Chick-fil-A has been in the LGBT news the past month after a franchisee sponsored a Pennsylvania Family Institute event, Jeremy Hooper dug around and found that they also have a nonprofit that sponsors fundamentalist politics, have worked with NOM, and sponsored an organization that supports ex-gayism. After all that came out, Chick-fil-A removed their name from the PFI's announcement of the original event and put out several statements about how it's a Biblical business, but they stay out of politics (for them ex-gayism is therapy and marriage legislation is about relationships and religion, with politics probably being defined as "elections," so in their minds they're probably telling the truth).
Catching up on it last night made me want to put down some thoughts here, but I'll admit this business didn't spark my interest for a while. The reason it probably wasn't interesting is partly because I don't live within several thousand miles of a Chick-fil-A and partly because I don't eat there even when I'm in the US. But perhaps the biggest reason is that this doesn't change much anyway.
I'm of the belief that large chains and corporations should be considered guilty until proven innocent, since they're probably committing all sorts of crimes (against labor, against the environment, against their customers, against other businesses, against humanity...) without us knowing much about it. That doesn't mean that there's no such thing as a good corporation or that people should never shop at them - it just means that intense skepticism should be our neutral position.
But one sort of big business that I just won't ever take to liking is fast food. The food is produced to be as neutral as possible so that it can appeal to the widest market, to be as salty as possible so that it has a long shelf-life, as fatty or sweet as possible so that the fact that it has crappy, frozen, and cheap ingredients without flavor will be less noticed, and as overpriced as it can be while still keeping the customers coming. It's usually so unhealthy that I think it'd be more inclined to label most fast food "poison" instead of "food," so I can be forgiven if I don't share the same sort of affection for Chick-fil-A that apparently its fans do.
Chick-fil-A's classic chicken sandwich, with no sauce or butter, only has about 380 calories. That's fine so long as you don't eat much else in that meal, but chances are you're going to want something else soon. And make sure that whatever else you eat that day is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to make up for that Chick-fil-A.
What's disturbing is that that same sandwich gives you 54% of your sodium for a day if you're an average American following USDA recommendations, and around 86% if you were put on a 1500-mg/day diet because of high blood pressure.
Now, people who don't cook much probably don't have the same reaction to seeing that kind of sodium content in a small amount of prepared food, but if you cook you know: salt is needed to bring out flavor, but lots of salt is needed when there is no flavor. A chicken, running around until it's head gets cut off, is full of flavor (even if I don't partake I can acknowledge that much) but still needs a little salt, so what happened to that chicken that it needed to be salted so heavily? Personally, I'd love to know, but I'm going to guess that, whatever it is, the lack of flavor was supposed to be a warning to me not to eat it.
I won't get much more into the food side of this, but I will say that the issue here isn't that the folks at Chick-fil-A have a different opinion about a political matter than I do. They have a completely different way of looking at the world, complete with haves and have-nots, and the have-nots (which will never include the owners of Chick-fil-A) are supposed to be automatons who work for low wages and pay too much to eat crap, living long enough to produce children who'll do the same thing but never concerned with their own pleasure. Their Christianity is not the equalizing, self-reflexive Christianity of Jesus, but the hierarchical, judgmental, me-first Christianity of someone looking for a way to feel better about themselves.
And the fact that the people at Chick-fil-A have put so much time, energy, and money into supporting discrimination against LGBT people (and Muslims, apparently) doesn't help the restaurant's case for my money. As the foodie superstar behind The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck put it:
"It literally leaves a bad taste because I know the people who are putting this food in my mouth actively loathe me," he said. "I'm all for freedom of religion, it's just that I know where I want my money to go and I don't want my money to go."
I don't know how anyone could go to a chain fast food place and eat a meal without getting the impression that someone, for some reason, loathes them.
I wasn't raised on fast food the way a lot of other people were, and that might be part of the problem here. Sure, we went to Mickey Dee's and Wendy's with Mom when we were little, my siblings and me, but it was a treat and it was kept rare. The food's great for kids - high in fat, salt, and sugar, with a toy instead of flavor!
Other than that, I'd tell the students at NYU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center that it's great that they're looking beyond marriage to understand the queer and other issues at play here, but sometimes these folks do give themselves away.
More importantly, while seeing the big picture is important, we shouldn't get into a place where we see sexual autonomy as a second-rate issue, demonization of LGBT people as not as important as the demonization of other classes of people, and not something worth organizing around.