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Gluttony Is Our Friend 

Worry not about the health scare. Being pigs is our divine right.

By serving Big Macs -- the nutritional equivalent of C-4 - explosives in a bun -- the Clinic guarantees repeat - customers. - DANNY  HELLMAN
  • Danny Hellman
  • By serving Big Macs -- the nutritional equivalent of C-4 explosives in a bun -- the Clinic guarantees repeat customers.

Americans are fat pigs. For some reason, this is supposed to be a bad thing.

Never mind that being the world's lone remaining superpower isn't as fun as the brochures would suggest. Sure, we get to blow up small countries once in a while. But it's hard to get fired up over that big win in Panama, and the festivities usually last but a few weeks. Then we're stuck with the cleanup bill.

Superpowers also have way too much responsibility. If there's a beef in Israel, slaughter in Liberia, nukes in North Korea, or AIDS in Africa, we're supposed to take care of it -- and nobody's paying us overtime. You don't see anybody bitching at Finland about this stuff, do you?

Fact is, the superpower job blows. There is but one perk: gluttony.

As ruler of the world, it is our divine right to wallow in the spoils. Think of it as a small consolation prize for growing big enough to blow stuff up and ignore Europe. So we drink too much, spend too much, shoot each other too much, and, most of all, we eat too much. Yes, sometimes it is good to be king.

But now these last small perks of world domination are being stripped away. Daily are the reports that we, as a nation, are becoming fat pigs. There is talk that lifespans will become shorter, that twentysomethings will need bypass surgery, that children won't be able to bathe because they eat so much sugar they dissolve in water.

The culprit: junk food. The supposed solution: Put down that chili dog, punk, and slowly back away.

Never mind that such logic violates natural evolution, which requires that all superpowers engage in wholesale gluttony until they're crushed by their own weight, at which point they become has-beens like France, which means you get to sit around and squawk from the sidelines, which is a way better job.

But there's an upside here. It's a concept called "hypocrisy." And it says that being all-powerful means never having to say you're sorry -- or admit that you're full of shit.

Hypocrisy comes in many delightful colors. You can find it in foreign policy, where we blab about democracy, yet sleep with Saudi Arabia. You can find it in the environment, where last week the President claimed that, by easing pollution rules on power plants, our air will actually be cleaner. And when it comes to health, you can find it at the Cleveland Clinic.

It is here where some of the world's best doctors cure illness, salve wounds, and lecture their patients to eat as if they're 18th-century Protestants.

But the clinic also houses franchises for McDonald's and Pizza Hut, kiosks for Krispy Kreme, and cafeterias that serve onion rings the size of hockey pucks. Yes, one of medicine's leading citizens is -- gasp! -- in league with the agents of Porker Nation.

This, of course, is just good business. McDonald's and Pizza Hut no doubt pay handsomely to exploit a captive audience. And by serving Big Macs -- the nutritional equivalent of C-4 explosives in a bun -- the Clinic guarantees repeat customers.

Spokeswoman Eileen Sheil tries to put it in a less cunning light. "A lot of patients have requested places like McDonald's," she says. "It's a matter of convenience, so they don't have to leave the hospital."

She doesn't know how much the Clinic makes from its franchise agreements, nor does she see the contradiction in the message. But she does seem very eager to get off the phone.

Dr. Eric Topol, chairman of the Cardiovascular Medicine Department, appears to understand the hypocrisy in preaching health yet selling Sausage McGriddles, which require an EPA permit to haul across state lines. He's been leading an internal charge against the Clinic's harboring of dietary war criminals. But he doesn't want to talk about it. Wise is the man who won't dog his employer in print.

Thus far, Topol's had little luck with his crusade. It appears that even within the hallowed confines of medicine, money speaks louder than health.

Which shall be our saving grace.

There is talk in Congress of restricting school lunches, pushing food companies to go lighter on fats and sugars. None of which will ever happen. To do so runs contrary to the laws of campaign finance. Since 1990, the food-processing industry has shoveled $66 million to our plump little friends in Washington. That's more than enough money to keep them on their asses -- and to make sure any bill remains stuck in committee.

Certainly they'll still bray, and Important Guys in Lab Coats will continue to issue Very Alarming Reports. But it all comes with a wink.

After all, this great nation was founded by guys who considered meat, salt, potatoes, and liquor to be the four main food groups. They did not fell the English so we could turn into emaciated joggers who for some reason have yet to discover motorized vehicles. They did it so we could be like Ben Franklin, America's first supermodel, who took great pleasure in pounding brewskies, cracking wise, and nurturing a magnificent gut.

So let us embrace gluttony with the fervor of our forefathers. Let us eat and drink our way to becoming a second-rate power. As the famed Scottish nutritionist William Wallace once remarked, "Is it not better to die a free man eating chicken wings than to live under the tyranny of spinach pellets?"

And maybe the next time some small country needs bombing -- like, say, Iran -- we can let the Chinese handle it. We'll squawk from the sidelines -- and get it catered by KFC.

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