Even in America, I’ve never seen a drive-thru line wrap around the building twice. Tonight I went to Chick-fil-A with a couple of friends for a post-basketball calorie intake. Not for any reason in particular. We were just in the mood, so we drove the extra mile to enjoy a couple nuggets and a sandwich, only to find that the fast food joint had suddenly become the epicenter of a culture battle. Apparently gay America is fighting for the right to get married, and God-loving, straight people are fighting to stop this from happening: This is all news to me.
I’ve always been a big fan of Chick-fil-A. You know a good business when you see one, and the growing chain is one of the more admirable practices around. The young adults and managers behind the counter seem happy enough, and the food is well worth the higher price. Sure, I could get more chow at Burger King for a little less money. But I’ve had enough BK employees stand on my lettuce over the years to know that there’s something wrong in the kingdom of grease ball burgers and stale onion rings. Chick-fil-A is the antithesis of these dying brands, and I gladly welcome the changing tides of fast food America.
It’s common knowledge to those areas of the country familiar with Chick-fil-A that the chain has strong ties to the Christian faith, and thus any attentive student of American culture should be able to guess the beliefs of those that have molded the restaurant into a regional icon. I, for one, have never cared what CEO, White-Guy McBaldy thinks about Gay rights. He runs a good company and makes a lot of money, good for him. He can give that money to anyone he pleases, this is an American tradition. And so is snickering at him when you read his self-aggrandizing quotes plastered in your newspaper. His opinions are worth about as much as his chicken sandwiches when you’re finished eating them.
Like most people, the last thing on my mind when enjoying a sandwich is politics. Although I don’t consider gay marriage to be a political issue (civil rights have always transcended such things), I understand that people in this country don’t agree with me. I am also not a gay American; I can only acknowledge the paramount nature of their struggle from a third-party perspective. Perhaps if I was, the chain’s affiliation with anti-gay marriage advocates would bother me more. I’ve always felt strongly about gay equality, but I just don’t want to think about real, tangible, impactful issues when I’m looking to score grub. Partisanship has its limits. After all, we need to be able to agree on something.
The crowd at Chick-fil-A tonight was not as quiet or complacent during dinner as I was. Patrons gladly gloated that they in fact agreed with the CEO’s stance, and that’s precisely why they were there tonight, to support his anti-gay marriage stance and rally against gay America’s misguided approach of vilifying such a respected brand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the American people, it’s that you never attack their favorite foods. You can hurt their wallet, take away their home, even kill their son in a war, but damn’t you better keep your hands off their artery-destroying cravings. More people ordered a number-four with a sweet tea tonight than attended any protest against government spending, Wall Street, or the wars in the Middle East. This was Real America’s Woodstock.
I felt dirty visiting my nearest Chick-fil-A location tonight. I appreciate the brand, but really? We’re going to flock and throw our money at the place because some idiot with a big checkbook wants to make this battle his own? People showed up in record numbers to stuff their faces in protest, and many seemed downright pleased to oppose the civil rights of their fellow Americans. It seemed to me to be just another one of the many nights that someday in the near future, will live in infamy in the conscience of our beautiful country. I presume there are many places in our nation that don’t care. But in Maryland, at the center of a red county in the middle of a blue state where Chick-fil-A’s are plentiful, I witnessed the front lines of a culture war that still shows no signs of ending, and suddenly this war is being fought in the drive-thru lines of our fast food restaurants—how distinctly American.