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Earlier this month, amid all the hoopla of economic meltdown, I pawed about for some way to empower myself. My meager stock portfolio was down nearly 50 percent. The silver dollars I bought earlier this year — to use as currency in case of global catastrophe — were also down by nearly half. Nothing seemed secure.
Decades of indirect self-help, pop-psych sound bites have taught me, however, that I can work to overcome anxiety by simply doing something, dare I say, ”proactive.” Though I may hate the clichÃ©s, I am not clever enough to think beyond them.
The answer came to me as golden arches. I spent my post-divorce adolescence fattening myself on double cheeseburgers and McNuggets. I spent my early adulthood avoiding meat and slandering Roy Croc. These days, my passion long since snuffed — though being half Swiss, I’m sure I started life with a passion deficit — I care little about McDonald’s one way or the other. But nearly any enemy of the American Family Association is going to be a friend of mine.
Since throwing some support to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, McDonald’s has been under the American Family Association’s gun in the form of a boycott.
I attached my little logic bubbles one to the other and surmised that if I am feeling powerless, helping others will empower me; that I can help others with simple acts of charity as the economy contracts; and that my charity will be dealt in McDonald’s gift certificates as a sort of ”fuck you” to the AFA.
The odd coincidence was that as I was looking for McDonald’s gift certificates online, Oct. 9, the AFA released a statement: ”Great news! Because of AFA supporters like you, McDonald’s has told AFA they will remain neutral in the culture war regarding homosexual marriage. AFA is ending the boycott of McDonald’s.”
The AFA letter continues, advising that franchise owners have been assured by McDonald’s that they will be ending their involvement with the NGLCC and will remain ”neutral” in the what the AFA regards as the ”homosexual agenda.”
NGLCC referred me to their ”corporate partners” page, where McDonald’s is still listed, presumably till their $20,000 membership expires; and to a statement, also dated Oct. 9, offering that NGLCC has not had any word from McDonald’s about the company ending its support.
From McDonald’s, a note including, ”Diversity and inclusion are integral components of our brand and our heritage.”
All of it has the gloss of public relations and was not of much interest. What was of interest, however, was Burger King. Apart from all the McDonald’s furor, Burger King seems to have passed under the radar, the only other fast-food outlet I spotted among NGLCC’s impressive lineup of partners. Accordingly, I jumped online and ordered $25-worth of ”BK Crown Cards.”
The Crown Cards even forced me to be more generous than I would’ve been with McDonald’s gift certificates, which come in $1 denominations. With The King, a card has a $5 minimum. I gave the first one to a guy on the corner of K and 14th Streets NW — two blocks from a Burger King — on Monday.
For the foreseeable future, I hope to continue a monthly $25 BK Crown Card habit. While I don’t share the same nostalgia for Burger King that I do for McDonald’s — I’ve had the ”Big Mac, Filet o’ Fish, Quarter Pounder, french fries,” etc., mantra memorized since the ’80s — this feels good. Though I would not go so far as to say I’m lovin’ it, I am having it my way.
Somebody on the streets gets at least one meal of his or her choice, within the parameters of the BK menu, with a $5 limit, excluding tax. I get to feel less a victim of economic currents than I would by doing nothing, and I have also crafted for myself an alternative to ignoring a plea for help or giving into it with cash. I get to support an NGLCC supporter and counter the AFA at the same time. Perversely, I’m countering the AFA with an act of charity, which one would think is something they should be more concerned with in their support of the American family. After all, I imagine every homeless person I’ve ever met probably has a family somewhere, rather than having been spontaneously generated in a park or shelter.
Granted, I won’t be making points with my vegetarian buddies, but my options for donating gift certificates to street people to use at vegetarian fast-food outlets are limited, to say the least. Nor will my monthly $25 turn around the economy. I can’t say I’m necessarily comfortable supporting a monarchy, either, but in these tumultuous times, you do what you can. And doing something is better than nothing.
Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly‘s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.