I'm not saying the waitress was a Communist, but when you're wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a Communist, the customer wonders how to tip. Maybe patrons should run out of the restaurant without paying, so they don't perpetuate the system of capitalist oppression? Not sure what the etiquette is supposed to be here. Except that when you know the guy on the T-shirt said, "I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood," you're less inclined to order the hamburger rare.
A few days later, I was at a famous place that sells bar-b-que -- you know, the one with the pig on the sign, if that narrows it down. The pig's pretty happy you're eating other pigs, which makes sense, but it means their mascot is an ethically challenged enemy to his species. (Think "Che.") The nice clerk at the counter wore a big sticker for a polarizing social issue, which made me wonder: Did the manager think, "Oh, by all means, introduce hot-button topics to the act of selling slow-cooked porcine flesh. It's a natural fit."
Makes you realize: Gosh, there's not enough politics in our daily commercial transactions.
It's odd how these things are still rare. We float through our day buying groceries or gas or the occasional candy bar, and most of these transactions lack an explicit political dimension. Oh, you may come across something vaguely political -- Welcome to SmartFuel! All our regular gasoline is hand-refined, locally extracted, fair-trade, no HFCS -- but generally people keep their politics to themselves in the commercial world.
Now and then a big company tips its hand -- Target threw some ching to the Emmer campaign. General Mills came out against the marriage protection amendment, leading to the sighs of people who were glad, and others who really wish they hadn't, because now they have to weigh social policy considerations against things like "lots of fiber for the price." In the case of Target, people who opposed its decision might have thought, Well, I never and said, It's Wal-Mart for us now! No, hold on. They're doubly extra evil with evil sprinkles on top. Two weeks later they're behind the red cart again, but they aren't happy about it, not at all -- Say, what's this? Samples? Yum.
As for General Mills, some might think, "Fine, I'll buy from Specific Mills," but then the kids ask: "Mom, how come we can't have the cereal with the happy bee anymore?" Because of the homosexuals. "Is the bee homoseg-jul?" I don't know. I just don't know anymore. But two weeks later, there's a sale on the bee cereal. $2.49. Regular $3.19. Well, the bee probably had nothing to do with it. In the cart it goes.
In other words, it's difficult to keep track of what you're supposed to be annoyed about. The other day I was standing at a Redbox, trying to decide which loud, empty movie I would hate less, and I realized I had no idea where Redbox stood on fracking, or recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I did what anyone would do, especially if there was a line behind him: I got out my smartphone and Googled the company.
They used to be half-owned by McDonald's, which is bad because of the obesity but good because they have salads, but now they're owned by Coinstar. You can Google the company to see whether it makes political donations, but that takes awhile, and people behind you in the line start to mutter. Hold on! I'm trying not to ruin things here in the global sense.
So perhaps everyone should just be honest. For example:
I demand to know where the restaurant server stands on a proposal to mandate that 37 percent of all future "Jersey Shore" spinoffs use self-tanning lotions based on sustainably harvested oils.
I really need to know whether the company that makes my favorite toothbrush favors sanctions on Iran, and whether those sanctions should be Soft, Medium or Hard.
And so on. There's no reason political opinions can't enhance every single aspect of our communal interaction. Why should bumper stickers -- perhaps the most powerful rhetorical device ever created, and largely responsible for ending attempts to supply fish with bicycles -- be confined to bumpers?
As it stands now, getting a burger or some ribs or a cup of coffee is like trying to read a chalkboard in a dark room. You have no idea whether you disagree with someone or not.
Man, that's frustrating.
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