Friday, August 3, 2012

Chick-fil-A: This is what it's
really about

It's been a couple of days now since the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day which was staged by Mike Huckabee, and supported by people like Rick Santorum and Sarah & Todd Palin (as well as millions of other "regular" people across the county), and while the hubbub around that day has passed, the controversy still has not, simply because people who love their "chikin' and waffle fries" just don't get what this is all about.

Let's backtrack a bit. It's been no secret that Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned corporation. I mean, they're closed on Sunday for a reason! I used to eat at Chick-fil-A on my way to work quite often. A quick pack of nuggets was a nice snack to tide me over until dinner, and as far as I knew, the company wasn't in your face with their religion. But they became "in your face" after it was made public one store in Pennsylvania contributed food to some kind of marriage retreat. No big deal, until it was discovered that the event only included married people of opposite genders. The corporation tried to play this off as it being one store (the stores are franchised) making a donation, not something that the corporation was involved with. Except this one store opened up a whole Pandora's Box of trouble for Chick-fil-A when people started digging into the company's corporate donations (and we probably have Target and the Tom Emmer campaign donation scandal to thank for this look into CFA's donations).

What we learned – and it's taken more than a year for people to really take notice – is that Chick-fil-A, as a corporation, has donated over $5,000,000 to anti-gay organizations and causes over the past two years. Organizations like The Marriage & Family Foundation (which was founded by CFA president Dan Cathy), a foundation that urges businesses to guide America back to its core of traditional family values; The Fellowship of Christian Athletes; The National Christian Foundation, which disperses money to other groups like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Discovery Institute (which opposes the teaching of evolution in schools); the New Mexico Christian Foundation (which is a smaller branch of the National Christian Foundation; the Georgia Family Council; Exodus International (the most well-known Ex-gay therapy proponents, whose president came out as gay and basically said the process doesn't work in most cases); and the Family Research Council, which has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with other groups like the KKK and the Aryan Nation.

Does that open your eyes a bit to what this is all about? People on the far right like Huckabee, Santorum, Palin, and everyone on Fox News wants you to think this is all about taking away Dan Cathy's freedom of speech. Yes, he said Chick-fil-A was "guilty as charged" of supporting "traditional" marriage and he has every right to do so, and if he wants to donate large sums of his own money to the groups listed above, that's his right as well. This has never been about freedom of speech, it's never been about chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, no matter what you hear from the right. This is about a corporation using profits it earns from selling those chicken sandwiches and then giving a corporate donation to those groups. Think about. It's like the Target scandal in 2010 (which most people seem to have forgotten about). Target was well-known for its strong LGBT support and policies within the company. Then it was learned that the company (as well as the CEO), along with other companies based in Minnesota like Best Buy and Red Wing Shoes, had donated large sums of money to a PAC that was funding Tom Emmer's campaign for governor. These companies said the reasons for the donations were because Emmer promised them tax breaks if he was elected, so of course they wanted to buy the election for him. They focused on that one issue, and completely over-looked everything else on his agenda (and the front page of his website), including his stance on marriage, and his ties to a "Christian" rock band that advocates violence towards gays. So Target was using profits from their sales, a lot of which came from gay shoppers, and were funding a candidate that would have happily taken away all the rights from the LGBT employees that Target stood behind 100%, as well as the LGBT population of Minnesota. Naturally, people were upset to learn that the money they spent at Target was being used in such a manner. Many people boycotted but, sadly, a lot of them have forgotten all about it and returned to shopping there … even though they claimed changes to their donation policies but still donate to anti-gay candidates and causes (while still also supporting local LGBT organizations and luring sell-outs like Ricky Martin and Barbra Streisand into exclusive distribution deals for their latest CDs – you really can't have it both ways).

So that's what this is all about. I know there are many companies across the country that donate to anti-gay causes a little less publicly than Chick-fil-A, and it's probably not possible to know each and every one of them. But when you do know about the Chick-fil-As, the Targets, and all the others, and you support the rights of gay people (some of whom may be your brother or sister, your best friend, a co-worker, or another relative), can you honestly drop a couple of bucks in those tills with a clear conscience, knowing that your money is going to fund groups and campaigns that seek to strip those you know and love of their rights? That's what this is about. It's about actually thinking about where your money is going instead of gobbling down an order of waffle fries while pretending that the money you just spent is going to buy more chicken and fries for the store to sell you on your next visit. That's what this is about. It's not silencing freedom of speech (and the right has room to talk since they're always boycotting businesses like JCPenney, Home Depot, and others … so where are their Appreciation Days from the left?), it's about taking stock of what you're doing with your money and the message you're sending to Dan Cathy and others by giving them your money. Chick-fil-A claims to have made an extra $30,000,000 in profit on Wednesday by people who were lead to believe they were standing up for some poor business owner's freedom of speech. And what do you think he's now going to do with that extra $30 mil? Think about it. Think about the truly needy organizations that could have used all that money to help people in need. Think about all those people lined up at Chick-fil-A that could have been lined up at the local blood bank, when blood donations are at an all-time low. Think about how all this time, money and energy could have been used to do good, but is now going to be put to use in various efforts to hurt people that Dan Cathy doesn't like because they don't fit within his narrow view of morality. This is not about attacking freedom of speech or Christianity (I know plenty of real Christians who are embarrassed by these people claiming to be Christians). It's about taking a stand against bigotry and hatred that's being funded by your money, whether you want it to or not. Try to remember that the next time you just have to have a serving of Chick-fil-A waffle fries. That is what all of this is about.

Total Recall - Memories can be

Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 version of Total Recall is something of a cult classic at this point in time, with a legion of fans who are approaching the 2012 version, with Colin Farrell, with a huge sense of dread. Are they right? After seeing the new Total Recall, I have to say it's like comparing apples and oranges.

In the original, which is based on Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," Douglas Quaid (Quail in the book) wants to have memories of a trip to Mars implanted into his mind to make his life feel a bit more exciting. The problem is, Quaid has been to Mars and he's a government assassin with a head full of dangerous secrets. Quaid goes to Mars to try to find out what's real and what's not and gets a lot more than he bargained for. In the new version, Mars is only mentioned in passing as the story stays firmly grounded on planet earth … or what's left of it, which is the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (formerly Australia). The rest of the planet is uninhabitable due to chemical warfare. The only way to get from one side of the world to the other is by a transport known as The Fall (think the English Channel Tunnel, except this tube goes straight through the planet). The UFB is terribly overpopulated (and looks like something out of Blade Runner), and workers from The Colony travel to the UFB to work in robotics factories that produce a mechanical police force. Quaid works in such a factory, but he feels his life is missing something, especially after having a series of dreams in which he fancies himself some sort of super secret agent. Not even his extremely hot wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) can bring him out of his funk. So what to do but head to Rekall, an organization that promises to give you the best memories of your life. When Quaid selects "secret agent" as his fantasy, things go terribly wrong when it's discovered the memory he's chosen is already in his head because it's real, and he is a double agent that works with the government – which is planning to invade the Colony, wipe out everyone and send the excess population of the UFB "down under" – as well as the Resistance, headed up by the mysterious Matthias (Bill Nighy). So who is Quaid? Who is Lori? And who is the mysterious other woman in his memories? And can Quaid even trust his friends?

It's been quite a while since I've seen the original Total Recall, so my own memories of the film are a bit fuzzy. The things I do remember are actually incorporated into the new film as little homages to the original. The original was a sci-fi action film with plenty of fight scenes – and one between then-newcomer Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin is a fanboy favorite – but it always played with your mind as well as with Quaid's, leaving you to guess if any of it was real or just an implanted memory. The new film, probably to the consternation of the fans, pretty much dispenses with any mystery right off the bat and even in one scene where Lori and her forces try to play mind games with Quaid, you still know by the end of the scene that everything is real.

And without that ambiguity, there's very little actual story in this one, with one major action set-piece after another. And they are some fantastic action sequences that take place on a mag-lev highway, an elevator system that may have been designed by M.C. Escher, and in and on The Fall itself. I know a lot of people are simply going to hate the movie because it's all action and little story, but I was totally entertained by all of the amazing eye candy and fight choreography. Of course, with a slim plot, Colin Farrell doesn't have to emote very much, but he looks pretty and he can fight with the best of them. I love Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, and they can both kick some ass as well (and yes, they do have a fight scene, but it still doesn't top the one from the original). There's not really much more to say about a film that's so visual except that if you go in expecting a faithful adaptation of the original movie, you're going to be very disappointed. But, if you're just looking for some escapist, sci-fi action, then this is the movie for you. I had a great time.