A few years ago, I stopped eating fast food, particularly the kind that is handed in paper bags through drive-through windows. I’d eaten a ton of fast food over the years – what American hasn’t? – but when I started running and lifting weights, I found that my body was craving certain foods, and that things like Big Macs and Chalupas were not among those cravings. And now I’ve reached a point at which I don’t even consider those places as possibilities when I’m out and looking for something to eat.
However, for a long time, there was one exception: Chik-Fil-A. The fact that they used actual chicken instead of chicken-flavored sludge fried in the shape of nuggets was pretty appealing to me, so I didn’t mind stopping there on lunch breaks when I was particularly busy and didn’t have the chance to go home. I ate there fairly regularly, making them the single exception to my “no drive-thru” rule.
But then Dan Cathy, the company’s chief operating officer, decided to publicize his corporation’s anti-gay position by blathering on about “Biblical families” – which, by the way, whenever I hear people talk about the “Biblical” definition of marriage, I’m always like, “Oh, so you mean a man and his wives and his concubines,” but what do I know, I’ve only read the Bible a few times and went to seminary for four years – and I knew that I could no longer in good conscience give my money to them.
So I stopped eating there, a decision which effectively cut down on my grease-and-fried food consumption by an average of one meal per week. I’m sure it didn’t hurt the business’s bottom line at all, what with the way self-proclaimed champions of “Real America” lined up to eat there with the explicit goal of supporting their belief that gay people should not be treated equally under the eyes of United States law, but it definitely helped my arteries. Abstract concerns about my health weren’t enough to get me to stop eating there, but concerns about civil rights definitely were.
I find myself in a similar situation now, thanks to all of the restaurants balking at President Obama’s re-election and the passage of the Affordable Care Act and threatening to cut their employees hours so they don’t have to pay for health insurance. Now, it’s not like I’m some huge fan of places like Applebee’s and Red Lobster, but I do occasionally eat there. Well, until recently, I did occasionally eat there. I won’t be doing so now.
Again, this is another bit of great news for my health because…well, surely I am not the only one who has noticed that all of the CEOs who are stomping their feet oversee restaurants whose products can barely be considered food. (In fact, I am almost loathe to call them “restaurants.”) I’m looking at the nutritional information for Applebee’s right now and my heart is practically cringing in my chest cavity at all of the four-digit numbers under the “sodium” category. But again, this knowledge wasn’t enough to keep me from eating there on occasion, but the knowledge that their CEOs are using Obamacare as a scapegoat for their desire to maximize profits no matter what the cost…well, that’s enough to keep me from ever setting foot in those places again.
And you know, the thing that really gets me about all of this is just how freaking disingenuous it is. When I was a teenager, I used to work at the local Albertson’s, and I remember when they did exactly what Papa John’s and Darden Restaurants are threatening to do now. One day we all came into work, and all of the full-timers who worked as cashiers and such found their hours cut just below the threshold at which the company was obligated to provide them with health insurance. They did this to maximize profits. And also! They did this in 1996. Obama wasn’t even a state senator at this point, and the last attempt at reforming the health care system had failed miserably, and the political environment was completely different than what it is right now. Yet Albertson’s did exactly what Darden, et. al., say they will be forced to do, as if they secretly want to pay their employees really well and provide them all with health care and the only thing keeping them from doing so is Scary Obama.
I call bullshit on all of this. Cutting costs is what corporations do. They’d find a way to cut costs on the backs of their employees even without Obamacare. Obamacare just gives them a convenient excuse, and with the added benefit of seeming like they are upholding the Virtues of the Free Market while fighting against the Specter of Socialism and thus engendering goodwill in the hearts of Real Americans, who are already exhibiting that goodwill by making a deliberate effort to spend more money at those restaurants.
I have other opinions on this whole matter, but you can just watch this “Daily Show” clip, which pretty much summarized my feelings on this whole thing.
(Isn’t it weird how eating/not eating shitty food has become some kind of replacement for real activism?)
I’m not trying to act like my decision to not eat at places who support politics I find personally objectionable is some kind of grand gesture. I mean, what does the four or five Papa John’s pizzas I eat a year add up to? Maybe a cupful of water in the moat around Papa John CEO John Schnatter’s mansion? And I also can’t deny that I worry about the effect of a boycott on someone like my sister, who waits tables at Applebee’s.
But at the same time, I really hate giving my hard-earned money to corporations that turn around and use that money to fight against things I support. It just so happens that the corporations who are fighting against things I support are corporations that produce shitty products I am better off not eating anyway.
So right-wing restaurant CEOs of the world, I say keep railing against Obamacare. Keep talking about “Biblical marriage,” whatever that means. Keep on keeping on with your sad little right-wing selves, because you make it that much easier to do what I should have been doing in the first place. My health thanks you for making this so easy for me.