In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth.
He squished Earth into a nice ball shape between his big God paws, then somehow formed Heaven. (Science hasn’t figured that one out.)
On the second day, He created light and time.
And on the third day, this Wednesday, He told Mike Huckabee to ruin America’s tastiest chicken sandwich.
To be fair, this isn’t completely the fault of Mr. Huckabee, or of God. The ruining of the hand-breaded, seasoned-to-perfection, classic Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich began as an inside job, courtesy of its chief executive officer, Dan Cathy.
Earlier this month, as you may have heard, Mr. Cathy confirmed that his company was, “Guilty as charged. …Very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.”
He went on to lambaste anyone who believes marriage can be other than the traditional formula of “man bits + girl bits = 4ever,” as it is clearly defined in the Bible.
But it was Mr. Huckabee, the former Republican presidential contender, who elevated the tiff to a bona-fide phenomenon by announcing that Aug. 1 would be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. It blew up.
By Wednesday morning, thousands of finger-lickin’, traditional-marriage-lovin’ folks were raring to take part in the moistest free-speech demonstration the United States has ever seen.
There were around-the-block queues and breast shortages. Customers sacrificed their bodies on the altar of salt intake. (Fun fact: Sodium is key in the preservation of your mortal soul.)
Mr. Huckabee chalked it up as a win for the sacred institution of democracy: “People are voting with their feet today,” he said. “I guess you could also say they are voting with their faces – they are stuffing them with chicken sandwiches, those lovely chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A.” (He actually said this, on his weekday radio show.)
On Friday, gay-rights groups staged kiss-ins at franchises across the States, trading in the flavour of fried chicken for the taste of each other’s loving lips.
That event didn’t cause as much of a stir, but it’s possible they’ll win in the long run when 30 per cent of the American south is diagnosed with crippling heart disease.
Is teaching Elton John the error of his ways worth all of Arkansas dropping dead from angina? Time will tell.
But let’s go back to the main issue here: the hijacking of a sandwich for political gain. It’s important to the discussion to take a moment and describe to you the edible component of what’s at stake.
There is something symphonic about the classic Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. Close your eyes and imagine its chewy bun and springy, crispy meat in its purest state of sandwichness, divorced from the problematic ideologies of its makers.
Its even, golden crust gives off the slightest amount of seasoned heat; its toasted, lightly buttered bun is served simply with a few cold slices of crinkle-cut dill pickles; the way the meat pulls apart, thanks to hours of soaking in fresh buttermilk, evokes a real, fully feathered chicken.
It is, almost inarguably, America’s best fast-food sandwich.
Before Mr. Cathy’s statements to The Baptist Press in late July, you could get away with ducking into a Chick-fil-A to grab a meal, if you didn’t think too much about the fact that its outlets were always closed on Sundays, and about there perhaps being a report somewhere that it had donated millions to the anti-gay group Focus on the Family. You could dip your sandwich into one of the seven delicious sauces with relative impunity.
It was a guilty pleasure that ranked alongside calling in sick to catch a matinee, or not acknowledging that your Gap pants had been stitched together by little fingers in Sai Pan. (Children love doing grownup jobs, right? Not to mention, little fingers make tight stitches!)
But now Mr. Cathy and his gang of Tea Partiers have put many of us who love yummy chicken as much as we hate reactionary homophobia in a sticky spot.
My position is that anyone who has a brand that brings enjoyment to millions should be prudent to remain as neutral as possible, to preserve its fundamental integrity.
Or, at least, if the organizations and individuals we love and trust can’t keep their hands clean, can they show us some mercy by doing their foul business in some cave at the bottom of the sea?
Shame, for example, on actor Fred Willard, for being caught at an adult theatre in Los Angeles watching a triple-bill of pornography while allegedly pretending his groin was an Atari XE Joystick.
When I look at his smiling grandpa face and sparkling eyes full of mischief, I can no longer associate them with my favourite character from A Mighty Wind. Instead, I can only wonder if he’s plotting out the schedule on which the Tiki Xymposium is next showing The Loin King or Shaving Ryan’s Privates.
“Wha’ happened?” indeed.
The same goes for American Apparel. I’m not sure where else I’m supposed to buy affordable V-necks in every colour of the rainbow, or a gold lamé thong, while also keeping a clear conscience about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Are you able to gaze appreciatively at their barely legal billboards and not have that moment commandeered by Dov Charney’s lawsuit-attracting dingle-dongle? If you can, you’re a stronger person than me.
And don’t get me started on the wave of guilt that pretty much knocks me off my feet every time I flick on my iPhone to try and beat my pal Alex at Scramble With Friends.
It takes every part of the 6 per cent of my brain that I use to cast out the thoughts of a dust-covered 16-year-old girl’s palsied hands, shaking with effort to inject the “Turkey in the Straw” ringtone into my phone’s mainframe.
If anything, the Chik-fil-A debacle has demonstrated that God and the U.S. conservative right work in equally mysterious ways.
By joining forces through the vessel of a fried sandwich, both have managed, somewhat ironically, to imbue a vast swath of liberally minded people in the United States with a Catholic type of guilt that will prevent many us from ever eating at Chick-fil-A again. So I guess everyone wins, in a way.
Plus, who knew intolerance tasted like chicken?
Kathryn Borel is a Canadian writer based in Los Angeles.
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