Whether you're an ardent fan of "Eat More Chikin," order all your reading material from Amazon, or just use Facebook... you know that some large American corporations have joined the culture wars. And the rhetoric is as hot as the oil used to fry chicken.When the news reported that Chick-Fil-A's corporate charitable arm gave about $5 million to various anti-gay organizations in the past few year, a Christian food fight promptly broke out. One side called for boycotts & "kiss-ins on Aug. 3." Meanwhile, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called for "Chick-Fil-A Day."
Not long after, news broke that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos & his wife, Mackenzie, donated $2.5 million to the Washington State marriage equality campaign. Their donation will help counter large out-of-state donations from groups like the National Organization for Marriage and ahem the Mormon Church.
Cue the boycott calls....
But is all of this rhetoric creating more heat than light? In a national, even international economy.... does a boycott actually matter? On a small scale, yes. Some Individual Chick-Fil-A franchise owners are frantically trying to stay neutral And in a particular community, a determined boycott of a small, local business surely matters. But nationally? Maybe not so much.
That doesn't mean though that all the publicity surrounding the Chick-Fil-A contributions is having no effect. It's interesting that Mooncat, Daddycat, & I were just talking about this issue with Jim Dean of Democracy for America less than a month ago.
He was in Alabama to help coordinate the DFA training in Birmingham earlier this month and met with the 3 of us for lunch on Friday before the training. I can't remember how the subject came up, but the discussion touched on the uproar over Target's donations to at least one anti-gay candidate.
Dean made a very salient point - that I'll paraphrase here:
When you're dealing with huge corporations, it's almost impossible for a consumer boycott to affect them in any meaningful way. They're just too large.
But where we can have an effect is in publicity. What happened with Target wasn't that they saw an impact on their bottom line, but that the corporate officers and board of directors started getting flack from family and friends.
These guys don't care if you buy your shoelaces somewhere else. But they do care if they're at the country club and somebody whose son or daughter has just come out challenges them about their corporate policies.
That's why we make a big deal of this stuff. Even in a global market, the personal interactions and bad publicity still matter and that's the way we can change policy.
My apologies to Jim if I've gotten the substance wrong, but I'm pretty sure about my recollection....
So I'm not actively boycotting Chick-Fil-A - that would be difficult since I don't eat chicken anyway. But what I can do is pass along this great essay from Conor Gaughan, published at the Huffington Post: We Are Not Arguing Over Chicken
Facebook can feel faceless sometimes. Over the last week, the site has seen a lot of conversations about Chick-fil-A, often among total strangers able to shout at each other just because they happen to have a friend in common. It is worth remembering that behind each unfamiliar headshot or puppy pic is a real person. When you litter your friend's wall with vitriol about the idiocy of your interlocutors, you are talking about people, not pixels.
So here's my message to social conservatives: Just because you were a member of the Boy Scouts, I don't think you are a bigot. Have those waffle fries; I'm not going to glitter-bomb you. But please, hear me out on why these organizations are so troubling to me, personally. Let's get beyond the avatar, so we can understand that this is more about people than about anonymous wall posts.
I was watching a movie this afternoon and an FBI agent had been captured by the "bad guys." She kept talking to them and telling them about her childhood, asking about their lives, etc. Irritated, one of them asked her why she wouldn't shut up.
"I think that the more you know me as a person, the less likely you are to kill me."
I certainly don't use this example to suggest that anyone opposed to marriage equality wants to kill anyone. But it does illustrate the essential truth that the more you see others as people - with lives, jobs, and families just like you - the less likely you are to view them as "the enemy."
In that case, you're more open to other experiences and understand that most people want the same things for themselves & their families - peace, love, security, and understanding... to name just a few.
My experience as been that the people most supportive of GLBT equality are those who have personal friends and/or relatives who they know are gay. The most anti-gay people are those who swear that they "don't know anyone who's queer!" Yeah. Right.
The best way to achieve equality is, of course, for everyone to come out of the closet!!
Unfortunately, it's a "chicken or the egg" kind of thing. If it were safe to be "out," then everyone would be open about their sexuality. Since it's still legal in 29 states to fire someone just for being gay and gay teens are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, then surprise! many people try to keep something very, very important a deep dark secret.
The biggest impact on public opinion, IMO, happens when there are big, national dialogues and public votes on the issue. Because those big issues mean that people talk with each other - national issues become very personal when individual lives and civil liberties are at stake.
For that reason, I'm very glad that Amazon & Chick-Fil-A are in the news. For whatever reasons, they're encouraging us to talk frankly and be honest with each other. The conversations may not be very much fun, but we need to have them nonetheless.
And if you know anyone on the Amazon or Chick-Fil-A boards of directors, please make your opinions clear! :-)