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Of protest, politics and poultry: Chick-fil-A, an American tale

The line to order food is long at the Chick-fil-A on Dale Mabry in South Tampa on Wednesday. Crowds flocked to the chain to support what its president said.

KATHLEEN FLYNN Times

The line to order food is long at the Chick-fil-A on Dale Mabry in South Tampa on Wednesday. Crowds flocked to the chain to support what its president said.

Could there be a story more American than the raging Chick-fil-A debate — the one about free speech and consumer power, about protest and counter-protest, about putting your money where your mouth is?

Unless you have been away — far, far away — you probably heard Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy recently opine that we are "inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' " He spoke of our "prideful, arrogant attitude" and "the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

Translation: The guy who runs the place where you get your chicken nuggets thinks gay marriage is an abomination.

Those outraged by his comments rose up with promises of boycotts. Some politicians said an intolerant business would be less than welcome in their towns. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values."

Those similarly against gay marriage, or at least in favor of Cathy speaking out, responded by packing his chicken shacks in a show of support this week, making for a reportedly record-breaking day for the chain. Sarah Palin was there, posing with a sack of fast food.

And we're not done yet. Today, counter-counter-activists plan to show the love at restaurants across the country with National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A.

What's so American about all this?

Ours is a country born of protest. We value the right to speak up and say what we think. We can spend our hard-earned money where we choose, and we can vote our hearts.

Of course, it should go without saying that Cathy has an absolute right to express his opinion.

It also goes without saying that consumers have a right to spend (or not spend) at businesses that reflect their values (or do not).

Maybe that means eating Chick-n-Strips three meals a day in display of solidarity with Cathy.

Or maybe like me you will forgo the waffle fries and lemonade because handing over even a couple of crumpled bucks now rubs you the wrong way.

(By the way, before this, my only beef with Chick-fil-A was over its memorable ad campaign: one group of barnyard animals (cows) encouraging us carnivores to consume another group of barnyard animals (chickens) to save themselves. The spokescows are so endearing you almost miss the creepiness in it. Or is it just me?)

Here's what's also American about this story: Whether you like an elected official who publicly condemns what you consider bigotry or you think those kinds of threats cross the line, you can vote accordingly.

Turns out it's also a story that people worlds apart can agree on, at least a little — even, as it turns out, me and Mike Huckabee. The former presidential candidate pushed for this week's show of solidarity that filled restaurants with supporters.

Asked about today's planned counter kiss-in for same-sex couples, Huckabee didn't condemn it. "In America," he said, "I think people have a right to do things that I might not agree with."

Tolerance even in disagreement — how American is that?

Of protest, politics and poultry: Chick-fil-A, an American tale 08/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 2, 2012 10:04pm]

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