Gang Style Chicken
August 17th, 2012
As much as I’d like to ignore it, Floyd Lee Corkins, II, has forced me to think once more about Chick-fil-A and the food fight between the left and the right. Dan Cathy’s remarks several weeks ago opened up a fault line – suddenly, instead of staying safely within our left-wing and right-wing echo chambers, Americans are debating the First Amendment and boycotts and marriage rights. Many in the LGBT community report that once-silent family members are now sending them emails, proudly posting pictures of chicken on Facebook, and calling them late at night to quote Bible verses about death and destruction. Just two days ago, Mr. Corkins shot a security guard at the Family Research Council and fifteen Chick-fil-A sandwiches were found in his backpack; it’s safe to assume he wasn’t delivering Tony Perkins’ lunch.
Although food has loomed large in touching off historical debate (see the Boston Tea Party, Gandhi’s march to the sea to make salt, or four college students sitting implacably at a Woolworth’s lunch counter), the food is only a foil for a larger, more important debate – what constitutes our community’s values, how do we define those values, and which of those values can bring us together rather than tear us apart? The single common denominator throughout all these “food fights” is that in each instance a community stood up to protest its second-class status. The same holds true for today’s debate.
The question at hand is this – can LGBT people and the unions they form, the children they raise, the families and community bonds they form, be truly accepted into American society? Can the American dream accommodate a group once pegged by the majority as alien and subversive? Now that, in 2012, it seems clear that the majority has begun to respond with a resounding yes, how do we deal with the not-insubstantial minority that is left angry and upset? How do we deal with those within our own ranks, as it appears Mr. Corkin was, whose rage at those who refuse to “see the light” may translate unforgivably into violence?
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated several anti-gay groups as “hate groups” for the first time. Their research of FBI documents over the previous fourteen-year period revealed a little-publicized fact: LGBT people are overwhelmingly the largest target of physical attacks inspired by hate in the U.S. Our status as second-class citizens is second to none. Coming from a conservative family background as I do, my first reaction when I heard that Mr. Corkins had attacked an organization labeled as a “hate group” was this – is that label helpful in any way?
Reading up on how the FBI discusses groups that inspire violence it became clear that labeling the Family Research Council and other organizations like it as hate groups is simply a recognition that the violence occurring against the LGBT community has a real, concrete source and a real, concrete voice. When Tony Perkins talks about the “homosexual agenda” and Dan Cathy triumphantly says “guilty as charged” when asked about the millions of dollars he contributes to anti-LGBT causes, their words fall dangerously close to the dividing line the FBI has established between rhetorical violence on the one hand and physical violence on the other. Identifying seven distinct stages along this spectrum, the last stage between rhetoric and physical violence is Stage Five when
“the hate group attacks their target without weapons . . . prowling their turf seeking vulnerable targets.”
This is what America saw on Mike Huckabee’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”: a community rallied together to attack the idea that the LGBT community – our unions, our families, our places of gathering, our places of worship – is worthy of first class citizenship. Chick-fil-A restaurants and its packaging has become home turf, a veritable gang sign, and Mr. Corkins’ deplorable attack two days ago was simply a confirmation of that fact.
In our national gang-style fever, calling out hate is not only justifiable but critically important. Keeping up the fight for marriage equality, for equal protection laws, for first class citizenship in a calm, rational manner is the most effective way to take the long view and play it out in full. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, pictured above eating fried chicken with his family,
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
Thoughts on how my words have consequences
August 16th, 2012
I cringed when I first heard about the shooting at the extremist anti-gay group Family Research Council. I’d like to say that it was out of concern for those who work there, and I was concerned, but truthfully I was more afraid of the political fallout of the situation and desperately hoped it wasn’t someone gay who was the culprit.
By the time we learned that Floyd Corkins was not only gay but also a volunteer at an LGBT center, I’d calmed down enough to realize that while this event was jarring, it didn’t exactly come as a surprise to me. Nor would I have been shocking if it had been, as it so often has, an attack on a LGBT person or organization by a deranged person on the far right.
A suicide bomb. A place of worship defaced. An innocent kid shot in a drive-by. A racist epithet hurled at a politician. A shooting at FRC.
These things get attention and news space. They get public outcry and denunciation. As they should. And I am proud that my community spoke with one voice in denouncing the violence yesterday. It was the only appropriate response.
But these are not events that occur in a vacuum. No one wakes up one day and decides – purely on whim – to shoot up a Sikh temple because it was the first building they happened upon. No one steps aboard an airport bus full of Israelis with a bomb because he thought it had the best air conditioning.
And it was not purely out of happenstance that Floyd Corkins walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council.
I don’t know Corkins’ intentions yesterday. Perhaps he left the house thinking that he would confront someone at FRC and tell them off or throw a chicken sandwich at them. Or perhaps he thought that he would go make a brave act of political assassination and be hailed as a hero who took out someone who doesn’t deserve to live. Perhaps we will eventually know, perhaps not.
But we do know that Corkins took a gun with him and we can surmise that his intentions were to do harm. And if not, I think it’s fair to say that if it wasn’t Corkins, it would have eventually been someone, some gay person who believed that violence against the Family Research Council was justified.
And that is what Corkins believed. Because that is the message that Corkins heard.
Oh, I doubt anyone ever said to him, “Tony Perkins should be shot!” But I’m certain that during his volunteer work at the center he heard plenty about how Perkins was a H8ter and a ReTHUGlican and a Christer. I’m sure that he learned that the Family Research Council consisted of people who hate him and who would see every gay person dead if they could get away with it.
Cartoon villains. Single faceted characters without any redeeming qualities. Evil personified.
The world would be better off without them.
How do I know Corkins heard that message? Because I’ve heard it; you have too. And sometimes I’ve used language about our political opponents that failed to recognize their humanity. I’ve allowed my contempt of someone’s beliefs and advocacy result in contempt of them as a person.
Of course I feel no hesitation about opposing bigotry and discrimination. I believe that it is not only justified but necessary to call the Family Research Council what it is: a hate group. Nor will I wrap Tony Perkin’s efforts to diminish our lives in the false piety of “love” and “religious opinion”. Lies are lies and Perkins is a liar.
I’m comfortable with that. I know that most people who read here would never ever see anything that might cause them to think that violence towards Perkins, or any of our adversaries, is in anyway encouraged or acceptable. Most people know that “it goes without saying” that such a response would condemned without exception.
But for some people, it doesn’t go without saying. For some people, it has to be said. Some people have to be told that we will not see them as heroes if they take – or even threaten – the life of someone else.
Do I say it enough?
In our culture, in which one half of the population seems to be engaged in war with the other half, a lot is said. A lot is insinuated. A lot is claimed. And a lot of it has basis in nothing more that the dehumanization of people with whom we disagree.
We see it so often that we don’t even hesitate. Today I read that only a “privileged white lady” would call and ask police to base their actions on her religion. And that because of Republican victories in 2010 that it wouldn’t be surprising if someone called for a constitutional amendment declaring women as property. And I shrugged. It’s just hyperbole.
Of course it comes from the other direction as well. And in our community we document and expose the crazy rantings of Bill Donahue and Bryan Fischer. As we should.
And we decry the failure of those who claim that they are only trying to protect the family and love the homosexual but look away when their allies call us child molesters who shake our fists in God’s face. And yes, it absolutely is odious that NOM’s Brian Brown would dare to self-righteously claim to have “condemned all violence and vilification” when he’s often their number one cheerleader.
But I think that – more often than I care for – I allow their attitude to dictate my own. Because NOM says heinous things, I can say them back. Because they are H8TERS, I’m justified in hating them.
But does it really matter “who started it”? Is my own sense of morality so unstable that the words or behavior of someone else should justify doing or saying something that I know to be wrong?
And every bit as important, can I let stand outrageous things that others say? I know that if I too aggressively chastise “my side” for extreme language then I become an aider and abettor, a kapo, a quisling, and lose any power to impact the conversation.
But do I go far enough? Or do I look away while those who disagree with me are depicted as fascists, racists, and misogynists?
And I know that writing this commentary runs risks. Some readers will see this only in terms of whether I’m blaming our community for Corkins’ actions. I’m not. Some who advocate for anti-gay political positions and are cynically capitalizing on this tragedy might claim that I’m validating their outrageous assertions. Of course I’m not.
But does that mean it shouldn’t be said? Should I wait for someone else who can better articulate or who will be better received?
And I also know that I can too quickly make this about “them”, the ones on the right or left, gay or anti-gay who “go too far” and leave the wrong impression. I can get lectury and lay out a sermon about what “we” could have done when I really mean what “you” could have done. Because it’s a lot easier to see others’ errors than one’s own.
Do I really own this problem to the extent that I think I do? Or am I being all self-congratulatory and better?
I don’t have answers. I’m not even sure I have the right questions. But I do know that I will try and pay more attention. I’ll try to to be aware that that which “goes without saying” doesn’t. And I’ll try to remember that my words – not just those of Tony Perkins and Linda Harvey and Brian Brown – have consequences.
Hollywood Chick-Fil-A 24 hours later
August 2nd, 2012
Today I trotted back to the Hollywood Chick-Fil-A, scene of yesterday’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. I think it’s important to get some perspective.
This was yesterday:
And here’s that same street almost exactly 24 hours later:
But over time they will experience the cost of being the “anti-gay chicken place”. When all the hoopla dies down over “freedom of speech” and the “overbearing mayors”, all that will be remembered is that Chick-Fil-A is anti-gay. And one day of ‘support the biblical definition of marriage’ simply can’t make up for it.
Long lines and pickets at Hollywood Chick-Fil-A
August 1st, 2012
There aren’t many Chick-Fil-A locations in Los Angeles, so this one in Hollywood was the center for the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. I forwent my delightful Healthy Choice frozen meal (I wasn’t in the mood for “Country Breaded Chicken”) and went to see how things were going.
This was the view from the corner:
And anti-gays were lined up to show their animosity to equality. The drive-through line snaked through the parking lot and down the street. The man in the first truck in this picture drove in from Sylmar, about 18 miles away.
The woman on the corner seat straddling the post had just finished giving some sort of interview to the man in the plaid shirt. She works for a non-profit that helps out the homeless and hungry. I didn’t catch its name.
More jolly Chick-Fil-A patrons.
And a few more. There were far more drive-through customers than sit-down patrons.
For the most part it was a quiet ordeal. No furious ranting, no Bible waving, no screaming. The two fellows here on the left in the blue and taupe, however, argued the entire time I was there. Something about economic policy. I couldn’t figure out which was there to support whom but they certainly were enjoying themselves.
I left and swung by Jack in the Box for something called an All American Combo. It was delicious, but I don’t think my system was ready for two jumbo patties, 1,359 calories, and 80 grams of fat. I guess that means celery for dinner.
Game on, chickenboy
August 1st, 2012
Today is Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day and some half-million people have pledged to each fried chicken sandwiches out of appreciation for something or other. What that something or other consists of depends of how politically savvy the person interviewed happens to be. The less sophisticated are “standing up for what the Bible says”, though they are a bit at loss to know what it says as few have actually read the book. Those more sophisticated are “defending free speech” and “opposing the political correctness that is pervasive in our culture”. The strident few who genuinely think that they still have a chance of winning will talk about “defending the family and the biblical definition of marriage”.
Mike Huckabee, today’s sponsor, says
Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.
You’ll notice that nowhere in his objection to “vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry from the left” does he even mention exactly why Chick-fil-a is in the news. And no one, I repeat NO ONE, is “showing I’m opposed to those perverts” or even “fighting the homosexual agenda” (or, at least, not while the cameras are on).
And that is important – more important than today’s bump in sales for the chicken filleters. Today’s battle is over an issue that those who oppose us are afraid to articulate.
We’ve stayed out of the chicken wars. Mostly – for me, anyway – because it’s inconsequential and silly. What Dan Cathy said was offensive and his contributions to anti-gay groups long ago dissuaded me from eating at his fried chicken emporium. But they were not so far past the vale that most Americans would be shocked or horrified. He’s a “Standing up for Jesus and the Family” type of bigot, not a “God Hates Fags” type of bigot and most people don’t have a problem with personal belief, so long as they aren’t the Phelps’ brand.
And that’s one reason why social-position boycotts are largely ineffective.
While a hundred million Americans or so do not favor marriage equality, the National Organization for Marriage couldn’t get 50,000 people to pledge to stop drinking Starbucks Coffee. Because while they may not support equality, they don’t really care that you do. They aren’t going to stop lending their next door neighbor their lawnmower just because he has a “support Referendum 74” sign on his lawn and they sure as hell aren’t going to give up frappe mochachinos. It’s just coffee, get over it.
So we have not joined any call to formally boycott Chick-fil-a.
Will I encourage you to make personal buying preferences? Absolutely. But I’m not signing on for some big media-driven, failure-destined, effort to convince the public that the organizations which Dan Cathy supports with the profits from his business are objectionable because they support the ex-gay ministry which is dangerous and ineffective and so, hey, wake up I’m still talking here.
And we aren’t alone. Other than a few well-intentioned souls on Facebook, no one else – GLAAD, HRC, prominent leaders – has been calling for a boycott. There have been efforts to educate, protesters, people debating on TV, but no boycott.
Although none has been called, a “boycott” of sorts is under effect. And, oddly enough, it wasn’t supporters of marriage equality that have created this boycott.
Mike Huckabee has made a statement. He has caught the ear of the media. Today all the news outlets are reporting his Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day. It’s not some nameless protesters on some corner who turned the spotlight on Chick-fil-a’s anti-gay activism, it’s those who support it.
Eating at Chick-fil-a has now become politicized. It is a statement. And the statement is only vaguely about marriage. Eating at Chick-fil-a, especially today, says “I can’t come right out and say it, but I oppose homosexuality and the social inclusion of those who so engage”. It’s an unnamed, but well understood, declaration that you either support or oppose gay people being fully included members of society. At its core, the media stunt is all about being “pro-gay” or “anti-gay”.
And that is about the worst thing that could possibly happen for Chick-fil-a. The company has a new label: “the brand of choice for anti-gay people”.
Positions of opposition – and regardless of how it’s phrased, this is unquestionably a position of opposition – are hard to feel good about. One can “stand up for my side”, but a campaign of “I don’t like those people” leaves one feeling nasty and dirty and kind of like those people you saw when you were young and swore you’d never become. And that is exactly what Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have created.
For such a campaign to work, Chick-fil-a would have to draw enough new consistent customers to make up for lost customers. There would have to be a majority (or sizable minority) of Americans who define themselves in terms of opposition to gay people. Those who run to buy their paper bag full of self-righteous arrogance and contempt for others today would need to sustain this drive far beyond one day and become day after day, year after year, chicken eaters.
That isn’t going to happen; these aren’t new customers; its just a political statement. And it’s a statement that can draw half a million people for one day, but one that is out of tune with the 75% or so of Americans who supported dropping Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell and the two thirds who think civil unions would be okay. It doesn’t even sit well with many who couldn’t find a gay issue they support but, well, they just don’t like to think of themselves as anti-anybody.
As Chick-fil-a’s champions clearly fail to understand, the lost customers are not just gay people, not just equality supporters, but also those who don’t wish to make a statement at all. While half of the country doesn’t fully support equality, few want to wear the “anti-gay” label. Most would be happy eating their chicken and a pickle on a buttered bun without a thought as to how it impacts their neighbors, but now they can’t. Anti-gay activists aren’t letting them.
So they won’t.
Chick-fil-a, from this day forward, has a subconscious association. It has a vague connection with politicians and television preachers and bigotry. And that vague subconscious association will cost them dearly. We need not boycott – and I very much hope that we do not. We don’t have to.
Mike Huckabee has shifted the game. There’s now a new definition of winning. We don’t have to illustrate a loss of business to show that some boycott is effective.
Rather, Huckabee has doubled-down and the risk is all his. If Chick-fil-a chugs on along, it says nothing about us; we didn’t boycott. If they lose business share, as I predict, it paints anti-gay activists as being cause for failure.
And that’s a “boycott” I can support: one which I don’t have to articulate or even support. One in which my opponent does all the work and takes all the risk and one that costs me nothing.
I can’t know for certain that the ill will created today will have sufficient impact to show up as a serious loss in long-term business. It may be that most Chick-fil-a customers are already part of a demographic that is comfortable with the anti-gay label. It may also be that Huckabee’s stunt will make too little impact and fade too quickly. But I think I can say with confidence that it will be a long time before a sizable chunk of the American public will consider Chick-fil-a in their fast-food choices and their growth potential has been severely curtailed.
So give today your best shot, Huckabee. Game on, chickenboy.
Eat More Beef
July 18th, 2012
We’ve known about Chick-Fil-A’s contributions to anti-gay organizations for quite some time. Now we have, straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) what Chick-Fil-A’s President and COO Dan Cathy thinks about you:
I think 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, and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about
Chik-Fil-A’s Anti-Gay Contributions
November 1st, 2011
Chick-Fil-A’s charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, has received $7.8 million in funding from Chick-FilA, Inc. WinShape, which was founded by Chick-Fil-A’s founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy, turned around and gave more than $1.7 million to several anti-gay groups in 2009, including the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund ($994,199), Fellowship Of Christian Athletes ($480,000), National Christian Foundation ($240,000), Focus On The Family ($12,500) Eagle Forum ($5,000), Exodus International ($1,000), and Family “Research” Council ($1,000). Equality Matters has the details. Remember that the next time you’re hankering to “Eat Mor Chikin.”