The media-created “controversy” surrounding the Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant franchise is a perfect example of why I (like millions of other people in this country) am completely turned off by U.S. politics and by the superficial, simple-minded analyses of complex social issues.
It also exemplifies why I am totally alienated by both so-called 'conservatives' and 'liberals' and how both sides embrace 'causes' they neither really care about nor know all that much about.
For those of you who have been hiding on Mars for the past week or so, the chief executive of Chick-fil-A, a Georgia-based chicken franchise, has explicitly expressed his stern opposition to same-sex-marriage.
Dan Cathy is a conservative Christian who has donated millions of dollars to an organization called Family Research Council, which supports measures and politicians who are against gay marriage (and homosexuals in general).
That sparked a 'call to arms' from a wide variety of so-called 'progressives' who condemned Cathy's attitudes, accused him of promoting 'hate,' endorsed a boycott of his 1,600 restaurants and even led to some Democratic politicians – including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emannuel, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and New York City council member (and possible next mayor) Christine Quinn – to declare that Chick-fil-A was “not welcome” in their fair cities.
Not only did this represent a grave violation of fair trade practices, but it also smacked of a naked ploy to consolidate their political bases (who, no doubt, agree with their views anyway).
These 'critics' have also conveniently forgotten that Cathy and his family have donated millions of dollars to various charitable causes – and that he is perfectly free to donate his money to whomever he chooses.
Homosexual activists are also having a field day with this gathering storm – some gays are planning a “kiss day” at Chick-fil-A locales around the country to express their 'outrage' towards Cathy.
On the other side of the political spectrum, egged on by failed Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, among others, thousands of diners raced to their local Chick-fil-A chalets to wolf down greasy fried chicken, waffles and biscuits to express their 'solidarity' with Cathy and their opposition to gay marriage.
I wouldn't be surprised if Mitt Romney waded into this mess and appeared at a Chick Fil-A diner (with a swarm of cameras in attendance, of course) as a way to gain votes from conservatives and Republicans who are not the least bit attracted to his bland persona, his lackluster campaign or his questionable conservative credentials.
However, aside from the exploitation of 'Chick-fil-A' by people of various political stripes for their own ends – and ignoring, for a moment, the utter absurdity of a fast-food chain being the symbol of an emerging 'culture war' – there is something far uglier going on here.
Some background: I once patronized a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Maryland. The ambience (if you can even call it that) was generic; the waitstaff were friendly and helpful, and the food was utterly awful – though quite filling.
Most of the other diners could be charitably described as 'rednecks' – that is, they were almost uniformly overweight, lower middle-class or blue collar white people who wore the requisite baseball caps and cheap, polyester clothes. These are folks who probably work hard at dead-end jobs, go to church regularly, drink prodigious amounts of beer, and shop at the local Wal-Mart – that is, they are exactly the demographic that liberal Democrat politicians detest and look down upon, and whom conservative Republican lawmakers pretend to "champion.".
Thus, they are being used in extremely cynical ways – Democrats and liberals have always condemned the 'great unwashed' (while pretending to care about their welfare); while Republicans salute 'God, guns, and patriotism' (while losing their interest in such things until after the election).
Let's face it, if Chick-fil-A wasn't in the news, would Huckabee, Santorum or Romney ever dare set foot in one?
Meanwhile, Cathy and his top executives are making a killing at the cash register over this sudden notoriety – but their proft margins will revert back to normal levels when their “15 minutes” are up.
Liberals and Democrats will congratulate themselves over defending 'human rights,' and conservatives and Republicans will move on to their next ridiculous 'media circus'
I don't believe this society is really as 'polarized' as the media makes it out to be. Labels like 'liberal' and 'conservative' are meaningless over-simplifications which makes it easier to create artificial boundaries and divisions. People are far more complex than that... now, if you don't mind, I am going to the nearest Chick-fil-A for lunch.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.