EDITORIAL: Stuck between a cluck and a hard place

If I eat the chicken sandwich, I’m a homophobe. If I don’t, I’m anti-religious. Either way, I guess I’m a bigot.

If you’re from the future and 2012 was “a long time ago” for you, please take a moment to re-read that paragraph. I hope you live in saner times.

This all started in 2010 when Chick-Fil-A’s WinShape Foundation, along with founder S. Truett Cathy, began making contributions to organizations that opposed gay marriage. In the past two years, according to Forbes, $1.9 million was donated to “anti-gay marriage groups.”

That’s over 70,000 chicken sandwiches.

Things only got worse between then and now, but came to a head in July when current Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy went on television speaking out against gay marriage. Specifically, he said same-sex marriage “is inviting God’s judgment upon the nation.”

Some people staged boycotts. Boycotts make sense if you don’t agree with a company’s politics. You make sure they have less money to contribute to causes you don’t like, and also none of that money is yours.

Other people staged a day of support, showing up in droves to eat chicken sandwiches. They believed Chick-Fil-A had every right to donate to whomever they wished, or they supported the causes the money went toward.

Even the Muppets took a side, as the Jim Henson Company ceased its partnership with Chick-Fil-A and made a donation to GLAAD. It’s not easy being green, I’m told.

Now cities like Boston are attempting to pass legislation to keep the chicken sandwiches at bay. Mayor Thomas M. Memino said to the Boston Herald, “you can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against the population.”

Since Oakland University has the only Chick-fil-A in Michigan, the battleground has found its way to our doorstep. A greasy line has been drawn in the deep-fried sand. Waffle fries line the bunkers and lemonade cups are the bugles to rally the troops. The battlefield is stained with sauce and ketchup.

I sit on the border between the two sides, staring at the empty grey plastic of my cafeteria tray. Whose side am I on? Even if I decide I want a burger or submarine sandwich instead, have I still made a choice?

I can feel all eyes on me the minute I step into the food court – and this time it’s not just because I’m fat. Everyone wants to know what side I’m on. If I pass by Chick-fil-A, I’m just another typical college liberal, denying a company the ability to make a living because I disagree with them. But if I put one of those sandwiches on my tray, I’m some sort of conservative Bible-thumper, thinking my chicken sandwich grants me the authority to tell others they can’t marry.

This isn’t the first time my lunch has had such a profound political impact. I remember distinctly choosing McDonald’s over Burger King, because I prefer the democratically-elected Mayor McCheese over a self-appointed monarch. After his inability to apprehend the Hamburglar, however, I lost faith in his leadership.

I’ve thought about compromises to the situation. For instance, what if I only ate half a chicken sandwich, and shared the other half with another man? But that wouldn’t make either side happy, and it’d just lead to an awkward conversation with my wife.

As the fall semester grows nearer, and with Chick-Fil-A getting ready to re-open on campus, I’ve been asking myself many questions. Will my purchase or lack thereof make that big of a difference? Will I be viewed as less of a person depending on the presence or absence of a little white-and-red box from my tray? Is it too late to apply for a popcorn-vending license on campus?

Because it’s detached from the rest of the food court, is Café O’Bear a “safe zone” on campus – a culinary Switzerland, harboring conscientious objectors with coffee and pastries? By that logic, the Suzanne O. Frankie Café must be Nepal, watching from afar and hoping not to be dragged into the conflict.

Whatever your take is on same-sex marriage, try not to judge other people too harshly. Maybe they just like or dislike chicken.

Contact Copy Editor Brian Johnston via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @GreenAdder