Saturday, February 26, 2011

Filthy, Stinking Rich

When Sean “P. Diddy” Comb’s son Justin turned 16 last year, the rap mogul made sure that the young man commuted in style by purchasing him a $300,000 Maybach luxury car as a birthday gift. This year, when Justin qualified for the honor roll, Diddy purchased him a custom Maybach limousine valued at almost $400,000. When questioned about the extravagant gift, Mr. Combs admitted that it was for special occasions like a “first date” and that Justin (like all of his children) really enjoyed the “simpler things” in life.

While I applaud Diddy’s emphasis on academic achievement, perhaps the “simpler things” line was a bit disingenuous. After all, in a world where your first car exceeds the value of the average American home I suspect that “simpler things” is a relative concept like cutting back by firing your personal assistant’s secretary. 
Diddy at last year's Salvation Army benefit gala...
Justin’s story is not unique, and if you have ever sat through an episode of MTV’s Sweet 16 you will realize that there are a growing number of American children who experience a childhood untouched by financial limitations. While my parents worked hard to ensure that my sister and I never went without what we needed, I would not classify us as wealthy. I went to public school, making the honor roll meant I got to pick the restaurant the family ate at and my first car was a used 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier.

I am grateful for that environment because I have always had the sneaking suspicion that I would become a public menace were I to come into substantial monies. I believe that we all have a self-absorbed dark side, but for most people it just remains mercifully underfinanced.

I have decided that if I were to become independently wealthy, the following would occur:

1. I would buy “summer homes” in different countries (preferably without extradition treaties) and constantly lament the difficulty in finding time to visit them all.

2. I would fly first class to impoverished nations while complaining that the Siberian-tiger meatloaf bites I insisted on being served were “too gamey.”

3. I would underwrite a celebrity death match between Rosanne Barr and Kathy Griffin, and then have the winner executed.

4. I would live irresponsibly for the better part of a decade, bottom out at 37 with a VH1 reality series, and then write a bestselling memoir about how misunderstood my personal journey was.

5. I would hire a world-renowned chef just pour my Frosted Flakes in a bowl for me.

6. I would completely outsource the rearing of my ridiculously-named offspring (“Have you met my son Epimetheus and my daughter Saristocrat?”) and then live the remainder of my days in genuine shock when they grow into mal-adjusted adults with expensive prescription drug habits.

7. I would re-purchase all of the same furniture I have now……….for my dog.

8. I would spend hours threatening lawsuits over unacceptable “yacht fees” and the outrageous tariffs on imported-marble utility sinks.

9. My wife and I would be featured on Amazing Vacation Homes on the Travel Channel where our occupations would be listed as Domestic Socialite and Technology Enthusiast respectively.

10. I would start a charity and host outrageously-priced fundraising dinners to benefit fake causes (like endangered sea-bison or children suffering from butterscotch tendonitis) just to see who would come.

All of this is not to say that one cannot be born into economic privilege and remain a grounded, self-less human being. I am just fairly certain I am not that person.  I admire those who wield their fiscal power in a responsible manner, but I am afraid that had I been in P. Diddy’s shoes I would have driven the limo to my child’s school, set it on fire in front of the student body, and then informed everyone that I am so filthy rich that I could afford to ignite the car just because I was cold. That is, unless my personal assistant stopped me….

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Goddesses & Good Times

Prostitution has been called the world’s oldest profession and throughout history we see examples of individuals trading currency or commodities for carnal favors. However, as it remains illegal in the United States (with the exception of a few decommissioned bomb testing sites in Nevada) those dabbling in the flesh trade have been forced to run clandestine operations. While there are a few notable exceptions, such as the Arkansas “VIP Spa” for lonely truckers, most keep a low profile to avoid legal repercussions.

Founder Tracy Elise (during an apparent fireworks mishap)
This all changed in 1995 when former beauty queen Tracy Elise decided to leave her husband, children, and small business to pursue her destiny as a “goddess.” Unable to find an accredited university with a goddess program, she opted for real-world training in a Washington State massage parlor. From there she spent time at the Seattle Tantra Temple until she landed in Phoenix a few years ago and opened The Phoenix Goddess Temple, the most brilliant brothel the world has ever seen.

Elise claims that since her own sensual awakening, a journey that by her own admission involved over 1,000 lovers or about 1/8th of the standing US coast guard, she has felt the calling to bring her spiritual eroticism to the masses. Well aware of the legal tightrope she was walking, Elise created a church that offered prosecutable services with un-prosecutable names like “Full body Chakra contact” and “Sacred Vessel Anointing.” All sessions are offered to “seekers” in exchange for “suggested donations” to further the mission of the temple.

Most female practitioners, referred to exclusively as goddesses, use quasi-mythological pseudonyms like “Ora Lakshmi” or “Astrid” and each has a profile page where they can showcase their specialties while prospective seekers view casual portraits (such as Leila Swan air-humping a cello while dressed as a Geisha or Angelica meditating butt-naked in a fern garden). Each goddess must adhere to the unquantifiable characteristics identified in the temple’s governing document such as embodying a “full spectrum living matrix” and “artfully weaving the ladder of light.” There is no mention of Microsoft Excel experience.

Goddess "Bast"on casual Friday.
The business model is so successful that the city of Phoenix has never been able to cite them for anything more substantial than inadequate parking in their three years of operation, partially because “seekers” sign a waiver implying that they are there for spiritual enlightenment only. A seeker is asked for a suggested hourly tithe based on the temple’s study of ancient numerology and these “donations” are cash only to provide a “deterrent to a person excessively visiting and going into debt.” 

After reading an expose in the Phoenix New Times and visiting the temple’s website, I must admit the group’s prodigious implementations of euphemisms for the male reproductive organ is nothing short of inspired. It is identified as a “wand of light,” “resonating vessel,” and if I am interpreting the FAQ correctly, a “fire finger” among others. Even the detailed descriptions seem to be constructed for reasonable doubt in a jury trial:

  “Everything I showed him about the Polarities that we learned in class blew his mind, and his awareness just grew and grew.  When I laid over him to plug the chakra energy centers into each other, I started at the root of course and let him feel it with his new awareness.  I wish you could have seen his face!  We then nested our energy centers the rest of the way up to the crown.”

I have read this four times and either something dirty transpired concerning some guy’s “nested energy center” or they took up a love offering. Even the extra services could be interpreted several ways:
Releasing Kundalini – either a Class C felony or what happens after consuming a chipotle burrito value meal.
Sacred Cacao Hot Chocolate Ceremony – either illegal for consenting adults in all 50 states or a delicious Christmas tradition served with graham crackers.
Tantric Soul Gazing – either extremely inappropriate for the office or the working title of Sting’s autobiography.
Surrender to Yin – either a source of venereal disease or a clever nickname for a Chinese plea-bargain.
Full Chakra Hug – either an erotic formal greeting or the street name for what happened to Joe Pesci’s character at the end of Casino.
I would be interested to see what happens if a “seeker” has something done to his “enlightenment basket” and declines to donate a “tithe.” Are there cosmic repercussions? Does the “goddess shaman” realign the seeker’s “inner being” with a complimentary “pressure point activation session” in the temple parking lot?

While I cannot condone the services offered by the Phoenix Goddess Temple, I must admire their creativity. Tracy Elise has created a business that openly exchanges sensual favors for cash in a busy metropolitan area while invoking the protections of religious freedom. The website is descriptive enough to make you want to take a shower but vague enough to make you unsure exactly why that shower is necessary. A visitor can read pages upon pages describing “cosmic-vessel awakening rituals” and “polarity staff realignment services” but not once could I find direct mention of genitals. The site’s wording in so effective that most Internet filters do not classify the site as adult.

It remains to be seen whether or not the city will find a way to shut down the temple, but in the meantime it appears that there are plenty of “seekers” whose “chakras” are in need of “enlightenment.”

The Phoenix Temple's Website is here.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Death Threat Etiquette

I have recently become saddened by what I see as a decline in the quality of death threats in this country. There was once a time where highly ranking elected officials and social reformers could expect ominous late night calls from a payphone or the occasional menacing letter comprised of re-purposed newspaper clippings. Such warnings were taken seriously because they were serious, and Americans could take pride in the fact that we were on the forefront of the “implied violence movement.”
Unfortunately, it appears that America’s newest generation is not prepared to continue such a proud legacy. A few days ago, I ran a Google News search for “death threats” and began riffling through the results. Did I find heads of state in mortal danger? Community activists fearing for their safety? Sadly, all I could find were articles concerning Disney star Selena Gomez who has been receiving death threats (mostly via Twitter) after she was photographed spending time with Justin Bieber over the holidays on a private yacht.

If that wasn’t disheartening enough, apparently the same thing happened to Kim Kardashian after she appeared in a magazine photo-shoot with Mr. Bieber last year. And it isn’t just his fans spearheading this sad trend. During her appearance on Dancing With The Stars, Bristol Palin received multiple death threats and a mysterious envelop with white powder was mailed to the ABC studio where the show is filmed. Her success on the program angered one Wisconsin resident to the point that he fired a shotgun at his TV and entered into a tense standoff with law enforcement.

 Forgive me for being blunt, but kids today have no appreciation for a good death threat. For one thing, Twitter takes all of the effort out of it. Do you know how long it takes to piece together a coherent paragraph using headlines from the Sunday business section? Do you have any idea the dedication required to stand at a grimy pay phone at three o’ clock in the morning with a sock over the receiver just so you can inform senator Bob that his days are numbered? These new kids don’t even possess the good sense to hide their identity; much less issue a credible threat.
Instead, little Hannah sees a clip on Entertainment Tonight of The Bieb shaking hands with Helen Mirren, picks up her iPhone, and tweets, “I will cut you @helenmirren.” Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of this is that little Hannah has no long term emotional investment in carrying out such a proclamation because by tomorrow she will have issued so many more tweets that her homepage won’t even display her warning to Mrs. Mirren and she will have forgotten about it.

Not only are the techniques lacking, but the targets themselves are subpar. Selena Gomez? Bristol Palin? Kim Kardashian? Even Ryan Seacrest has reportedly been given an extra security detail. Once, such flattery was reserved for icons like John Lennon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy; but now it appears that we are handing out dire warnings willy nilly.
Soon the art of the death threat will be lost forever, buried under years of half-hearted Twitter updates and poorly punctuated text messages. This onslaught will slowly erode the credibility of the remaining proper practitioners causing the inevitable collapse of the delicate relationship between the famous and those striving to become infamous.

At least we still have Facebook status feuds…..

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Welcome to the (legislative) Gun Show!

Several weeks ago, multi-millionaire Republican Congressman Christopher Lee was innocently perusing craigslist personal ads when he came across a 34-year old single woman looking for a “financially and emotionally secure 30-40 year-old single man who is at least six feet tall.” Like any conscientious elected representative, Lee took it upon himself to assist what he perceived to be a constituent in need by removing his shirt and taking a phone-pic of his upper-torso. 

Accompanying this portrait, Congressman Lee penned a brief paragraph describing himself as a 39 year-old “fun classy guy” currently working as a Washington lobbyist. In his haste, Lee innocently forgot to mention that he was married, had a son, and was actually forty-six. The two exchanged several e-mails in which Lee discussed how he had been disappointed that other women he had met on craigslist had “not been as advertised.”

Concerned that the complete stranger answering her anonymous personal ad on craigslist might not have been completely forthright, the woman plugged Lee’s name and e-mail address into a search engine which led her to his Facebook page. Realizing that he was actually a married Congressman, she forwarded the conversations and photos to celebrity gossip blog who posted the now-infamous shirtless picture. Within three hours, Lee had resigned and issued a canned apology, much like the service I offer here.

Much has been made of the rampant immorality displayed by Lee, and certainly one might expect more from a conservative, family-values politician in the way of marital fidelity, but as a taxpayer I find myself more distraught by his general lack of common sense. This is a man who made a name for himself by crusading for Internet safety but willingly provided his real name, a photo, and primary e-mail address (which directly linked to his personal Facebook page) to a craigslist personal ad.

In retrospect, I suppose America is fortunate he was only a Congressman. Had he worked for the Department of Defense, he might have accidentally Tweeted nuclear launch codes while trying to take the infamous pic with his Blackberry.

There is also painful irony in a man lying about his age, job and marital status while simultaneously complaining about a lack of authenticity concerning Internet personal ads. If we really want to go to the mattresses on this, I am not so sure that a middle-aged politician taking half-naked self-portraits in a D.C. men’s room can accurately identify himself as “classy” to prospective lovers. The combination of bare upper-torso and meticulously coiffed hair gives exudes a creepy homeless game show-host vibe.      

Among all of the lies Lee fed to the woman, the biggest whopper was when she coyly asked why he chose to send her the shirtless photo and he replied that “it was the only one he had.” Aside from a real estate agent, I cannot think of a career path that would have left him with a wider variety of professional portraits at his disposal than politics. The truth is that Lee was betting once his Internet paramour was given a complimentary single-day ticket to his gun show, she would have no other choice than to commit to a season pass.

Call it pessimism if you wish, but I no longer expect my elected officials to be ethical cornerstones in the community. My only request is that they exhibit enough intelligence to prevent themselves from being easily blackmailed. This guy sat on the Ways and Means Committee, the entity responsible for authoring every single piece of tax legislation affecting this country, and yet the level of stealth he exhibited in his sexual indiscretions made Wilt Chamberlin look like a secret agent. Does America really want a guy too lazy to register for a second Gmail account on the committee that tweaked N.A.F.T.A.?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jesus is Coming Back.....On a Saturday!

According to a massive billboard and literature campaign, Jesus Christ will return on May 21, 2011 to invoke the rapture and usher in the end of days. The billboards can be seen everywhere from Atlanta to Ghana and warn that our time is running out because once Jesus returns on May 21st, the world will officially end on October 21st (mercifully sparing us all from the final installment of the Twilight Saga and making the Mayans look like chumps.)

The predictions are attributed to Harold Camping, an 89 year old Christian author and owner of the worldwide religious broadcasting conglomerate Family Radio. Camping arrived at his conclusions utilizing a complex formula involving the frequency of Old Testament Jewish Feasts, The Lunar Month Calendar and The Gregorian Calendar along with a few other Biblical indicators and secret revelations.

He created the website to explain his position and distribute uplifting brochures like “The Doomsday Code” and “Woe to the Bloody City.” The website also features radio broadcasts and a web-browser toolbar that counts down to the big show. Ironically the website domain expires on July 18, 2011 so it will be interesting to see if he renews it if May 21st turns out to be just another Montenegrin Independence Day.

Harold "Endgame" Camping

While I certainly cannot prove that a senior citizen with a civil engineering degree and a radio broadcast is not qualified to predict the Biblical apocalypse, I am concerned with how quickly the populace has accepted such a specific prediction from a man providing nothing more detailed than a murky reference to some moon phases and a Gregorian calendar. Perhaps it is how I was brought up, but if you are going to overshadow Mr. T’s birthday celebration you better have something more concrete like a newly discovered scroll or an archangel podcast to back it up.

Of course Mr. Camping is not the first or even the most prominent religious figure to predict the apocalypse; and even he wrongly chose 1994 as Armageddon in the past. So how do these figures continue to retain a flock after their visions are proven inaccurate? With a little study, I have created a 5-pronged system that will allow anyone, regardless of formal theological training, to successfully identify arbitrary dates for the end of the world and retain their followers despite the presence of overwhelming evidence of their incompetence.  

1. The date must be revealed to you in a proprietary, unquantifiable manner impervious to logical inquest. Examples include supernatural visions, angelic visitations, and discovery of previously-unknown religious artifacts so sensitive that you were compelled to destroy them after mining their secrets. While I do not endorse the formulaic approach favored by Camping, (math is your enemy in these situations) he did manage to keep the specifics vague and overly dependent on his personal revelations. I’ll give him a B- on this one.

2. The date must be at least 2 years into the future and cannot coincide with any national or religious holidays. It is imperative that your manufactured doomsday is looming yet provides ample time to both amass followers and complete all necessary tax-exempt paperwork for your fundraising branch. Make it too soon or too far away and you risk invoking apathy in the populace; and while the holiday stipulation might seem arbitrary, there mustn’t be any celebrations to distract the faithful from focusing on their imminent judgment. Camping cut it way too close to Memorial Day for comfort, so for this he earns a C-.

3. As the date nears, you must drop progressively conspicuous hints that the certainly of the ‘Day of Judgment” directly correlates to your congregation’s faithfulness. This provides you both an invaluable social control mechanism (as only you are qualified to evaluate the follower’s “faithfulness”) and provides a positively re-enforced contingency plan when your date of reckoning comes and goes without incident. Unfortunately, it appears that Harold has not correctly “diversified his apocalyptic portfolio” and placed all of his Rapture eggs in one basket. D-

4. When the date you chose passes without incident, remain stoic and spend a convincing period of time in quiet meditation. Timing is critical at this stage so it is imperative that you address the unfulfilled prophecy within 3 working days. Gather the people and deliver the following speech with a touch of pride:
“My fellow believers. Due to your overwhelming support and faithfulness, the Lord has revealed to me (through my solitary desert visions) that he has given us a reprieve. We are to use this time to continue gathering the lost and recommitting ourselves to the tasks of the Spirit.”

5. Choose another date 2 years into the future and follow steps 1-4 while exponentially increasing the size of your organization, and by extension, your tax-exempt income. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Full Moon

Do feel that the American dream is just out of your financial reach? Are you tired of living in an apartment complex where more meth labs are functioning than security lights? Many languish in such situations because owning terrestrial real estate is unrealistic, but since 1980 one corporation has been bravely going where no homo-sapiens have dared tread: extra-terrestrial land deeds.

The Head Cheese
The undisputed front-runner in cosmic real-estate is The Lunar Embassy, a company helmed by a man known as “The Head Cheese.” As of this writing, a prime 1-acre plot of lunar surface is going for $24 (this includes a $1.51 “lunar tax”) and entitles the buyer to a personalized certificate of ownership on “simulated parchment.”  The site claims that over 2.5 million plots of lunar property have already been sold to people just like you and me. In fact, the site even claims to have sold property to over 200 Hollywood stars (including many from Star Trek) and, according to a 2007 BBC article, even former presidents Ronald Ragan, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush have staked their celestial claim.

If the moon seems too clichéd, the site also offers prime real-estate on Mercury and Mars for the same price. The Lunar Embassy claims legal ownership of these properties because its founder, Dennis Hope, is exploiting a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty that explicitly prohibits ownership of cosmic property by governmental entities but says nothing about private corporations or individuals. He currently claims ownership of 7 planets and all of their moons. Those with a true pioneering spirit can even purchase a “continent sized” plot of lunar land (over 5 million acres) for the low price of $13 million dollars.

Before you dismiss ownership of your own celestial continent as a pipe dream, keep in mind that the Lunar Embassy offers in-house financing. For example, you can finance your continent on the 40 year plan and after the mandatory 10% deposit you would only owe around $36,000 a month.  For the more budget conscious consumer, The Lunar Embassy has placed recently demoted Pluto (in its entirety) on clearance for only $25,000. Other items sold by the Lunar Embassy include:

·         Do-It-Yourself Alien Test Kits – from the description “The Alien testkit will not only identify Aliens, it will also accurately tell you which planet they come from.”
·         Lunar Passports – this will identify your galactic nationality and allow you to pass through space customs unmolested
·         Moon Travel Guides – according to the product description this is the ultimate handbook for “sightseeing highlights, accommodations and food.”
·         Galactic Currency – Known as the “Delta,” the Lunar Embassy is offering a special deal where you can get in on the Delta early to enjoy a lower conversion rate. Currently $1,000 US Dollars gets you 10,000 Deltas.

As humorous as these offerings sound, the company had generated over $9 Million in revenue by 2007 and has sold large plots of land to hotel chains Marriot and Hilton. In 2003, the Lunar Embassy’s founder was awarded the Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal and made honorary chairman of the Business Advisory Council by Tom DeLay and the National Republican Congressional Committee for his work in cosmic real-estate.

I can only stand in awe of this man’s entrepreneurial spirit. I am especially interested in the “lunar tax” being levied on land purchases. Traditionally, taxation is what allows a governmental entity to maintain infrastructure and services for its constituency; but seeing as how there is no galactic government to fund and no cosmic constituency to serve, the remaining possibility is that this is one of the most brilliant gimmicks in the history of capitalism. Take note cell phone providers; you are in the presence of a fee ambiguity grand master.

The Lunar Passports seem to be a good bargain, especially since there is no cosmic TSA to pat down your asteroids just because your mom happened to be half-Mercurian. On the flip side, I am going to wait a little to see if the conversion rate of the “Delta” becomes a little more favorable to the dollar before I jump ship. The site even mentions an upcoming lunar bank that would allow the well-heeled to store their earnings away from the sticky hands of Earth-bound governments.

It is truly a testament to the power of capitalism that a grown man can walk into a government office, claim ownership of several celestial bodies, and proceed to sell them one acre at a time while providing the buyer with nothing more concrete than a certificate of ownership backed only by the sovereignty of his inkjet printer. 
Not only does this bring him wealth, but also the admiration and recognition of a Congressional body.

Some critics of the Lunar Embassy are concerned that such blatant land grabbing could monopolize cosmic territory and lead to the formation of a heavy-handed galactic dictatorship. This “empire” could begin enforcing its will on the universe’s populace through brutality and coercion which would likely lead to the formation of a scrappy galactic rebellion. This autonomous “republic” would eventually seize victory by utilizing guerrilla warfare tactics to cripple the empire’s spherical battle-station and topple the regime of their emperor.

Of course, that scenario is just off the top of my head…….  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Class G Meat

It has come to my attention that certain American consumers are suffering from unrealistic expectations concerning their fast food products. The law-firm of Blood, Hearst, and O’ Reardon (the commercials practically write themselves) has filed a class-action suit against Taco Bell for deceptive marketing practices concerning their “beef.”

Apparently, the “meat” that comprises the restaurant’s tacos may not be of the highest quality. The suit alleges the chain of utilizing “meat fillers” in its ground beef to reduce costs. The result is a mixture that contains around 30% actual meat with the remaining 70% largely consisting of wheat, soy, and water. While the law-firm has reluctantly agreed to accept a large fee for their efforts, they have made it clear that the education and protection of American consumers is their number one priority.

I for one am shocked that a culinary juggernaut employing high school kids to dispense sour cream from a caulk gun would serve anything less than the choicest USDA offerings. After all, if a business can produce a soft taco that costs less than a tin of altoids while remaining profitable, there is no reason to believe they are cutting any corners. Let’s be realistic; no one goes to Taco Bell expecting anything more than a full stomach for the price of a 9-volt battery (and perhaps, a late-night case of the skids.)    

To be honest, I am somewhat relieved that they cut their beef with something as benign as soy because I had always suspected they used Eskimo plasma or embalming fluid. Five years ago, there was a rumor floating around that the boxes of Taco Bell beef were labeled “Class G, but for human consumption.” The assertion being that the company had somehow discovered a loop-hole allowing them to utilize bovine byproducts normally reserved for an Alpo factory or the McRib.

I explain how these rumors spread here.

As It turns out, there is no such thing as Class G Beef (apparently it becomes something else entirely before you travel that deep into the alphabet) but the rumor did highlight a widespread suspicion held by the public that something was not quite right about the price point of Taco Bell’s nachos. Did any of us really imagine a sous-chef carefully browning a pan of choice Black Angus every time we rolled up to the drive through and asked for a sombrero pack of Gordita nuggets?

The attorneys have also requested a jury trial (in the interest of justice) so that they present their case to twelve people being compensated poorly enough to guarantee that Taco Bell is the only place they can afford to eat during lunch recess. I wonder the plaintiff’s closing argument will be: 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I stand before you not as a practicing attorney with a rather unfortunate surname, but as a frugal carnivore often pressed for time. Like you, I trust publicly-traded multi-billion dollar food conglomerates to be honest with me concerning the quality and safety of their products, but over the past several months that illusion has been shattered by Taco Bell’s systematic deception of the American public.

As I speak, the bailiff is handing each of you a packet of mild sauce to take with you into the deliberation room as a reminder of the egregious culinary deception perpetrated by the defendant. Regardless of what you decide, the packet is yours to take home and place in your silverware drawer where it will be forgotten until you move. Remember ladies and gentlemen Taco Bell’s drive-through may be open late, but justice never sleeps.
The bottom line is this: If you can hand someone a one-dollar bill and in turn they hand you a fresh Mexican entrée and change; it is best not to ask too many questions about their business model.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Big Gay Chicken Sandwich

Since the very first Chick-Fil-A restaurant opened in 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia, founder and owner S. Truett Cathy has sought to distinguish his chain from the fast-food competition. The strategy seems to have paid off as Chick-Fil-A now operates over 1,500 locations in 39 states and tops $3 billion a year in sales. They have accomplished all this while remaining closed on Sunday and celebrating the conservative values of their founder through everything from The Winshape Foundation to the toys included with children’s meals.

Much of this is made possible because Chick-Fil-A has always been a privately-held corporation and while S. Truett Cathy is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurants, control remains with the Cathy family. This has caused ruffled feathers before because prospective employees are often asked about marital status and church activities as part of the screening process. One restaurant owner in Texas claimed that he was fired after declining to pray to Jesus during a 2002 corporate training session. After a lawsuit was filed, Chick-Fil-A settled with the man for an undisclosed amount.

The newest controversy to be sparked by the poultry conglomerate concerns a food donation to a Pennsylvania marriage seminar entitled “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design.” The group sponsoring the seminar has made it abundantly clear that same-sex marriage is not a part of “God’s design” so when a local Chick-Fil-A agreed to donate food to feed attendees, many saw it is a blatant political stance against gay rights. Within hours of the story breaking, gay rights activists were calling for a nationwide boycott and conservative evangelicals were applauding the chain’s “moral bravery.”

The publicity seemed to have caught current president Dan T. Cathy off-guard, who publicly insisted that they were just donating some sandwiches and did not intend to make a political stance. Personally, I think that the entire thing is absurd and everyone should calm down before they continue to embarrass themselves.

The conservatives need to refrain from using a simple catering job as a moral rallying point. Several of the “supportive” comments on Facebook are downright embarrassing. One person announced that they would eat at Chick-Fil-A twice as much because “being gay is unnatural,” another person reminded the food chain that “Jesus was with them.” I can understand that Jesus is watching over missionaries, orphans, and widows but I was unaware that J.C. had a vested interest in the profit margin of a multi-billion dollar poultry conglomerate. In the name of all that is holy, just eat the sandwich if you like the sandwich. Buying more #2 combos will not cause the “scary” gay people to disappear (there have even been reports of them eating chicken along with heterosexuals.)

The gay rights activist should realize that Chick-Fil-A is a privately held corporation beholden to no one but their customers. If a private company wishes to create a foundation that recruits prison inmates to club handicapped dolphins in front of a children’s hospital, they have every right to do so. If their philanthropic ventures offend or degrade you in any way, you are in possession of the most powerful tool in a capitalistic society: your money. If their corporate stances become too polarizing or extreme then their customer base, and by extension their income, will be reduced and they will be faced with altering their position or dissolving. Anyone familiar with Chick-Fil-A’s corporate history should not find their stance on gay marriage shocking.

Perhaps it is irresponsible, but I often eat at establishments because I enjoy the food. I have no idea what Wendys’ corporate stance on euthanasia is, but I know what their stance on a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is. I may have even inadvertently funded Al-Qaida the last time I had an oil change, but unless I see the Klan hosting a underage prostitution car-wash in the parking lot I tend to purchase from the company with the best product at the best price.  

And while I am at it, if I hear one more person proclaim that Chick-Fil-A being closed on Sunday is a “stance for Jesus,” I will place a flaming bag of waffle fries on their porch. This viewpoint is ridiculous because most evangelicals dine out after church anyway and I do not know a single Chick-Fil-A patron who would refuse to eat there on a Sunday out of principle. If being closed on Sunday was a clear indication of Protestant beliefs my bank would be holding monthly tent revivals.

If anything, the chain being closed on Sunday redirects revenue away from Chick-Fil-A which would have (apparently)been used to fund conservative causes but will instead be absorbed by a chain that may or may not have questionable moral stances. S. Truett Cathy chose not to open on Sunday because in the 60’s it was the slowest business day of the week and he liked the idea of his employees spending time with their families. Can’t we just give him credit for that?