Bawk, bawk? B’gawk!

So far, I’ve tried to stay out of the Chick-fil-A debate, an endeavor which has been largely successful.  I’ve posted a few comments on friends’ Facebook statuses, but I’ve otherwise remained quiet.  I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said, usually far better than I could have.

I’m breaking my vow of silence today.

I have to be honest here.  I don’t live anywhere near a Chick-fil-A.  I’ve never eaten at one.  I don’t see myself eating there in the near future, not because I’m protesting, but because it’s not likely we will be visiting a city that has one.  I could easily make a promise never to eat there and keep it.  In a literal sense, my refusal to eat there would have zero impact on the company.  This is not a statement of my belief that my actions carry no weight; it’s a statement of the fact that Chick-fil-A is already not getting my money.

For me, this raises a larger concern.  In what ways am I responsible for supporting businesses that fund organizations I find distasteful?  Because no matter what I do, there is always that potential.  Even if I choose to shop at the local grocery store, my purchase helps pay someone’s salary.  That person could be a secret member of a hate group; donating to an anti-LGBT organization; buying electronics with illegally obtained parts.  That employee could be voting in a way that I don’t like.  That employee might even have participated in a hate crime and was never apprehended.

I realize that it’s an imperfect analogy.  I don’t know what store employees do or don’t do with their money, while I know for certain what Dan Cathy does with his.  My point, though, is that it isn’t enough to declare that I will never frequent businesses that use their money in ways I would not choose.  It’s not enough to protest, online or at the restaurant’s door.  No matter how hard I try, there is no way to be certain my money goes only to the places I want it to go.

Instead, I actually have to live my life in such a way that I show ordinary, everyday love to my LGBT brothers and sisters.  I must personally demonstrate my support in the lives of individuals.  Because behind the collective that many people imagine, there are real human beings.  My LGBT friends and family are not my “cause.”  I’m not the powerful protector who is responsible for doling out their rights, as though I’m still somehow superior.

Instead of making an empty promise not to eat at Chick-fil-A for the rest of my life or until Dan Cathy retires/changes his stance, I’m choosing to humbly serve.  I’m choosing to ask my LGBT loved ones, “How can I be a friend today?”  I’m wiling to bet that they will tell me.  And maybe, just maybe, that will be enough.

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6 thoughts on “Bawk, bawk? B’gawk!

  1. We don’t always know where a company spends its money, but in this case Mr. Cathy told us. Since I know for certain any money I spend at CFA will help fund hate groups (and I do have a local CFA), I choose not to spend any money there. That doesn’t mean I’m somehow superior–it just means I don’t want to help fund hate groups if I can help it.

    • Yeah, that was the thought I had, too. I know he funds a hate group, and I don’t want my money going there. But for me, promising not to eat at CFA is silly, since there is almost no chance I would ever eat there anyway. If someone asked me directly not to eat at CFA, I could promise that, but it would be meaningless. Instead, I prefer to Al’s what I can do or change that would actually make a difference. For example, J’s not a Boy Scout for many reasons, one of which is that people close to me have asked that I not support BSA until their policy changes.

      My concern about where else my money goes came from the snarky stuff people have been posting about all the places that might be spending their money on anti-LGBT causes. Of course, 90% of the people getting nasty about the boycott are the same ones posting pictures of themselves posed with their CFA food, claiming to “proudly support” Cathy. So “consider the source” definitely applies here.

      My comment about being “superior”
      wasn’t so much about the boycott as it was about how some of the people I know seem very “proud” of their support for LGBT community, but it comes across as, “Let us straight people take care of those big, bad bullies for you because you’re not capable of handling it yourselves.” (This is something a trans friend has explicitly complained about.)

  2. Amy,

    I think you do a great job at supporting the LGBT community. One of the best ways to support LGBT people is with the help you do to spread awareness. I never ate much at CFA, but I won’t any longer for sure. Some will boycott and some will still eat there. Either way, the spreading awareness it the best thing that can be done. One gay blogger and his husband, had different views (Gay Family Values blog online and on youtube), one like the boycott avenue and the other understand that this could hurt franchise owners that may be for equality. Some CFAs are probably in predominately gay communities. And a boycott of a franchise could also would hurt the hiring of workers that are not anti-gay. So, even in the gay community there are plenty of people on both sides. Some even saying that we should show our support by bringing them business and encourage franchise owners to send feedback to corporate to tone down the verbal declarations and keep franchise owners out of financial harm. I’m not sure what the best approach is…. I’m just glad that people are having conversations about it from all angles.

    Love,

    Ryan

    • That wast concern, too. I’ve seen a few people come forward to say that their local franchise is a particularly good employer because of their support. How frustrating it must be for franchise owners who are allies. That forces the decision of whether to give up the business and risk the jobs & well-being of employees, or stay and try to fight injustice. It must be hard on employees as well, especially if they have a reasonably stable job in this economy. I feel fortunate that I don’t have to make any of those decisions myself, at least not in this context.

      • I look at it this way: the money I spend on a company not affiliated with a hate group potentially goes toward hiring the ex-CfA employee displaced by the boycott.

        …Which oversimplifies things, yes. It’s a thorny question, and I don’t want to seem callous to the people whose livelihood could be impacted by my economic choices. I do have sympathy for them; but the FRC’s goals have at least as wide-ranging a potential impact on the livelihood of GLBTQ people across the country. So I have to make a choice, and as unfair as it may be, my queer-spectrum friends-and-relations win out. I’ve been in some of their weddings, after all, and I know from up close what’s at stake. (For me as well, of course; I benefit from a great deal of heterosexual privilege, but the crosshairs of homophobia could be trained on me easily enough.)

        And, as Stacy points out, participating in the boycott isn’t a cloistered virtue for us – we do have local franchises, which we’ve patronized in the past, because whatever else you can say about ’em, the food is mighty tasty. But as one of my heroes pointed out, a religion that never asks you to refrain from doing something you want to do is moral cotton candy – a standard to which even this heretical libertine Unitarian feels obliged to be held.

        • No, I absolutely understand. I am 100% behind those who want to stop giving CFA their money, even though I didn’t explicitly say that in the post. I firmly believe that people need to live out their convictions. There are companies from which I won’t purchase because of ethical concerns. But for me personally, not eating at CFA has no impact whatsoever and promising not to is empty, since I wouldn’t be dining there anyway. Instead, I have to make a conscious effort to purchase from companies that overtly support equality or have explicit non-discrim policies, or whose CEOs donate to organizations that work toward equality.

          I think I wasn’t very clear about saying that I don’t want to appear “superior” because of protesting–I meant that my empty promise not to eat at CFA would be merely me “proving” that I’m the right kind of straight person, because LGBT people need me to take up their cause *for* them (rather than standing *with* them). It only applies to me here because my own refusal to eat at CFA is pointless in any way other than to demonstrate my political correctness, since I wouldn’t be eating there anyway.

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