Monday, September 08, 2014

Chick-Fil-A: An American Tragedy

Chick-Fil-A's founder died today – not Dan Cathy, the CEO who a couple of years ago turned the chain into the official chicken sandwich of homophobes, but Dan Cathy's father S. Truett Cathy.

When the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha started a couple years ago, the word “tragedy” kept springing to my mind — not the modern watered-down definition “Any story with a sad or unhappy ending,” but the original Greek-drama definition of the word: a “tragedy” is the story of a hero brought down not by external forces, but by his own fatal flaw (his hamartia). Because the thing about Chick-Fil-A is, except for the whole “sexual bigotry posing as piety” hamartia (a huge exception, I'll grant), it really does sound like a thoroughly admirable organization.

Their franchising system is unique. With most chain restaurants, buying a franchise is not a way for a poor person to get rich, but for a rich person to get richer: getting the licensing rights, building the actual restaurant, buying equipment and similar things mean that acquiring a fast-food franchise, even in a low-property-values area, can cost you over a million dollars out of pocket before you even start trying to make any money.

But with Chick-Fil-A (as of a couple years ago, when I read the article), you can buy a franchise for as little as $5,000. Not that you can just stroll up to CFA HQ, write a check for five grand and become a franchisee on demand – I gather you must work your way up through the CFA ranks, be personally approved by the Cathy family and what have you (and, presumably, have a mainstream married churchgoing hetero sex life) — but even so: it offers one of the very few paths nowadays for an American worker with little money and no formal credentials to start at the very bottom and work their way up to the top — without beating Powerball odds to do so.

And CFA donates lots of money to charities — not just the gay-bashing organizations for which it became notorious, but scholarship funds, food banks and various other “help-the-poor-kids” things ... if not for the hamartia of letting that hateful Leviticus crap contaminate their New Testament, loving-Jesus Christianity, it would be a company admirable in every way. Instead, I can't even bring myself to patronize the company, for fear someone will see me eating their sandwiches and think I'm there for more than just the food.


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