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You Go To McDonald’s Too Much!: On Being Called Out and the “politics of the small things”

It seems these days I’m getting “called out” for going to McDonald’s too much.  I admit, it’s part of my daily ritual. Evidently people out there are having a problem with this (smile wink). It would be nice if people were actually concerned about my physical well-being, but no, this has evidently become a problem of my moral duplicity. This is what tweeting will get you.
First it was my friend Will Clegg who dares to ask me about this privately (at least he did it privately) with the following FB message:

“David, on occasion you criticize American politics, capitalism and other facets of American life.(I have no problem with that) What I wonder about is why you go to McDonald’s on a daily basis? Isn’t McDonald’s the epitome of much of what you say is wrong with America?”

Will

Again, notice, no concern for my health, diet or physical well being (wink, wink).

Then today, while diligently minding my own business toiling away in my other office (McDonald’s cubicle 2, Rolling Meadows), my new Anabaptist revolutionary bro Brian Gumm, writes a post calling me out for my duplicitous McDonald’s misbehavior (smile wryly). He says among other things:

… one thing in particular strikes me about Fitch: He’s at McDonald’s a lot. I know this from his tweets. Just this morning he reported, “Gathering early at McD’ s w/ triad in the back to read, pray, check in and ask the questions – ahhh discipleship 🙂 #fb.” What’s the deal?
I have a love/hate attitude about McDonald’s, and the fast food industry in general. To me, McDonald’s is an icon of the neo-colonial powers of late modern consumerist hypercapitalism. For instance, when I saw commercials for McD’s in Ethiopia – piped across an Arab satellite network – I cringed. (Thankfully there are no McD’s in Ethiopia…the government is very strict about foreign chains setting up shop in the country.)

That’s the hate side. The “love” side is that I’m an American who was a child in the 80s, bathed in  advertising with catchy jingles like the “menu song“. (Note how much the word “love” has been used in their advertising over the years. That matters.) We didn’t eat at McDonald’s frequently when I was a kid, but it wasn’t unusual and I was usually pretty excited to be there getting cheeseburgers and the occasional “Happy Meal.” Now with a family of my own, we’ve mostly exorcized fast food from our diet, but it’s still an option when we’re on road trips. We recently stopped at one in Pittsburg on the way home to Virginia from Iowa, wherein I grudgingly munched on a chicken sandwich from The Man. (I kind of liked it…but just a little.

But this David Fitch at McDonald’s thing?!
I’m sure he’s read all the stuff that I’ve read and more that would give one a bad attitude about the systems and clusters of practices surrounding fast food. But there he is. I imagine having this conversation with Fitch, at McDonald’s of course, with me giving all the reasons stated above. Fitch would nod and grin, barely concealing a mouth full of sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. So why?
In all fairness to Brian Gumm, he gives a heroic answer to my dilemma on his post. Thanks man! I needed that. Read the entire post here. But what I love about this post is the way Gumm brings up this whole issue of inhabiting the evil empire. How do we do it when in fact we might be supporting it by just being there? Afterall, I am notorious for asking American Evangelical Christians why they insist on elevating the practice of “voting” in an American election to the equivalent of the Eucharist. In fact, we might make it higher than the Eucharist for as best I can tell the majority of Christians I know aren’t really bothered when they miss the Eucharist a time or two, but hell would have to freeze over before they would miss voting. (I suggest we could even bring down this empire if 37 million evangelicals would just refuse to vote! But I digress).
At the risk of sounding trite (and making too much of my habit of going to McDonalds), I think resisting the powers of injustice is mostly about doing the small things. We have to sit, be present, and cooperate with what is just, resist what is not, and of course bring the peace and reconciliation of God in Christ to everything in these places we inhabit. At the risk of making my McDonald’s habit more holy than it is (I admit I first started going to this McDonald’s because of it’s PlayLand. I took my 3 year-old and I was able to get some work done too. In other words, my McD’s habit might reflect poorly on my parenting as well as my eating habits if I were to be totally honest 🙂 ), I think we must beware of concentrating too much on every way every system corrupts and/or undermines God’s justice and salvation in the world. Let’s pay attention for sure. Avoid what we can. But let’s not end up refusing to participate entirely in the systems (I’m thinking about voting this election!). We might find ourselves in paralysis by analysis. We might not even be able to walk out the door in the morning. We have to start somewhere and for me that somewhere is local. With my neighbor. Hanging where he or she hangs. Watching, praying, being with, all the while staying in integrity and doing what I’m called to be doing.  For me, in Rolling Meadows/Arlington Heights Illinois, that’s my local McDonald’s.
In answer to Will Clegg I said the following:
Will,
McD’s is where my peeps go … it is the intersection of Rolling Meadows/middle class Arlington Heights(to be distinguished from upper class Arlington heights) where I live. I admit it’s a bit of a compromise … but I follow Aquinas’s dictum “to my neighbors first.” Justice starts in my relationships communally in the neighborhood … here at McD’s is excellent place to have those relationships …
Now I admit, supporting McD’s and some of its overtly capitalist excesses might seem a problem. But the peeps here might indeed be undermining it. They can’t be making money on us. We mostly drink the coffee, and alot of these peeps take advantage of the “senior” discount. McD’s at times is forced to see injustice issues in the store (at times) … say treatment of immigrants etc…
If I had alternatives in the hood, that were not McD’s, I’d probably prefer it … but as is…given the ubiquity of McD’s everywhere … I just don’t see the advantage of singularly avoiding it when so many people go there … My strategy is to go and subvert … participate as much as possible .. ceasing to participate when it is sin (i.e. eating a Big Mac) … Perhaps this alone will bring McD’s to become a more just place?
… til then … til maybe we all meet at each others’ homes (which the McD’s peeps do sometimes) … I’ll continue to infest these places for Kingdom!!
Blessings .. good to hear from you!!
In short, when engaging the systems of injustice in the world, we might have to actually inhabit, engage and be present in order to bring justice to overwhelmingly large systems. In the words of Brian Gumm, we might have to “find small fissures in the empire, enter in, and subvert from within to whatever limited degree we can.”
So what say you? Yes or No to McDonald’s. And if anyone suggests I need to switch to Starbuck’s, I’ve got one sentence for you: “Fair Trade” is a Consumerist Label the Capitalist Empire Has Absorbed to Make You feel Better When You Go To A Upper Class Snob Fest.
There, I feel better (smile, wink). (That’s for my Portland and Seattle bros – especially Bob Hyatt).
OK, Am I in trouble now?

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