I am sure that all of you, by now, know the back story of this issue — Chick-fil-A has donated millions to anti-gay organizations and hate groups, their CEO and founder both voiced their virulent opposition to gay equality, and thus they faced a PR backlash with many people boycotting the company.
Since then, however, many conservative, anti-gay politicians have voiced their support for Chick-fil-A. These include Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum (both, bastions of intellect and integrity, right?), and, most prominently, Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee has taken it upon himself to herald a full-fledged campaign called “Chick-fil-A appreciation day” in which Christian conservatives go out of their way to patron a restaurant that actively opposes the civil rights of gay people. Yes, when he’s not irresponsibly spreading misinformation likening gay people to pedophiles, he is launching disingenuous, thinly veiled hate campaigns under the transparently erroneous pretext of “protecting first amendment rights.”
This entire “censorship” smokescreen is a roundly dishonest misrepresentation of what is actually being said by the supporters of the LGBT community and critics of Chick-fil-A, who have not in any way attacked the rights of Dan Cathy or his company.
In an act of ultimate intellectual cowardice, conservatives have decided to equate any and all criticism of Dan Cathy and his homophobic views/actions, as an attack on his right to freedom of speech. By childishly inciting the false notion that Cathy is a victim of censorship, numerous right wing politicians and preachers have managed to, once again, stir up fear and resentment towards the LGBT community, giving people a gateway in which to wantonly parade their bigotry and spite.
I live in semi-rural Georgia, in the center of the storm. On my way to take care of a few errands in my neighborhood, I passed a Chick-fil-A along the way. The drive-through line stretched all the way down the road. The parking lot was full and people had even begun filling up an adjacent movie theater parking lot.
As I was stopped at an intersection, I was forced to sit there and watch hundreds of people, flaunting their homophobia like a badge of honor. They were standing in line with smiles on their faces, as they actively and consciously gave their money to a company expressly opposed to the equal rights of a select group of people. I had to sit there and watch this menagerie of spite and willful ignorance.
I watched droves of xenophobic simpletons patting each other on the back about how they were “defending free speech” from an imaginary threat, as they united against the civil rights of other human beings. I watched as they stuffed their faces and gloated amongst each other about how they “showed those faggots who this country belongs to.”
I had a hard time fully comprehending what I was witnessing. It is at times like these that I find it difficult to believe that I am living in the year 2012.
I find it unfathomable that we, as a country, are still capable of such repugnant and hateful behavior. I know that such cavalcades of ignorance will one day be looked upon by future generations with the same level of revulsion, pity, and embarrassment that I felt at that very moment. Something had to be done immediately. This event would commence, regardless of my actions, but it would not do so without incident, without a single voice of opposition.
I browsed Facebook and found that, among my friends, I was not the only one disgusted by the bigotry in my community. However, none of them could carve time out of their schedules to actually show up at the restaurant. Then I saw a post from one of my friends named April. She said that she was going to show up to protest, alone if she had to. We made ourselves two signs — one sign said “Hate is not a family value” and the other said “love is gender blind.” So, we were ready to begin our protest.
We parked in the movie theater parking lot, next door, and immediately upon exiting my car, a group of four or so 18-25 year old, rural males sped by us, yelling “fags!” and “fuck you, queers!” April and I just smiled and waved. We gave them the classic two-fingered peace sign in response to their middle fingers, as they pulled out of the lot and quickly sped off. It was an interesting way to set the tone for the evening. We didn’t receive any attention quite that extreme throughout the rest of our protest, thankfully.
We approached the sidewalk out front of the Chick-fil-A, and immediately all eyes were upon us, both the people passing on the road and the people standing in line. However, we felt not a single ounce of fear or anxiety. Not only because we could see these people for the fearful, reactionary simpletons that they are, but because we knew that our mere presence made all of their guts tighten in dread.
The moment we showed up on that sidewalk, we had already won.
Surprisingly, we received more positive attention than we had anticipated. We received numerous thumbs up, smiles, cheers, and words of gratitude. About a dozen people approached us on foot to thank us for what we were doing, and for standing up to prejudice. In the final hour of our protest, the positive feedback vastly outweighed the negative feedback.
There were, of course, less than positive responses. We received all manner of confused, bewildered, angry, sneering, and disapproving looks. There were a few middle fingers, thumbs down, or fists in the air. Some people attempted to “get our goat,” yelling things like “I love Chick-Fil-A,” and bandishing styrofoam cups with the company’s logo. Naturally, this display did not strike us as any more egregious than the hundreds of other patrons, showing up with the purpose of celebrating their intolerance and false sense of supremacy.
A select few had the mettle to actually attempt to engage us in conversation. One elderly lady proclaimed, “we ain’t hatin nobody,” to which I replied, “Well, preventing people from being married is pretty hateful.” Similarly, we were accused by a bearded fellow of “spreading hate against Christians” and being “hypocrites.” Which is odd, considering that none of our signs even addressed Christianity.
Interestingly, April and I ended up on the local news as they were interviewing people around the Chick-Fil-A. And as a result of our three-hour protest, hundreds of people saw our message, and we were being talked about across town.
This protest was a roundly uplifting experience for me. People tend to forget that you don’t need thousands of protesters to get a point across. You don’t even need an organization or a mobilized event in order to stand up for what is right.
The power of someone’s message is not defined by how many people they have marching beside them, but by the veracity of their ethics, the solidity of their character, and the strength of their conviction — all of which appear to be lacking in the patrons I encountered at Chick-fil-A.
I no longer feel sick and dispirited over recent events, because I know that, decades from now, when I tell my children about August 1, 2012 — I will be able to tell them exactly where I was.
I was not among the fearful, easily manipulated dregs, indulging in their own petty hatred. In a cesspool of backwardness, April and I were there to be a beacon for the future, and that is far more savory than any chicken sandwich.