Our Way not McWay

Let’s Have it Our Way



As a medical doctor, professional ethics demand that I carefully help patients consider a risk/benefit analysis as regards their therapeutic options.  Most medical advice has pros and cons – benefits and side-effects. Now, as an appreciative resident of South Whidbey for the past nine years, I find myself doing the same exercise as regards the arrival of McDonalds to our island. While I agree with those concerned with quality of life issues (desiring to preserved the sense of community which makes Whidbey so unique and appealing to you to remember why you chose to live here in the first place) this letter will focus on the serious and subtle risks I see ahead. Before we talk about risks though, let’s look to the benefit of McDonalds coming to the island.


Contrary to slick PR efforts, convenience is the sole benefit.  (Taste is not a benefit if you ask people who cooks their own hamburgers or any patron of Dick’s for that matter!). Some analysts claim that the reason McDonalds is the nation’s largest private owner of playgrounds is because the quality of their food won’t bring in enough business. McDonalds’s as babysitter is a dubious benefit in a world that needs more quality parenting and more family time around the dinner table.  The promise of meaningful employment is also illusory as the fast food industry is by far the largest employer of minimum wage earners (3.5 million workers). Workers are typically restricted to working less than 40 hours a week to avoid overtime payment and benefits. More dis-spiritingly though, consider the ramifications of this fact. The attribute most valued in fast food workers is “obedience”. Creativity, problem solving, thinking on one’s feet can get your kid fired. Instead, put the kid’s mind in idle, pay the kid to recite happy phrases while following strict regimentation to ensure standardized products. Homogenization is the goal, not enhancement of humanity. Would you want your child to work in that situation? 


What about the risk of crime? Robbers know that people rarely pay for fast food with credit cards. Therefore, fast food restaurants are more attractive to armed robbers than gas stations, convenience stores or banks because fast food stores have thousands of dollars in cash on hand. It is also worth wondering why no other industry is robbed so frequently by its own employees. Would you want your child to work in that situation? 


Now you might be wondering why a medical doctor would discourage people from patronizing McDonalds since some suggest that the more saturated fat people eat, the busier are doctor’s offices!  You may know that cardiologists recognize that heart disease begins with dietary habits in childhood. That means you don’t “get” a heart attack, but rather you cultivate one over years and years of bad food choices. Heart attacks used to be quite rare under the age of 65. Now, men over the age of 35 are at risk and nutritionists point out many aspects of fast food as responsible for the epidemic. It is true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so be careful what you feed your loved ones. (Even the chicken McNuggets are reported to contain twice as much fat per ounce as hamburgers though they are sold as “healthy” options).




Fortunately, we still have enough freedom in America that a corporation like McDonalds is free to try and bring their standardized product to our non-standardized and uniquely wonderful island. Let them try. But while they do, my challenge to you, good neighbors, is “caveat emptor”  – buyer beware. Read  Eric Schlosser’s  Fast Food Nation – The Dark Side of the American Meal  (Houghton Mifflin 2001) and be mindful of what people try to shove down your throat.


To Your Health!


Bradford S. Weeks, M.D.  © 1999

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