gay people should be denied the right to marry, but because lunch is lunch, and they'd rather keep politics out of it. If you like Polynesian sauce enough, occasionally patronizing a place that might spend your sandwich dollars to lobby against gay rights on Capitol Hill is worth it. I tend to not feel this way, but there are certainly companies I continue to support because I'm willfully ignorant of how evil they actually are. After the events of this week, people can't feign ignorance anymore.
What I think has been most troubling about the loud-'n'-proud outpouring of support for Chick-fil-A's anti-gay ways is seeing so many people get so pumped about defending the rights of a billion-dollar corporation, and denying the rights of individuals. Specific individuals. Individuals who are different than they are. It's a real capitalistic, new-millennium spin on the bigots who opposed civil rights for African-Americans. But, there you have it. Your garden-variety, modern-day American's idea of activism: defending a fast-food chain. And from what? The ruin it'd befall at the hands of liberal boycotters, I suppose, and because Chick-fil-A going under would cause our democracy to crumble. Well, that and gay guys being allowed to get hitched.
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