Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Politics of Chick(e)n

So I wasn't going to post about the whole Chick-Fil-A debacle.  I don't eat much chicken, anyway.  Or much meat at all, to be honest.  But the Muppets keep showing up in my FB feed, and after my homage to Kermit in yesterday's post, I'm taking it as a sign.

First, let me make sure you understand my lens on this: I'm a Unitarian Universalist (UU).  Which means I subscribe to seven principles and take my wisdom from six sources, including Jewish and Christian teachings about love.  I'd be that way if I weren't UU, too, but UUism helps me to name what I believe.  And I am pro-gay marriage.

I've known since I was a kid that something was different about Chick-Fil-A.  I think my mother was the one who told me that they closed on Sundays, though that didn't matter where I grew up because of the blue laws that closed the entire mall on Sundays anyway.  I knew that it was a business owned by a particular group of Christians (not to be confused with Catholics, according to my very-Old-World-Catholic father, and at that point I didn't really understand the difference between Baptists and Lutherans and Presbyterians and other sects), who really believed that the seventh day was for rest.  Honestly, I never gave their politics much thought.  It stands to reason, though, that the values of Chick-Fil-A's Baptist leader would align with the majority of established Baptist congregations in this country.

Where this begins to get tricky for people, so it seems, is drawing the line between the beliefs and actions of an individual--who happens to be a business leader--and the product of his organization.  The Muppets say you can't separate the two.  Others say you can.

I guess what it comes down to for me is that an individual with a particular belief system, who chooses to use the profits from my chicken sandwich to support organizations that I would not choose to support, may be a little less offensive on the scale of business-antiheroes than, say, a company that overtly discriminates in its hiring practices, or creates a hostile environment for employees and customers.  But if I know that my money is, in the end, going to support organizations that don't represent my beliefs, then I feel that I have the responsibility to act on that knowledge.  Maybe that's where Kermit is coming from, too.

Now, as KeAnne points out (in her fabulously written post on the subject, which you should go read RIGHT NOW), there are a lot of other companies out there, and a lot of other politics to wade through.  Sure, Haagen Dasz seems pretty harmless.  And ice cream is always a good alternative lunch.  But if I go digging deeply enough, what will I find?

This isn't the first time I've had to come to terms with the thorny problem of putting my money where my mouth, and head, and hands, and heart are.  (That is, assuming I'm ever faced with the unlikely situation that Chick-Fil-A is a real meal option.)  And I'm sure it won't be the last.  I would love to say that every time I make a purchase of goods or services, I know exactly where my money goes.  But the truth of the matter is for the most part, I really have no idea.  We get hand-me-downs for the kids when we can, and I'm not about to turn them away because they were made abroad in a factory where unfair and even unsavory labor practices prevail.  Though I cook most of our meals from scratch, and can get local eggs and butter and honey, I use things like sugar and flour and other pantry staples that come from large companies whose profits could be spent in all kinds of unsavory ways.  There are two problems here: one of them is that the chain of commerce is infinite, that even if I know about official company policy, I can't ever hope to track the expenditures of every employee (sort of along the lines of my MckMama post, there does seem to be a point at which a private person's life is just that: private); the second is my own lack of time to do even the most basic research in the first place.  And I'm clearly not alone: why did it take so long for people to put two and two together to figure out where Chick-Fil-A's leadership stood on the promotion of the "Biblical definition of the family unit" (Dan Cathy's words, not mine)?  Unfortunately, in the end, I suspect that time--of more correctly, lack of time--will often make my decisions for me.  It does now.

Still, in the case of Chick-Fil-A: my research has been done for me.  And as a supporter of gay marriage rights, I can't support a business that nurtures other anti-gay marriage organizations like WinShape.  So Chick-Fil-A can continue to serve up its patties.  And if, in this mostly-vegetarian household, I get a craving for chicken, I'll continue to make my own souvlaki.  (Which, if you're really not into chicken, would also be tasty when made with some hearty mushrooms.)

How about you?  How do you make decisions about companies to support with your business?


Souvlaki with tzatziki is the perfect way to use up all of those summer squash and cucumbers now filling your CSA boxes and farmers' market stalls, for those of you in the northern hemisphere.   Southern hemisphere residents: your time will come soon enough.

Tzatziki

1 c. Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, shredded, squeeze out excess water with hand
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t, salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients together and stir well.

Souvlaki

6 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried)
4 t. olive oil
1 t. salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces (vegetarians can use portobello mushrooms)
2 zucchinis or other summer squash, cut into 1” chunks, halved if large
cooking spray or olive oil
pita bread (I used whole wheat)

Combine lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt, and garlic in a bowl. Add chicken pieces and coat well. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.  Remove chicken from bowl; discard marinade.

Light your grill and set it to medium, if you have some control over it.  Thread chicken and zucchini alternately on metal skewers (or wooden if you don't have metal ones, but makes sure you soak wooden skewers well in water first).  Spray grill with cooking spray or olive oil, and grill skewers, turning ever few minutes, until chicken is no longer pink inside (about 8 minutes).   Remove from grill.

Serve skewers with tzatziki sauce and pita triangles.
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12 comments:

JeCaThRe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KeAnne said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm still struggling with this and doing research. It's hard trying to do the right thing sometimes.

Mud Hut Mama said...

I love that your posts make me think about things that I might not otherwise hear about and challenge me to form an opinion. I love Chick-Fil-A's nuggets and I usually eat there when I visit the States. Now that I know proceeds from sales are going towards anti-gay organizations I won't be so quick to indulge.

I do think a lot about my purchases in that I will scour the internet for hours searching for a toy I want for the kids that is made out of sustainable materials. I'm passionate about conservation so I seek out items and companies that have ethics I can stand behind. I'd rather pay more and support a company I believe in even if that means I have less things. I could do more but as you mention time is a precious commodity and I don't research every purchase I make or every company I buy from. I don't seek out reasons to boycott an item or a place but rather seek out companies that I feel good buying from and return to them, however, if I do come to realize that I disagree with a company's ethics it definitely affects my choices. Thank you for the information.

Once again loving the recipe you shared - are you happy for me to pin it?

Stephanie said...

I got this handy little book as a gift from my sister (who obviously knows me very well): http://www.betterworldshopper.com/

I go through phases of thinking and buying very consciously, and then getting completely overwhelmed and just going through the drive-through. It can be very hard to buy ethically, even though it really is important to me.

Susan said...

I support his right to his opinion.

I support my right to never eat there. Having grown five babies (and working on number six) for five different gay men (as a surrogate), let's just say that I wholeheartedly support gay marriage so no, I won't spend money at a place that so publicly opposes gay marriage.

Trinity said...

First, I love your new header. :)

Second, the difference for me in this situation is that the company's leadership came out and made a very public and explicit statment about the leadership's stance on gay marriage. Had this stance been a privately held one, one not explicitly presented as the view of the organization as a PSA of sorts, I'd likely have less issue with it. Once it became an official statement reflective of the organization, it became an issue to me.

I do try to inform myself about the products I consume (from food to clothing to entertainment), but I understand that I can't know everything all the time. But when I am made aware of something, I do feel it is my responsibility to make an informed choice that reflects my own values. Once I know what the deal is, the onus is on me, you know? I know I've probably inadvertantly supported somebody's company somewhere whose values are contrary to my own...but I try my best. (This is something I dealt with quite a bit when I was vegan.) We can't be perfect, but we can do the best we can do.

A lot of what I have been reading on FB goes along the lines of this, "Ooooh, but Chick-fil-a is soooo tasty!!!! I loooove their waffle fries too much!!!!" That seriously chafes me, that complacency driven by what's convenient. Blergh.

It's a very personal issue for me. Many of my very, very closest friends are gay. I am a godmother to my friends' son. I was a bridesmaid in my other friends' wedding. How can I accept those honors and truly support my friends if I don't form an opinion on this?

Right before I went back to work from maternity leave, I was exploring part-time options. I had been approached in the past by an adoption agency I frequently worked with, and so I cold called them and asked to meet with them to discuss potential part-time options. This was a Christian agency, and the director told me that if I wanted to work there I'd have to sign a "statement of faith," and when I read over it, the first few items on the statement were 1)marriage is between a man and a woman, and 2)only a man and a woman can properly parent a child in the way God intended. There was NO WAY I could sign something like that. What would my son think of me? Signing something like that, but loving my friends so dearly? What kind of message does that send?

Kathy said...

I really appreciate your post and the comments here.

I do support gay marriage and respect the reasons you and other choose not to eat at this restaurant in light of it's CEO's opinions, that he apparently chose to speak out on.

I have only eaten at Chick-Fil-A twice, before I heard about all of this and it was soooooo yummy. Seriously, the best fast food chicken I have ever eaten. Not that long ago (the second time I ate there) I drove out of my way just to have some, because the memory of my first experience had been living in my imagination for over a year.

So will I drive out of my way again anytime soon? Probably not. But I do think that eating at a place like that now and then is okay, for me. Because I know what I believe in and what I stand for.

I am a practicing catholic who is well aware of the big C church's stance on gay marriage. But I still choose to be Catholic and disagree about that. I also know a number of other practicing catholics who are openly gay and still choose to be catholic. I know it isn't exactly the same thing, but it works for me.

Thank you for another thought provoking post.

Kathy said...

I really appreciate your post and the comments here.

I do support gay marriage and respect the reasons you and other choose not to eat at this restaurant in light of it's CEO's opinions, that he apparently chose to speak out on.

I have only eaten at Chick-Fil-A twice, before I heard about all of this and it was soooooo yummy. Seriously, the best fast food chicken I have ever eaten. Not that long ago (the second time I ate there) I drove out of my way just to have some, because the memory of my first experience had been living in my imagination for over a year.

So will I drive out of my way again anytime soon? Probably not. But I do think that eating at a place like that now and then is okay, for me. Because I know what I believe in and what I stand for.

I am a practicing catholic who is well aware of the big C church's stance on gay marriage. But I still choose to be Catholic and disagree about that. I also know a number of other practicing catholics who are openly gay and still choose to be catholic. I know it isn't exactly the same thing, but it works for me.

Thank you for another thought provoking post.

Beth said...

What you say makes a lot of sense. I have a limited amount of time available to research the companies that I deal with. (Ever think about how many that is, on a daily basis??) But when I know something, and it feels wrong to me, I have to act on it. I've boycotted companies in the past and will continue to do so when it feels right.

(By the way, we don't have Chick-Fil-A in Canada and I've never tasted their chicken. Now I know I never will.)

Stupid Stork said...

I am a huge gay rights activist.

I also am incredibly lazy, so probably won't go researching too deeply into who does what with their money.

That being said - they've gone so out of their way to make a statement, so out of their way to donate money that there's no possible way that I could justify giving them any of my money. Even if their food wasn't gross (which thankfully it is... had it been my favorite Chinese place that was this out and about with their opinion, I would have still definitely boycotted but tears would've been shed).

jhl said...

@Kathy: I appreciate your comment, too ... I know a lot of people who belong to a particular organized religion, and have been able to separate their beliefs from the dogma prescribed by their religious leaders. For a long time, I was Catholic, and that was more or less my approach. It's a good point, though, that religion doesn't necessarily dictate individual belief. And I can see the connection, that you can know what you stand for and still support an organization that you don't agree with.

@MudHutMama: I think that's a good approach ... to look for companies that share your ethics. Please, pin away!

@Stephanie: great resource. Thank you!

@Trinity: I think you make an important point ... we can't be perfect, but if we know that an organization acts in a way that would make us compromise our beliefs, we are called to act accordingly.

jjiraffe said...

I have never tried Chic-Fil-A (they have one 40 miles away, apparently.) I didn't realize the food was so tasty , which is what I've been reading. That makes it a much tougher choice for those who love it. I just figured it was gross fast food so what was the big deal about boycotting...

Stephanie: THANK you for that book suggestion. I did a Live Simply project for 6 months which was pretty easy, mostly because I don't have any time to shop! ;)

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