Friday, August 3, 2012

A GAME OF CHICKEN


I suppose I boycotted chicken establishments twenty-seven years ago.  KFC, Popeye’s, Chick-fil-A,...it doesn’t matter.  I have never wavered since deciding to become a vegetarian.

Chickens, however, have become political pawns.  The outcry isn’t over how they are raised.  Instead, a chicken chain is the latest battleground for gay marriage.  Who’da thunk? (And wouldn’t “Church’s Chicken” have seemed the more likely proselytizer?)

Corporations have been making increasing forays into social politics.  Indeed, many have come out as gay friendly.  Sometimes it is a basic employment decision.  If the company is big enough and extends benefits to same sex partners, it is a newsmaker.  Some go further, participating in Pride celebrations and sponsoring other GLBT endeavors.  I have always applauded when corporations take a political stand—a human rights stand, if you will.  When they take the right stand (er, LEFT stand), of course.

It should come as no surprise that a corporate head should have a different opinion than me.  Chick-fil-A is a Georgia-based company, founded by a devout Southern Baptist.  The business is not open for business on Sundays.  Its express corporate purpose is, in part, "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."  (If chickens could talk.)

I am not shocked that company President and COO Dan Cathy recently publicly stated he supports “traditional family” and warned that “we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.  I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

Ah, yes, let the chicken wars begin.  In the comfort of an enlightened Canada, however, I thought I would watch from the sidelines, shaking my head at the Biblical wrath and quietly lauding the mayors, activists and average LGBT members who speak out and change their chicken sandwich habits.

But then I logged into Facebook this morning and things changed.  It got personal.  One friend from Texas had posted something about long lines at Chick-fil-A and ultimately going to Wendy’s instead.  Long lines at Chick-fil-A?!  Well, maybe in Texas, I thought.  I’d read that the company’s consumer approval rating had dropped dramatically.  But why would my friend even go to that restaurant?!  Her sister is a lesbian.  Corporate values or chicken cravings trumped real family values.

A gay friend in Boise posted something about a Kiss-in to counter Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.  Both actions predictable.  I smiled as I envisioned same sex couples passionately French kissing.  I imagined the response:  loss of appetite, loud prayers, references to Hell and “hating the sin, loving the sinners.”

And then I saw my sister-in-law’s post.  Chick-fil-A for supper before church tonight. Only 25 minutes in line plus 30 minutes to get food, and such a spirit of joy and happiness with the beyond max occupancy crowd! Chick-fil-A has long been a favorite of mine, so only too happy to support them again today!”  She later added another comment:  Just saw our family on the news tonight--standing in line outside Chick-fil-A!!!  And then my 19-year-old niece:  “Whoa seriously? We were on the news?

My chest tightened, my hands shook.  The pride, the excitement,...I was repulsed.  Yep, this is personal.  In the pre-Facebook days, I would be blissfully ignorant.  I could say I long for the smiley face happiness of the ‘70s, but there were no gay rights then.

Of course, I should not be surprised by the posting.  My brother and sister-in-law are evangelical Southern Baptists.  Their children have been home schooled.  My brother spends his vacations building Baptist churches in the South.  Because there aren’t enough.  My sister-in-law refused to let my niece and nephew read my children’s novel when it was published because I misused God’s name.  (Can’t recall specifically, but I think there is a spot in the book where one of the characters says, “Oh, my god.”)  This is the family that sent me the video “How to Be Saved” as a Christmas present one year.  (To be fair, my Catholic sister got the same “gift.”)  My niece’s Facebook entries are usually biblical quotes.  I could go on and on and on. 

My immediate thought was to “unfriend” my sister-in-law.  Ha!  Take that!  Then I thought of posting a comment.  “So disappointed.  Seems corporate allegiance trumps actual family.”  I passed on both options.  Next idea?  Send my brother an email.  Yes, he had been there, too, likely in the driver’s seat.  Gotta get me some holy chicken. 

And then I thought of my mother.  She’s the one who tries to keep the family together.  She’s the one with the chronic sleep problems, the constant worrier.  I will not have an impact on my brother or his family.  We never talk on the phone.  I sent him a three-sentence Happy Birthday email last month, with the last sentiment phrased as a question, inviting a reply.  Nothing.  If it so happens that we both plan to go to the family cottage in summer, I make sure my stay does not coincide with his.  Last time our vacations overlapped, I didn’t like waking to see an apparel line of Jesus t-shirts every morning.  (Seriously.)   I see him once a decade, at most.  When my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago, my sister-in-law noted it was the first time in twenty-one years we’d all been together.  And we’re a small family! 

Full disclosure here:  My brother and his family are the only relatives that do not officially know I am gay.  I haven’t told them and I am certain no one else has.  I wanted to maintain occasional contact with my niece and nephew, thinking they may become more enlightened later in life, if they ever stray from Baptist influence.  (It’s looking less likely as my niece just finished her first year at a Baptist university.)  Otherwise, I think the rest of the family thinks, “Why bother?”

And now a game of chicken leaves me questioning everything.  If I wanted to act solely for myself, I would comment on the Facebook entry, unfriend AND email my brother.  So satisfying.  My mother will be the one to suffer.  I have caused her much grief in life as the stubborn, wilful middle child, the one my father tiptoes around.  I have already written my brother off as much as possible without the family drama that comes from making it official.

The hurt I feel this morning surprises.  My gut says nothing good will come in passing on the hurt to someone else.  Maybe it is time for me to tune out the self-righteousness and take the higher ground.

6 comments:

Tim said...

I was so sad to read this post. I am afraid that your story will be repeated countless times for countless people all over North America, possibly myself included. Though I think you should take a stand for yourself, I can understand why you may not. Is it higher ground to say nothing? Who am I to say. The fact your brother and his family don't know you are gay officially is irrelevant in my opinion. If they don't see any gay people as equal or as people, then that says a lot right there. Hy heart hurts for you. I know that you know you aren't alone, but I wanted to reach out and say I'm sorry this has hit you so closely, know many people are undoubtedly thinking of you and support you. Take care. -Tim

Rick Modien said...

RG, your other commenter asks the question, "Is it higher ground to say nothing?" To which I respond, you bet it is.

While you have a personal connection to what's happening down in the U.S., on several levels, I've reflected on it (after getting angry), and I don't think you're taking the higher ground so much as accepting what is.

The bottom line is, we must not allow these people to get to us, nor should we be arrogant enough to think we could ever change them, no matter what we do to prove them wrong. They are the way they are, and they believe what they believe.

The reality is the number of anti-gay folks is dwindling. We must not think for a minute the vociferous Southern Baptists speak for everyone, because they surely don't. Not any more. Let them do their thing, and we'll quietly do ours.

There's nothing to be done except to live our lives as the example we look for from everyone.

JustAMike said...

I usually believe that it's far, far better to take the high road. That resolve can often be severly tested, but in the end, it is always the best route. Stay strong. Hugs.

Honoure Stark said...

Thank you so much for this post, I always enjoy reading your blog!

I am a mom to a beautiful teenage daughter who happens to be gay. It is my job (for the most part) to teach her how to handle these particular situations when they arise and they do with our family and community quite often. Tall order, it keep's me up at night.

I ask my daughter to speak her truth, the honest truth in a respectful way. To behave with dignity especially when most don't behave the same.

My committment to her is the same. I have always been the lion mother in her corner. As a result of horrible homophobic behaviour or ignorant hurtful words, I was compelled to speak up, against people I know may have direct or in-direct influence on my children. I spoke my truth in the most respectful way I could muster (which is a feat in itself) have been un-invited to many family function's including a recent wedding where every single bigot in my family of origin and a few wonderful people I would have loved to see attended. I have been negativley commented about on facebook in my community and un-friended on-line and in real life.

I completley respect that you would prefer the high road or "keep the peace" for the sake of your mother and other's that you love but to what price? It make's my heart ache for you.

I don't think my decision's are always best, quite honestly I am not the quiet type for sure but I truly search to better them moving forward so my daughter will be proud and secure knowing I am actively protecting her and our strong beleif's that bigotry will not be apart of her day if I can help it.

My daughter has chosen whom to interact with in her circle of friends and within our family. She is learning her path in dealing with homophobia her way and I am always standing beside her when she needs me. (I try to clear the path when it come's to adult's...)

I beleive that our truth and how we choose to live in it speaks to the deep love and fearlessness I have for all my children and I work very hard for them to not to live secretly in silence.

Warmest regards, best of luck to you

Jeff Ballam said...

I, too am saddened by your post, as it is all too familiar. My younger brother, his family and I are estranged over politics and gay marriage. We haven't spoken, emailed, Facebooked or anything since 2008, before my marriage. While I am saddened I don't know my brother any more, I am comfortable knowing I don't have that thorn in my side. Is my mother happy? No. But, she has had issues with that part of the clan as well. She does understand my point of view. (For the record I am out to all of my family.)

Rural Gay said...

Thanks to all of you for your sharing your thoughts. There is much support and wisdom in what you say.

There are times when I question the purpose of blogging. In this instance, however, I am truly grateful to connect with fine people whom I would not otherwise know.

Before reading any of your comments, I took action. I am posting an update, "Chicken Squawk", on the blog.

All the best!