Playing Chicken

We may prefer not to have a side of politics with our fast food, but Chick-fil-A doesn't leave us a choice

Based on my television, Web browsing and Facebook feed — the 21st century trinity of staying ”informed” — the entire world appears to have to collapsed into two categories: the Olympics and Chick-fil-A.

Funny enough, while I’m watching the Olympics along with everyone else, it seems I’m about the only person in the United States who has never eaten one of those ”delicious chicken sandwiches.” In part, that’s because I’m not that into fast-food chicken, but it’s also because I’ve been aware for quite some time that Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned company that has a tendency to mix itself in with anti-gay politics.

That in itself really wasn’t enough for me to have a full-on personal boycott of the place — if someone had asked me a few weeks ago if I would stop by a Chick-fil-A for a quick bite, I wouldn’t have protested. I’m not in the habit of avoiding a business simply because it’s Christian-owned, unless it’s some sort of wildly proselytizing place. But now that the hen is out of the coop on the extent of company President Dan Cathy’s antipathy toward homosexuality and support for anti-gay organizations, I don’t have much choice but to officially boycott a place I’d never gone to in the first place.

And, honestly, this particular moment of community activism creating a media meme has its moments of fun, from being able to use headlines like ”Totally Clucked Up” to seeing what happens when you say ”Chick-fil-Hate” three times fast. (Try it, you’ll see.)

Still, there are the moments of overreach and opportunism that seem great in the moment but unpleasant after some thought. In particular, having some Democratic mayors jump into the fray with declarations that Chick-fil-A is unwelcome in their cities turns what should be a consumer protest into a governmental threat against a private business. Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic has already outlined the particular irony of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to jump on the bandwagon (an irony even deeper given his reputation as the White House guy who slow-walked LGBT issues during the first two years of the Obama administration). And having D.C.’s beleaguered Mayor Vincent Gray tweet about ”hate chicken” just sounded like someone excited at any chance to the change the subject.

Personally, I don’t like mixing politics and my daily life except in such obvious and extreme cases as Chick-fil-A. It’s the same way I approach books and movies. I expect there are authors, screenwriters and directors whose work I enjoy but whose politics, if I knew them, would horrify me. (In some cases, I suspect their politics, but still enjoy their work.) I wouldn’t avoid a work of art or entertainment simply because the creator is, say, a Republican, but I will in the face of explicit anti-gay bigotry. Ender’s Game is one of the most respected books in science-fiction history, but author Orson Scott Card is singularly vituperative in his campaign against marriage equality and homosexuality. So, he’s one of the small handful of people on my ”do not bother with” list, because I’m not going to fund his antigay lifestyle.

So it’s the same with Chick-fil-A: I wouldn’t have such a problem if Dan Cathy weren’t so flagrantly flaunting his behavior. And, yes, I truly enjoy the opportunity to turn that phrase back onto the antigay movement. From Chick-fil-A to the National Organization for Marriage, the hateful people know they’re on the losing side, so the flaunting will get even more flagrant as the clock runs out. Until that final buzzer, we’ll just have to enjoy our burgers.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. Reach him at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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