Saturday, August 4, 2012

Making a statement with our sandwiches

Saturday's column in the print O:

Found myself near a Chick-fil-A one day this week. Not Wednesday, when drive-thrus were backed up with supporters for Chick-fil-A appreciation day. Not Friday, when some of the chain’s restaurants were hosts to a gay “kiss-in” protest. It was Thursday morning. I was hungry. I wanted a sandwich.

But Chick-fil-A orders come now with a mandatory side of self-evaluation. CEO Dan Cathy told an N.C.-based Baptist publication last month that he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. His company donates millions to organizations that support that notion. None of that is new, but the uproar over it is. Hence the appreciation day. And the kiss-in. And my suddenly weighty chicken sandwich.

Actually, it’s not just my chicken sandwich. If Americans want to make a statement with the purchases we make, we have plenty of opportunities.

Take this week, for me. Do I buy that replacement kitchen faucet I need at Lowe’s, which gave in to extremists last year by pulling their advertisements from a benign cable TV show about Muslim-Americans? Do I use the nearby ATM at Wells Fargo, which paid $175 million this month to settle claims of targeting minorities with predatory lending?

What about our iPads or iPhones, which were built at Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer where conditions were so grim that despondent workers committed suicide? And don’t even start on our gasoline, much of which is refined from oil we import from countries that oppress women and treat homosexuals far more harshly than here.

Make no mistake: I don’t agree with Dan Cathy’s implicit views on gay marriage, and I don’t endorse some of the platforms of the organizations Chick-fil-A donates to. Certainly, each one of us can spend our money in a way that makes us feel better about ourselves and our world. But do we want to live in a country where people won’t do business with people who don’t share their beliefs? And how far down do we want to dig – to the causes your lawn guy supports, or the contributions your neighborhood pizza joint owner gives to politicians?

Making a statement – no matter how self-satisfying it may be – is not nearly as clean as we think. Take those chicken sandwiches. In Charlotte, there’s a married couple who run a Chick-fil-A. They have a fine family with a deep faith and deep compassion, and they don’t share the headquarters’ views on gay marriage. It’s not a prerequisite to being a franchisee.

This week, customers came to make purchases and say how happy they were to support the company’s stand. Others were angry, including one who approached a cashier – a single mom working 40 hours week – and seethed: “I don’t know how you can work here.”

“It makes my heart heavy – all this hatred,” the owner told me, but she was uncomfortable talking much about it, and she didn’t want to have her name published. Who can blame her? Any words she says publicly would be met with the same onslaught of judgment, the same abdication of nuance that passes for debate these days.

It’s no longer enough to argue our point and our beliefs; now we must make one-dimensional those who don’t share all of them. You’re a liberal or a conservative or a bigot or a socialist. Gone, too often, is the subtlety of shared values – that, by the way, Chick-fil-A supports worthy causes and doesn’t practice discrimination, or that even among Christians, there is genuine sorting and struggling about what their Bibles say about homosexuality.

Instead, we yell and boycott and demonize – and are demonized in response. And on we go, turning each other into caricatures, so much less than we actually are. And a chicken sandwich becomes so much more.


John said...

Dan Cathey said NOTHING about same sex marriage in that interview. He simply expressed his belief in the biblical expression of marriage and family.

Those protesting and boycotting Chick-Fil-A are therefore NOT protesting what he said, but his religious beliefs... and that violates the very foundations upon which our country was founded: the right to practice your religions without fear of restriction or intimidation.

Those protesting and condemning Chick-Fil-A are no different than the KKK burning crosses in the front yards of blacks. They are using public intimidation to restrict the rights of others to practice what they believe.

Shamash said...

Oh well.

I had another bake at home pizza from Aldi tonight.

So far, no hassles.

Dr. Jimmy said...

The whole affair was disgusting. It's no wonder the rest of the world sees us as selfish, unpatriotic, and un-Christian. Real patriots want the best for all Americans; Christians likewise you would think. But not around here. In all of those crowds and all of those lines none of them had brought with them a poor hungry child to feed, you know, like Jesus would have.

Anonymous said...

You may share your beliefs and opinions, if it jives with a bleeding heart liberal. THEN it's called free speech!

Anonymous said...

Because of this whole controversy, I have come to enjoy the process of perfecting a copycat recipe for the CFA chicken deluxe sandwich on a soft whole wheat kaiser roll. I get to season it to my liking & make it as spicy (or not) as I want. Baking (not deep frying) my own waffle fries at home just makes the whole meal all that much healthier with my own ingredients, amount of oil, salt, etc. What's best is that I can enjoy a CFA meal any Sunday I want from now on without worrying about where my payment for services will ultimately end up (NOM? Exodus Int'l? No thank you.) I highly recommend this easy & viable alternative to anyone who wants a CFA sammich on Sunday.

Anonymous said...


Really, the KKK burning crosses in the in the front yards of blacks??? Well, I sure did not see anyone shot, raped, lynched or killed by any protesters on either side. Sir, I think there is a difference. Your comments are irresponsible.