I have many issues with the cabinet picks of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. All of my objections are, I might add, well-reasoned and logical. But the strongest of these objections is perhaps the least logical. They involve the newly chosen Secretary of Labor, former St. Louisan, Andy Puzder. As most of you know, he is the CEO of a large fast food chain. There are many valid reasons to oppose him of course. But many of these are because he runs the business the way Capitalism dictates that a business be run. He is (This could perhaps go without saying) opposed to an increase in the minimum wage. He has stated that if the price of labor goes up, he would consider replacing his labor force with robots “who don’t get sick, always upsell, never take a vacation and never slip and fall.” He has been opposed to a paid sick leave policy and a rule that would make more workers eligible for overtime pay. Paying a livable wage and providing benefits for a full-time worker, when one doesn’t absolutely have to, is contrary to his business model.
Meanwhile, his own annual compensation package has been as high as $10.1 million. Within it, one would assume, is a very generous sick leave policy. But admittedly, there is nothing in the above resume that would allow me to disparage him. All of the above falls in the category of “Maximizing Business Efficiencies”. Except the salary. That falls under the category of “How Else Would the Super Pacs Get Funded”. Mr. Puzder contributed $332,000 to The Scammer’s Campaign and now gets to be in his Cabinet. Money needs to accumulate in the hands of those who can perpetuate the status quo. I understand all that. This is all perfectly logical capitalist shit.
What I don’t understand, however, are those goddamned commercials. And this is where I become not logical. Perhaps you’ve seen some of them. They are little vignettes in which very young, spectacularly beautiful and splendidly endowed women in itsy-bitsy bikinis eat gigantic artery clogging, 1000 calorie hamburgers with such gusto and fervor that one can easily imagine them having oral sex with that Thickburger. Which is the point of course. As juices dribble down their chins and into their cleavage, they writhe, bump, grind, buck and visibly moan and…And…AND…are SATIATED. Good old American advertising. “As American as apple pie,” says Andy, smugly. And he’s right of course. I recognize that. Except that there is something that so pisses me off about these commercials. Before I’d even heard of Mr. Puzder, there was something about them that just lit me up.
Now I must say this is a confusing position for someone such as myself to hold. I am admittedly compromised. I have always appreciated the female form. As much as anyone. More than most. And I must say that even with all my maturity, my senior status and such, I am no less appreciative now. And I like hamburgers. I wouldn’t perhaps die for one, but I would go out of my way for an especially good one. All of this is to say that Andy and shameless ad guys grab and hold my attention as much as any of his 18-34 year old male target audience. I don’t think I make the same direct connection between a Hardee burger and wild sex with a super model as some might, but age has given me some powers of appetite distinction. A small favor to be sure.
And I am on record, by the way, that I approve of sex. I have voted for it in every election that it has been on the ballot. Though this is not about sex. This is about cynicism and dishonesty. I was angered by these commercials the first time I saw them. And I am angered more now that I know that Andy (and his wife, he is quick to tell us) ”approve this message”. And given what I know of the Pussy-Grabber-Somehow-Elected-President, I can see that they so do not belong in any Cabinet Room deciding issues governing the welfare, labor rights and physical and mental health of millions of people in our work force, most of whom do not look like Kate Upton or Paris Hilton
Guys like this millionaire are given a free pass with the explanation: “Sex sells.” As if that gives them permission to promulgate images and messages that in my view, diminish women. As if selling fucking hamburgers is a good enough reason to objectify and debase women. Again, it is dishonest. It is cynical. It may be his America, even others’ America. But it is not mine. I expect better from those who lead. It is a fatal flaw of mine. One of the reasons I do not expect to attain Nirvana or even perhaps a decent night’s sleep again in this lifetime.
By way of contrast, I came across a series of videos this week. They were short clips of men, fathers, proudly holding their young daughters, both staring into a mirror. The father would take the lead and say to the daughter in the mirror: “I am STRONG.” The daughter, understanding the game, would smile and repeat with force to the father in the mirror: “ I Am STRONG!” Another Dad would declare: “I am BRAVE.” The girl would boldly repeat, with a large grin: I Am BRAVE!” “I am Fierce,” Dad would say. “I am FIERCE. RRROO--AARRR!” the daughter, the baby girl, would proclaim. Their voices getting bigger now: “I am CONFIDENT!” On and on they affirmed: “I am KIND!” Basking in the attention of their Daddies, they vowed: “If I FALL, I will GET BACK UP!” With their arms upraised they proclaimed: “I am LOVED! I am BEAUTIFUL!” Staring at us, and in their determined, joyous little girl voices they proclaimed: “I AM HOPE! I AM PEACE! I CAN DO ANYTHING!”
I was moved beyond words. Nothing in the last two months had given me that much hope.
And then I imagined the words of The One Who Does Not Understand the Meaning of Truth and the Burger Magnate Who Smirks and Approves This Message, standing behind the cameras, speaking to their hired models, still young women themselves: “Lick that burger, sweet thing. Eat it like you mean it. Swallow it whole, baby. Make them want you.”
And the difference between Love and Winning at Stupid Games had never seemed so clear. The contrast between healthy and unhealthy, between functional and dysfunctional, between fundamental human values and fantasy for profit had never been so stark.
There are those who encourage us to become that which our hearts and souls want us to become. There are those who stand at our backs and gently push us to go where we want and need to go. There are those who have our best interests at heart and want us to achieve our goals. And then there are those who use us to achieve their goals. And those who threaten, trick, bully and bribe to get us to do what they want us to do, to buy what they are selling.
Mr. Puzder’s commercials convinced me that he was in the latter group. He Who Foists Fast Food does not, in the larger sense, have our best interest at heart. Yet there will be no great hue and cry for his rejection. There are too many unhealthy men in that group for him to be singled out. And by and large he is operating within the accepted parameters of our business and personal norms. It would be absurd for me to think that we could muster any traction on this issue, given that women in hot pants and white go-go boots (Hot pants and white fucking Go-Go Boots?!?) pole dance in front of millions at NFL and NBA games. There has been and will be no outrage from the American populace over this issue. It will not happen in this culture.
But that there are Fathers instilling in their daughters the absolute limitlessness of their abilities, the depths of their courage and the range of their imaginations, is balm enough. It is the ground we make fertile. They are the seeds we plant. It is what we do. It is enough for now.