This afternoon, I slipped out of my office to grab something for lunch. Since I work on a university campus, the closest place for grub is the student union, which features a mixed-bag food-court, including a few fast-food establishments and a salad bar (my preference). I was surprised to see an unusually long line trailing from the food court, wrapping around the hallway. A peek into the cafeteria clarified the situation: these folks were all waiting to buy a sandwich at Chick-fil-A.
Unless you live in a yurt, you have probably heard about the Chick-fil-A stuff in the news. I’ll summarize: the place is run by a self-described Christian who donates a good chunk of its profits to religious groups that work to to ban gay marriage and keep gay people off of anti-discrimination protection lists (you heard that right—millions of dollars to make sure it stays illegal to love and legal to hate).
After this (old) news hit the media this week, lots of shit hit the proverbial fan: inevitable anti-Chick protests ensued (including mayors who want the restaurant to GTFO of their respective cities), the restaurant’s genius PR team tried to win back support by allegedly creating fake Facebook pages and spinning up lies about Jim Henson, and conservative Mike Huckabee got incensed enough about the protests to declare today “Show Your Support for All of the Above Day.”
This last bit I learned from the cashier at the union’s convenience store. I had to buy a pre-packaged deli sandwich because the chicken people had flooded the food court, and as the cashier—a twenty-something college student—was ringing me up, I asked her if she knew what was going on.
“Mike Huckabee declared today a day of support for the business,” she said, and immediately her face turned red, her voice took on an odd tremble. She was either completely against the idea, or fiercely protective of it—I couldn’t tell—and I could see that part of her unease came from the fact that she didn’t know how I was going to react. Was I for Chick-fil-A or against it? Did I support marriage equality or was I homophobic? Which news media outlet was I getting all my information from? A twist of anxiety filled the air between us, a potential fire that could manifest as either rage or loyalty if either one of us chose to ignite it.
We didn’t. I got my change. We wished each other a good afternoon. I took my sandwich and left without ever figuring out whether we were supposed to be friends or enemies. Sometimes it’s just not that clear what we’re supposed to do.
To be fair, Chick-fil-A released a statement that said it respects all customers, “regardless of sexual orientation,” but that seems to be a bit of a back-pedaling stretch, given its history of incorporating anti-gay propaganda into children’s meals and funneling money to groups that try to “cure” homosexuality but tout AIDS as God’s inevitable plan.
And it’s misguided to think that the people who came out for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day aren’t making an anti-gay statement, that they’re simply identifying themselves as aligned with the principals of Christianity. You can support the institution of Christianity without standing in a fast-food line. You know how? Be fucking nice. Toss a neighbor a real smile sometime. The great part is that none of this will diminish you; rather, you will flourish, and so will everyone around you.
This is what I saw today: approximately 70 people standing in line for a fast-food restaurant, all willing to sacrifice their own personal time (the average wait for a sandwich appeared to be about 20 minutes), money ($6.50 for a meal + $9 to park in the garage), and physical health (obesity, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes), just so that I cannot marry my partner.