The other day somebody asked me if I would rather get the fish filet sandwich at Wendy's or McDonald's. Wendy's is objectively better in our experience.
I said McDonald's.
Because to me McDonald's means being an American, and that means a lot to me. It's happiness, Ronald McDonald. It's rebellion against the strictures of Orthodox Judaism, even though I don't eat non kosher. It's good memories of going there with my mom, the playground in the West Village where my kids gaped at the homeless people hanging out near the slide. It means running out for french fries with coworkers, gossiping and talking about our diets.
Brands are memories. They are fantasies. They are a wish and a voice and a vote. They are all the things we hold in our heads. Taste and quality are often marginal.
Chik-fil-A is a brand that has become a rallying cry for people who are fed up of having an extreme leftist liberal agenda seemingly shoved down their throats at every turn. They perceive and dislike that Big Government and a very specific ideology associated with that is ever-expanding--invasive inspections at the airport in the name of security, attacking the Constitutional right to bear arms, efforts to institutionally silence dissenting religious beliefs about contraception and marriage. They perceive the media as biased.
Recent political polls don't reveal the extent of this sentiment, perhaps because one party is being oversampled. But every person who lines up for a serving is in their own way making a statement - a contribution to the cause. And that political party could be labeled something like, "not sure what's going on, but royally pissed."
I personally support the right of committed consenting adults to marry and am horrified at the thought of denying anyone contraception. I believe in social reform. I hate that there are homeless people. I am worried about national security abroad and at home. I understand that "we don't know what we don't know."
But this is not about what I believe. It is about the meaning behind the Chik-fil-A protest. Unlike Occupy Wall Street which seems to me like a largely manufactured movement of thugs - notice that they've magically disappeared - the people lining up at Chik-fil-A are organically angry and concerned about their rights. Not just to uphold traditional male-female marriage. But their rights in general, which they fear are slipping away without explanation, couched in Orwellian-speak: "It's for your own good."
Less than 100 years ago there was a sign that read, "Arbeit Macht Frei." "Work shall set you free." Propaganda as the gateway to death.
People are afraid, and they are angry, and want to express that. The choice of a fast-food spot today - the vote for a brand - is therefore loaded with meaning.