Ever since Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy decided it was time to rile up everyone everywhere with his Baptist Press interview that went viral, people have become polarized on the matter, buoying the words of one Chick-fil-A executive into a much larger, murkier pool, gone fetid with diatribes on everything from boycotts, Huckabee-endorsed appreciation days, Chick-fil-A customers as gluttons in need of a dose of insulin-powered self-loathing, the sanctity of marriage and gay rights everywhere.
In a move that will probably realistically lose Cathy and his poultry empire a good bit of income in the long run, he affirmed his support of the “biblical definition of the family unit.”
OK, not necessarily a call to arms for every Chick-fil-A consumer and employee to gather in united hate mongering against homosexuals, but certainly a strong enough decree to cause a buzz in a political and social climate heated by the struggle for equality in the same-sex community.
With that buzz, media brought to light a slew of accounts detailing Chick-fil-A’s millions of dollars in donations to its charitable endeavor, the WinShape Foundation, which, along with a dash of do-gooderies like offering kids foster homes, also supports several anti-gay organizations, including an anti-gay hate group that, among other heinously ignorant things, has promoted beliefs linking homosexuality to pedophilia. It joins the ranks of neo-Nazis and KKK chapters certified as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And that makes me sick to my stomach.
The hullabaloo has me questioning what exactly gave Chick-fil-A the means to become enveloped in this gigantic, tenuous bubble of media frenzy and Facebook outrage when it’s a relatively small incident in the greater corporate schema, one in which anyone with great wealth can endorse, support, hate or decry any hot-button humanity issue, from same-sex marriage to abortion to the death penalty, within legal means — exactly what Dan Cathy has done with his empire.
Do you politicize your coffee? Maybe, if you take the time and effort to find out if it’s fair trade. How about your running shoes? Are you sure they weren’t made by a Cambodian child cramped over some machine in a smoggy factory? Do you care? The burger you’re eating — could that cow have been bludgeoned, injected with so many hormones it couldn’t stand? Perhaps.
Don’t get me wrong; being a conscious consumer is an admirable effort — one I strive for myself and often struggle with, as I find myself lost in a sea of information and a tight budget.
We, as humans, live in a capitalist society dominated by a perpetual quest for wealth, power and authority, and that authority undoubtedly yields corruption, poor taste and, sometimes, bad people who do bad things. As members of the proletariat inherently reliant on a well-oiled bureaucracy of corporations, this is a gamble we take, albeit perhaps against our own will.
And it’s a gamble we must be more aware of.
If Cathy hadn’t given that interview, he’d still be unabashedly donating money to that hate group, and you might still be eating that chicken sandwich. This clamor has reminded me, more than ever, how much toil it takes to be a conscientious consumer.
Who has the time, energy, gusto and skill to research the spendings and moral fortitude of the top decision-makers at every single company our purchases support? The opaqueness and complexity of a corporation’s intent and morals, at its core, is one that’s exhausting to try to navigate.
Perhaps this frenzy marks a greater sense of awareness of that battle; tell us, the consumer, what you believe and what our money supports and we will react.
Sometimes even that becomes skewed; TOMS shoes, a brand made successful by its mission to support needy children with free shoes, sounds like a translucent, no-nonsense business standard worthy of admiration and support. Even they’ve come under fire for a marketing platform that supposedly “dehumanizes” the poor, providing them with handouts when they should be focusing on achieving self-sufficiency.
I don’t know who to trust. Discernment is damn hard.
This quest to become a perfectly ethical consumer is one that’s probably in vain. But it’s a battle we have to fight, even if we know we’re going to lose.
CONTACT HANNAH MCCARTNEY: [email protected]