Columnist for Wednesday, 5/23 - Sound and Fury

You Like Burgers?

You like burgers? I like burgers. Cheeseburgers, especially. They are a guilty pleasure, of course, since they are unhealthy, politically incorrect, could contain madcow, and are generally not made with any attention to detail or taste. However, when the craving strikes, I need to obliterate it with a steaming hunk of meat.

Where to go when the burgertime alarm is given, however, is another matter. I adamantly refuse to patronize McDonald's (I wouldn't eat there even when I was STARVING, trapped on a Chicago highway during a snowstorm), Burger King, Carl's Jr., Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Arby's or Weinerschnitzel. I eschew these mostly because they are large, corporate chains, and I hate corporate chains. There is one, however, that is a local chain, so it just skirts under my NO CORPORATE wall. That's In N' Out Burger. They only have about six items on the menu, including drinks and sides, they make the order when you order it, the prices are reasonable, and the burgers, for the most part, are pretty good. For a basic burger at a basic price, it's hard to beat. The problem with In n' Out, however, is that I recently found out that were owned by a family. A Christian family. And that they insinuate their Christian ideals into everything.

Once every month, In n' Out employees are required to watch "Burger Time", a short video about the state of the company (if a new store opened, who got promoted, etc.) Every video opens with a quote on how god is giving you guidance, or some such nonsense. Worse, all their cups and burger wrappers have Bible verses on them (John 3:13, for example). However, In n' Out almost pays their workers a living wage (starting hourly: $8.25), they aren't everywhere on the planet (yet), and they aren't wrecking the environment (that I know of). And their burgers taste good. So should I avoid them simply because I disagree with the philosophy of the founding family? Because they are subliminally trying to get me to read the Bible? Should I choose In n' Out over say, Wendy's? Is this the lesser of two evils?

The same issue came up with Domino's pizza, another right-wing zaibatsu that funded fascism like Operation Rescue (a group that says killing abortion doctors is OK). But they make shitty pizzas, so that was an easy decision to make. But In n' Out? Hmmm.

I first thought that I wanted to support religious groups, because they were anti-corporate. Their marketing was designed towards "achieving something more than material wealth"; the idea being to help people with their lives, get them to heaven, blah blah. I thought that Christianity had a great message: "Don't seek happiness in material goods, look to Jesus instead!" That's good. But then I realized Christianity (and most religions, for that matter) is a corporation in and of itself! Mostly. It's like Coke and Pepsi. Corporations want people to get happy (but not TOO happy, or they'll stop buying things) by buying their goods and services. Religion wants people to get happy by attending church, paying their tithes, marketing the religion to other people (missionary work), etc. In the end, the only difference between corporations and Christians is that one is interested in monetary profit, the other is interested in "heavenly" profit.

Then I started to realize how corporate many religions really are: Catholicism, with its pope and big churches, indulgences, etc., is the most obvious example. Well, OK, Scientology is the most obvious example, since that IS a corporation. But all beliefs have their franchise stores (churches), their CEO's (leaders), their "employee handbook" (Bible, Koran, Talmud, Torah, etc.), their marketing team, their human resources, their stock options (cash out in heaven/Nirvana, Valhalla), etc. It's just that they want you, the public, to stay with their "corporation" instead of another. "Give us your time and money!" is what everyone (corporate and religious) seems to be demanding.

The best conflict I've seen in recent history is when some Baptists boycotted the Rat, Mouseschwitz, AKA The Walt Disney Corporation (well, they tried to), for Disney's fair and equitable treatment of its gay workers (which make up about 60% of Disney's workforce). I was cheering both sides on, hoping they would destroy each other. No such luck.

So now, what to do about burgers? Encourage a family run operation, one that genuinely treats its people well and makes a good product, even though that product comes loaded with Christian messages? Or go with a secular, money-only driven force that puts out a product bursting with meat-flavored colon-clogging chemicals?

Nah. I'll just have a chili slop burger at one of the many Tommy's imitators around the city. Or better yet, I'll stay home and cook my own burgers on the grill, seasoning and flavoring it to perfection (I'm even starting to like Boca, or vegetarian, burgers.). All by myself. I don't need corporations OR Christians!! Pppppppttthhhhhhhpppppppppp!!!!!!!

PS-For anyone who thinks McDonald's or fast food is what made this country "great" has to read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. It's our century's "The Jungle".

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