COMMENTARY | I’ve covered both sides of the Chick-fil-A drama, on Wednesday as people lined up in droves to show their support for the company on “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” and again on Friday as Chicagoans prepared for the “Kiss-in” protest later on Friday evening.
I spent time talking to people, all happy to share their opinions, and the truth is that the everyone I talked to, on both sides of the Chick-fil-A fence, are nice, decent people. Everyone was friendly; people were happy to talk.
So how did we get to a battling point over a fried chicken sandwich?
People have a different idea of what that sandwich means. Chick-fil-A knows that, on Wednesday, at least, it meant record-setting profits. For many of the customers I talked with on Wednesday, standing in line to, in their estimation, support the company, that sandwich means the right to free speech.
And for the people I talked with Friday, some who were planning to participate in the later protest, some who were not, that sandwich meant donations flowing to the company’s WinShape Foundation. The foundation, in turn, passes funds to right-wing groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, which firmly oppose people who are lesbians or gay men.
There is more than just speech to Dan Cathy’s stance; there is money, which is used to shape policy.
So how can we cross this divide, where one group sees an issue of opinion, and another group sees a funding of persecution? As Sarah Melzer-Hire, a woman who describes herself not as “openly gay,” but “authentically gay,” told me, the answer lies in more person-to-person meetings, more opportunities for open dialogue.
That’s the apparent goal of Marci and Marlysa Alt, who invited Cathy to their home to meet their family and talk over dinner. And maybe they are on the right track.
Maybe we shouldn’t be lining up and taking sides on opposite sides of a fried chicken sandwich. Maybe, instead, we should be pulling up chairs and sitting down next to one another, no expectations, no assumptions, and just relating, one human being to another.
Here we have a small blockage in communication, as people are so busy listening to their own thoughts, they can’t hear what someone else has to say. There is fear, as well — some fear of change, some fear of people willing to decide your rights without ever having met you.
But I can see it, having been there both Wednesday and Friday. I can tell you that the crowds weren’t different, they just see different things when they look at the Chick-fil-A sign. We’re closer than you think to all understanding one another. Maybe we can do it, one meal at a time.