My wife, Tia, is boycotting Tom Cruise.
“I don’t want to support his lifestyle,” she explains, meaning either his womanizing or his proclivity for the-religion-that-must-not-be-named.
“I’m sure that boycotting his movies,” I reply, “will adversely affect his income and lifestyle.”
“You boycott Walmart,” she retorts. “I’ll boycott Cruise.”
She has me there. For years, I’ve avoided shopping there. I’m not saying new Walmarts drop more Main Street stores than Buffalo Bill Cody dropped bison, but I’ve seen them suck in townsfolk easier than dark holes do gravity. Moreover, Wikipedia cites several interests that question the store’s policies, including “labor unions, community groups, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups and Walmart customers.”
Look, Tia and I both know our puny attempts to change a box office megastar’s popularity or megastore’s profits are fruitless. We’re no neo-Thoreaus willing to go to jail for our beliefs; our actions are civil disobedience lite, fat-free, less sodium.
Kind of like my decision a decade ago, after reading Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation,” to fast from fast-food hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken whatevers and fries.
To that end, I’ve been faithful. Mostly. Recently, after picking up a few hamburgers for our dog, Chewball, the fatty, grilled beef scent escaped the bag. At a stoplight, a burger leapt out, tore off its wrapper and clawed its way into my mouth, seducing my taste buds before escaping down my esophagus. Finding me vulnerable and weak, the juicy sandwiches repeated their attack at each traffic light and stop sign thereafter, darn near leaving Chewball hungry when I got home.
Hearing about my beef, chicken and fries abstinence, my students and children look at me like I admitted to wearing barbed wire undershirts. Actually, the decision came easily after reading two chapters in particular.
“Why the Fries Taste Good” reports “ ... the job of the flavorist is to conjure illusions about processed food ... ,” Schlosser writes.
“ ... the manipulation of volatile chemicals ... create a particular smell.” That’s why one whiff of a fast-food franchise beckons better than a witch’s gingerbread house.
“What’s in the Meat” argues not only “pathogens” reside there, but horrifying ingredients added by bored, young, low-paid, little-educated and unskilled workers. Yuck.
Some potential boycotts fail. Before they were built, stores responsible for shrinking Batavia’s Braeburn Marsh were to be shunned. Our resolution died, however, after visiting Trader Joe’s. Principled stances have their breaking points, including Two-buck Chuck and Honey Oat Bran Bread.
Some boycotts, however, are forever. A certain seal coating and dethatching company annually throws its ad, folded in a plastic sandwich bag weighted by two stones, in our driveway. That’s not advertising; it’s littering. For one thing, how do you get rid of those rocks? I’m thinking of finding the company’s address and dropping them off – in its driveway.
So, take a stand, citizens of Fox Valley; you, too, can boycott your least favorite store, company or movie star. It’ll make you feel like my wife, who’s living on Cruise control.
• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley since 1979. His poetry, stories, essays, and book reviews have appeared in more than 100 literary journals. He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.