All Doris Boxley wanted was a chicken sandwich.
But that was difficult to get because of the lines around Chick-fil-A restaurants all over the country on Wednesday, especially in Chicago, where the Freedom of Chicken movement began about a week ago.
And all Doris, 53, of Flint, Mich., wanted was one of the franchise’s classic sandwiches, since there are no Chick-fil-A’s near her home.
Doris doesn’t care about the sexual politics of chicken. She wasn’t interested in the chicken sandwich as thought crime. She wasn’t caught up in the constitutional issue, the gay marriage issue, the traditional family issue or the Chicago Way Shut Up or We’ll Shut Down Your Business issue.
She didn’t want to put her mind around it. She wanted to put her teeth around it.
“I just think people should be free to do what they want to do,” Doris said, but only after she swallowed that first bite. “Basically, all I wanted was a sandwich from here, and I got one. ... I wasn’t into all the political stuff. I just wanted some chicken.”
She likes hers plain. Yet, as I waited in that long line, at the Chick-fil-A on Chicago Avenue, I wanted mine spicy and salty.
“Do you want sauce with that?” asked the young woman at the counter.
You have Leviticus Sauce? Cool. They said they didn’t have any in Lombard last week.
“We don’t have any Leviticus Sauce here either,” she said.
OK, then I’ll just have a pillar of salt.
“We don’t have pillars,” she said. “We do have packets.”
For those of you who haven’t been following the Freedom of Chicken movement, it began when Chicago Alderman Proco Joe “Chicky” Moreno vowed to use his powers to kill a planned Chick-fil-A proposed for his ward. The reason? The president of the company, a Christian, believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Naturally, this angered gay and lesbian political activists, and Chicky Moreno declared war. Then Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a subtle operative skilled in the verbal stiletto, uncharacteristically applied a meat cleaver and announced that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.”
The predictable backlash happened. To support Chick-fil-A, you didn’t have to discuss marriage. All you had to do was remember that dusty document called the Constitution protects free speech, even for chicken kings whose religious beliefs put them at odds with Chicago’s City Hall.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, leader of the Roman Catholics in what is still a Catholic town, made it clear that the mayor demonstrated contempt for many residents’ beliefs.
“Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the ‘values’ that must be held by citizens of Chicago,” the cardinal wrote in a Sunday online post on the Catholic Chicago blog.
“I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval,” he wrote. “Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a ‘Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities’ and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, ‘un-Chicagoan.’”
Then on Wednesday, as sandwich fans across the nation flocked to their Chick-fil-A, another amazing thing happened. Republicans appeared in person on the second floor of City Hall. Yes, I thought the GOP had long been extinct here, but there the Republicans were, holding a news conference.
The GOP filed a complaint with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (whose daddy is the boss of all Democrats in Illinois) and with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, asking for an investigation into the abuse of government power and overt religious discrimination against Chick-fil-A. But nobody ― not even a chicken sandwich ― expects Lisa to do a darn thing about it.
“The Chicago Democratic Machine has long abused power, using government funds and rule-making powers to hammer political opponents,” said Chris Cleveland, vice chairman of the Chicago Republican Party. “It’s illegal, but often difficult to prove. This time, it’s not so difficult because Ald. Joe Moreno has taken it a step further. ... He used his power over zoning to punish someone with whom he disagrees politically.”
Cleveland said it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine some other town where a statement in favor of gay marriage could draw the wrath of local government.
“The First Amendment was designed to protect speech, particularly political and religious speech, particularly if it is unpopular,” Cleveland said.
Even in Chicago? Wow.
Back at the jammed Chick-fil-A on Chicago Avenue, the line wound down the street. I sat with Alderman Nick Sposato, who was lobbying franchise owner Lauren Silich to open a Chick-fil-A in his ward. She said the restaurant has had several calls ordering food and gift cards to be sent to Moreno and the mayor.
“Our business has become a rope in a game of tug of war,” Silich said.
But pulled chicken isn’t on the menu _ yet.
By John Kass
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. ― Ed.
(MCT Information Services)