I see him staring at me from behind those golden arches, hawking wares like the well-paid McDemon from hell he is. He haunts dreams, poisons childhood, funds Ronald McDonald House and causes more nightmares than Bozo doing a strip tease.

Paul Wong
Josh Wickerham

By now you”re wondering what kind of traumatic clown experience I had as a child.

I liked Ronald. I liked Santa Claus too, but at least your parents eventually sit you down to tell you they”d been lying about the whole thing, from the elves on up to the jolly guy himself. McDonalds never tells you they”ve been attracting you to their hamburger stand with myths even more thoroughly pervasive in our culture than Jolly Old St. Nick.

You might think I”m a vegetarian, but I”m not. I even eat at McDonalds.

That”s the problem. I don”t want to eat at McDonalds. I don”t think anyone does. So I want to ask seriously, did anyone ever “say McDonalds?” I know I never did. People say, “I”m hungry” or “I”m in a hurry.” They don”t get excited about getting fast food. Maybe it”s because we”re all comparably rich and comparably fat and too rushed to think about what we”re shoving down our throats. Or maybe it”s that we know we”ll get our arteries unclogged with the latest medical procedures when the times comes. Or maybe it”s that we just don”t care. Only Americans would equate quantity with quality and think that buying greasy food endorsed by a fascistic yellow clown can in any way be a good value.

No one I know was ever tempted to order McFood without an invasive reminder through advertising or seeing the Golden Arches rising up as a reminder of the new corporate state.

I understand being reminded to vote. That”s easy to forget. But we don”t need to be reminded to eat. No one needs to see pictures of larger-than-life-hamburgers on the freeway just the way no one needs to see cigarettes being sold by a vaguely middle-eastern pin-up girl in Kamel ads. When one needs to be reminded of basic bodily functions, it seems indicative of a cultural crisis.

I would ask for consumer labels on fast food. Warning: this product is known to cause heart disease, obesity, ravenous disregard for wellbeing, drug-induced stupors and possibly gas.

I”m not only questioning business practices, but asking more poignantly, does McDonald”s even have the right to exist? This corporation wastes the resources of the earth, sells us food that makes us feel like drug addicts and pollutes our field of vision, insulting our intelligence with obnoxious ads. But McDonalds is not the only culprit. I wouldn”t want a business to be shut down completely, but I do think we should demand that it be held socially responsible, like a cigarette company being sued for knowingly hooking smokers. Fast food needs to take a cue from Ford, which last summer admitted the destructive qualities of SUVs. But Ford wrings its hands at the thought that marketers had any say in creating the great demand for the tanks that now roam our suburban landscape. McDonald”s would probably do the same.

Josh Wickerham”s column runs every other Monday. He can be reached via e-mail at jwickerh@umich.edu.

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