For the past few weeks, Chick-fil-A has been everywhere. There have been blog posts about the restaurant chain, op eds, debates, boycotts, kiss-ins, appreciation days, protests, celebrity endorsements, celebrity condemnations, political proclamations, snarky Facebook comments, pickets, Muppets, and on and on and on. As a responsible gay, I have followed it all. But now I am exhausted. I have Chick-fa-Tigue.
Do not misunderstand me. The story surrounding Chick-fil-A has important themes that are relevant to our culture: free speech, diversity, gay rights, consumers' rights, etc. However, what started out as a topic for discussion (Should gay rights' supporters patronize a business that publicly promotes the suppression of gay rights?) has turned into a media circus and political football. As a result, the issue has become so over-simplified that we are veering away from the opportunity for genuine, complex dialogue to take place.
Case in point: Sarah Palin's reaction to the situation. Sarah Palin is a master of dumbing down a story in order to mislead the masses, and she is in top form here. She has turned the story into, solely, a first amendment rights issue. She claims that Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy is being "crucified" for "merely" voicing "his personal opinion about supporting traditional definition of marriage." This infringement on the first amendment is "chilling," she tells Fox News.
If Mr. Cathy's first amendment rights were being denied, this would be cause for concern. However, the protests and boycotts against Chick-fil-A are not a result of Mr. Cathy "merely" expressing his personal beliefs. Profits from his business are going to fund anti-gay organizations that promote the denial of rights to American gay men and women. Why did you leave that part out, Ms. Palin? Oh, I know, your comments are filled with good talking points that will appeal to conservative Christian voters. Your choice of crucifixion imagery is no mistake, I am sure. You, of course, reiterated that tired (false) idea that "traditional" marriage is the "cornerstone of all civilization and all religions since the beginning of time." And you, in your savvy way, manage to fold partisan politics into this whole situation: "President Obama and Joe Biden -- they both supported the exact same thing just a few months ago." Um, no. The President and Vice President did not give millions of dollars from unwitting patrons in order to promote an aggressively anti-gay agenda, as Chick-fil-A has done. Ms. Palin, predictably, claims that Obama has had to "flip-flop" on this issue in order "to shore up the homosexual voter base." Our President has been a vocal supporter of the "homosexual voter base" for quite some time, and his opinions have become increasingly more inclusive. That does not qualify as a "flip flop."
Some readers will say that I dumbed down the Chick-fil-A controversy with my own blog post, Did Jesus Eat Chick-fil-A at the Last Supper?, which appeared shortly after Dan Cathy made public statements against gay marriage. In my defense, I was using satire to highlight the issue. Humor, I hoped, might provide some "food" for thought (pun intended) and might be a springboard for discussion. The tone I chose for the piece mocked the hypocrisy that I detect in people like Dan Cathy who use the Bible as a weapon against homosexuality. I was taken aback by the vehemence of some of the responses that popped up all over the internet. People claimed that I was ignorant, an anti-Christian bigot, a stain, a flaming queer, that I could use a little 'fil-a-ing' myself, that I should be fired from my job, and so on. Basically, the writers of these comments pegged me as a lefty liberal with a radical homosexual agenda. These people do not know anything about me and were quick to place labels. They live in the same black-and-white, us-versus-them world as Sarah Palin and her political ilk (i.e. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee).
Chick-fil-A is becoming another chapter in the "Conservatives as victims" story line that is being crafted by Palin and other conservative politicians. These politicians are co-opting this Chick-fil-A story for partisan gains and, in the process, blocking healthy dialogue from taking place. Can we return to meaningful dialogue on this issue? Or better yet, can we start talking about something else that is important?