August 3, 2012

Chick-fil-A

I visited my neighborhood Chick-fil-A restaurant at lunchtime today in the hope of seeing some evidence of the proposed kiss-in. I had no intention of ordering food, but I had my notebook and camera in my pockets.

I was surprisedChick-fil-A logo that I was accosted by an elderly female greeter when I entered the restaurant. This was a new phenomenon. She was preternaturally friendly, and I assumed that she was the restaurant’s queer-early-warning system. We got into a discussion about my sunglasses, from which I extricated myself as quickly as I was able.

Alas, I saw no kissing, either of the heterosexual or the homosexual variety. I hung around for a few minutes and left before I thought I was becoming conspicuous. I killed a little time at the Trader Joe’s next door before taking a second look for unusual activity at Chick-fil-A. Everything seemed normal, however.
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As long as everyone else seems to be commenting on the Chick-fil-A matter, permit me to make a few brief remarks.

First, The big-city mayors who have implied that they are prepared to prevent Chick-fil-A from expanding in their jurisdictions need to review the powers that have and (most importantly) do not have. Whether doing so is wise or not, they are free to criticize the policies of the chain. Threatening the company, however, crosses a line that serves no one’s interest. Are the mayors really willing to act outside the law to punish a company of whose policies they do not approve?

 Chick-fil-A and its officers can do or say whatever they want, so long as it is legal and the stockholders do not complain. Apparently, Chick-fil-A is privately held, so the owners and the officers seem to be one in the same. COO Dan Cathy can attack marriage equality, and his company can send millions to anti-gay organizations. I believe that both actions are completely sincere. The chain has cultivated its “Christian” (read right-wing evangelical Christian) image, and, in political terms, Cathy’s recent comments play to Chick-fil-A’s base. He may honestly believe that his remarks will be good for business. I doubt that they are.

Any company that takes a stand on controversial public issues or funds organizations that do so may not be acting in their company’s best financial interest. In the present instance, Chick-fil-A has clearly received substantial support for its activities from its clientele, as evidenced by the long lines at the recent Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Its stance has probably even won it new friends. It has also won new detractors, however, among whom I number myself. Long-term, I suggest that the company has created a problem for itself. Supporters of its anti-marriage-equity position may not always remember at lunchtime that they should support Chick-fil-A. Those who find the company’s position hateful and loathsome, however, will have no trouble remembering to avoid the restaurant.

Finally, demonstrations for and against Chick-fil-A are not exactly symmetric. It’s easy to have lunch at a particular restaurant on a particular day. (The long lines did make the experience obnoxious, however.) Taking part in the kiss-in, on the other hand, required commitment, extroversion, and homosexual orientation. On two out of three dimensions, I felt left out. I doubt that my occasional absence at my local Chick-fil-A will not be noticed. I hope that the absence of many people who feel as I do will be.

2 comments:

  1. I have read what I take to be a copy of the letter the mayor of Boston sent to Mr. Cathy. Although he may have made public comments that indicated that he would, improperly, block the company from locating in Boston, in the letter he was careful only to urge Cathy to abandon plans for a Boston store. Public officials like the mayor are free to express their opinions, even though they are limited in how they may use their offices to act on those opinions.

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