Saturday, February 17, 2007


M is for Mcdonalds. Billions and billions served. After navigating Erez, the border crossing from Gaza into Israel, Ramone and I hitched ride coming from a nearby settlement, a white double-cab four-wheel-drive pickup—just like in America. The driver was a man, maybe 35 years old, baseball cap and mirror sunglasses. He was friendly in the way that men who have money and like to have fun are friendly. If he was American he would watch baseball, drink beer with his buddies, maybe even snowboard. All I did was point down the road and there he was, like magic, with his kind-hearted middle-class beauty of a girlfriend. Maybe they eat at Mcdonalds on occasion, when they are in a hurry. She was visibly disturbed when I described the situation in Rafah.

She asked, “Do they have public transportation there?”

I said no, they have taxis. Every car is a taxi, or at least that is how it seems. And every taxi is a Mercedes diesel. Gazans are sensible about cars: a Mercedes diesel holds the world record for mileage. Someone drove it for a million miles before it died. So Mercedes diesels are good if you know that you will never have any money to buy a new car and you have to drive taxi every day to live. It’s what you would call a good investment.

M is for Mcdonalds. That’s where the driver of that pickup dropped us off. The Mcdonalds was in a bus station in Ashqelon. Earlier the driver said, “I’ve been to Gaza. I used to go often. I like Palestinians. I used to have a lot of Palestinians who worked for me.”

Now he doesn’t go to Gaza and he have any Palestinian workers. That’s because the Israeli government and army make it very difficult for Israelis to go there and for Palestinians to leave. There is a general travel ban. It means economic warfare, less jobs, less money, more poverty for Gazans.

M is for Mcdonalds. Billions and billions of cubic yards of rainforest ecosystem destroyed to make way for beef cattle. Billions and billions of underpaid non-union workers. Billions and billions of dollars trickling upward into the bank accounts of bosses CEOs and stockholders. Billions and billions more spent on advertising. Don’t those Palestinians have any sense? They should buy stock in Mcdonalds and forget about the Intifada. But people like them probably don’t have the fiscal know-how to manage a well balanced portfolio. That’s okay: Mcdonalds is a place for everyone. It’s a dream of free-market utopia. If they would just grow up and realize there is no future in Gaza, and if those A-rabs would quit their bickering and their terrorism and act like civilized adults, all this conflict would be unnecessary. All the people in Palestine could be relocated to post-war Iraq. Once the USA is done over there, that whole country will be bombed down to bedrock. Everyone knows that bedrock provides a solid foundation for pouring concrete. Mcdonalds would be glad to build concrete factories in post-war Iraq and put all the Palestinians to work grinding up South American rainforest beef into hamburger. Or Gaza could be turned into a big Free Trade Zone and they could all go to work in clean, sanitary, modern factories making paper cartons for Big Macs. Everybody knows that Mcdonalds cares about the environment: that is why Big Macs come in paper cartons instead of styrofoam. Styrofoam is bad for the ozone.

M is for Mcdonalds. Ramone orders a Big Mac meal and I order a coffee. After extensive experimentation and research, I have concluded that there are only three redeeming aspects to Western Civilization: coffee, chocolate, and booze. All three are poisons in disguise. I’ll tell you a secret: Mcdonalds spends almost as much money on the coffee as they do on the food. So the coffee is not quite as bad as one might expect.

S is for Soldier, Sha’hiid, Security, and Sacrifice. Sha’hiid means martyr, means someone who dies because of the Occupation. There are security guards outside Mcdonalds in Israel. They have metal detectors and pistols. They are there to make the world safe for a pathetic illusion of democracy which rings false like the glossy pornographic ad images of juicy burgers dripping technicolor mustard and vibrant crimson ketchup. They are there to make the world safe for work place tyranny, low wages, and the oxymoron of ‘Free Market Capitalism’ wherein nothing is free, not even trash. Soldiers are what warriors become when they lose their honor, put on a uniform, and go to work for money or because the government coerces them to fight.

Soldiers are fighters who don’t understand jihad: jihad is action in service of community and the divine creator. Fighting is actually the least desirable form af jihad. The problem with war today not that wars are happening, it is that they are fought in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Wars, like funerals, are solemn affairs, seldom desirable and usually occasions of unfortunate sorrow. What the hell kind of war is Kalashnikovs and rocks against tanks and nuclear bombs anyway? What the hell kind of war is missiles with a 100 mile range operated by an army too broke from ten years of economic sanctions to buy spare parts for its tanks against ICBM nukes, spy satellites, and stealth bombers? Lousy no count dishonorable war. All fighters with self respect should avoid it like plague.

Mcdonalds is where cows go when all their dignity is robbed, when they are killed with no respect for the life within them. The problem with hamburgers today is not that cows are killed to make them, it is that no one says thank you to the cows. The epidemic spread of Mcdonalds on earth is symptomatic of a planetary spiritual malaise much more devastating than E coli. There are too damn many soldiers, too much security, and too many sha’hiid.

S is for Sacrifice. What is the meaning of sacrifice?

Finally, once and for all, let me ask you what the world trade center bombing has to do with this or anything? Fellow Americans, perhaps 9-11 is best regarded as an emergency wake-up call. Like this: your phone rings like an explosion, you answer, and someone tells you in a language you neither speak nor understand that you are part of a larger world, that many people live in this world, and billions of us are enraged by the secret fingers of USA, of CIA, of covert military operations, training programs for killer militias, loan-shark weapons dealers who get rich providing machines to kill, economic and military aid to dictatorial thugs from Saddam Hussein to Auguste Pinochet and beyond, the gunmoney tentacles of USA have killed their mothers, sisters, sons, tortured their friends, sentenced their fathers and daughters to wage slavery, destroyed their homes. Sometimes in Gaza they say it says “Made in America” on the bombs which fall from the Made in America F-16s.

It is time to start learning the language this warning is given in, and simply condemning a language as evil is not how to learn it. Do you actually believe that sad line about suicide bombers being cowards who are afraid to fight fair and in the open? Consider, for a moment, the total dedication necessary to willingly die for what you are fighting for. How does this compare with the courage it takes to sit in a cockpit thousands of feet above the ground, facing erratic salvos of inaccurate fire from antique anti-aircraft guns, knowing your chances of surviving the war are as good as your chance of surviving the commute to work through traffic, and to press a button that releases a missile? Perhaps ‘suicide bombers’ are desperate people who know full well that their suffering is a direct consequence of U.S. imperialism.

C is for Coca-cola. Rachel sees a Coca-cola delivery truck parked on a narrow Arab street. “Our embassy,” she says. Poison in disguise.

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