Posted: Nov 26, 2002 12:00 AM
In pursuit of corporate deep pockets, a substantial number of Americans seem willing to portray themselves as complete idiots. Yes, we are talking about the lawsuit filed against McDonald's on behalf of eight teen-agers who have become obese and have other health problems after years of gobbling Big Macs and fries on a daily basis. One 15-year-old named in the suit has already topped 400 pounds and told ABC News that he had "no idea that the Big Mac, Supersize fries and milkshake he consumed every day added up to nearly 1,800 calories and almost 60 grams of fat." Not just every day, but sometimes three, four and five times a day. This is beyond satire. Where does one begin? With the parents of this unfortunate lad, who are so lazy and/or incompetent as to let their son eat at McDonald's every day? With the 15-year-old who is so greedy for money (as well as fat) that he is willing to tell the world he's too stupid to know that milkshakes are fattening? And please note, these folks are seeking to begin a class action. Step right up to join the first class action in history on behalf of stupid fat people! But of course, not one of these plaintiffs is actually that stupid. They are simply following the logic of the times, which permits one to excuse -- no, reward! -- one's foolish or negligent behavior by blaming the manufacturer of products one freely purchased. Particularly unstupid are the trial lawyers who rake in huge fees in this scam. The cigarette suits set the standard: You smoked for 40 years fully understanding the risks, but now you have cancer and are suing the tobacco companies because their advertising lured you and their nicotine addicted you. Right. As if we haven't known for decades that cigarettes are health hazards. As if we hadn't had warnings on every pack. As if schools hadn't drilled us on the dangers of smoking. It's quite amazing, really, the lengths to which some will go to evade responsibility for their own actions. I do not speak as a fast food fan. Though my kids consider McDonald's fine dining, I am one of those who would rather go hungry than eat a burger and fries for lunch. It's awful for your arteries, and it doesn't taste nearly good enough to be worth it. A spokesman for McDonald's claims that its food "can be part of a healthy diet based on the sound nutrition principles of balance, variety and moderation." Well, not exactly. People would be better advised to treat McDonald's (and its competitors) as the equivalent of Baskin Robbins -- a treat, not daily fare. The omnipresence of fast food establishments is a blight on the landscape and the waistline of America. But fast food chains are not entirely to blame. They are simply part of the wretched excess that has taken hold throughout society on the subject of food. Restaurants now routinely serve platters laden with servings large enough for three adults. Appetizers have become more and more fat-laden: fried potato skins, tortilla chips dripping with cheese, fried onion rings, etc, etc. Breakfast restaurants offer a huge stack of pancakes, plus sausage, toast, orange juice and coffee as an ordinary start for your day. Even treats are more excessive than they used to be. Ice cream shops don't just serve single or double scoops or banana splits. No, now they all add chopped brownie bits or M&Ms to the mix. Restaurants compete to provide the most caloric and "decadent" desserts. One could argue that if Americans are exercising little more than their God-given right to waddle their Supersized bodies from McDonald's to Burger King and back, so be it. But there is a serious point here. One cannot legislate self-control. And yet all of the Founders believed it to be the essential foundation of self-government. It's bad enough that so many Americans are gorging themselves and spilling over their chairs, but its downright disgusting that some seek to blame anyone else. And it's absurd to expect a nice court-extracted annuity from McDonald's because you were too self-indulgent to refrain from eating far too many Big Macs and fries.