Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2002 / 28 Kislev, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

We deserve a break today from McDonald's lawsuits | I offer you today a column for the season of holiday feasts when, for most of us, at least, stomachs are pleasantly taut and we wander about with that sense of warm contentment that comes of appetites indulged, that sense of well-being, good cheer and rightness with the world that is unfortunately followed, as naturally as sun follows moon, by insidious guilt, crushing remorse and solemn self-promises to henceforth eat only carrots and tofu and to hit the gym hard and regularly beginning at dawn on Jan. 1.

A column, in other words, for the days of bloat. Fellow fat folks, I bring you good news: It's not your fault. Blame your jumbo-size thighs on the host who offered morsels too tasty to resist. Blame the stomach that arrives five seconds before you do on the restaurant whose menu was just too darn appealing. Blame the backside that's spreading like an oil spill on the big bones you inherited from your mother.

Blame anyone and everything, in other words, except your own utterly blameless self. This is the tempting and inescapable implication of a lawsuit wending its way through the federal court system in New York. The class-action suit, filed on behalf of several children, seeks to hold McDonald's legally culpable for making its customers fat.

Life-threatening fat, in fact. One plaintiff, a 15-year-old Bronx boy, is a McDonald's regular who is said to be 5 feet 6 inches tall, to weigh 400 pounds and to suffer from diabetes.

So let me get this straight: A regular diet of Big Macs and fries will make you fat and wreck your health? Wow. I mean, who could have figured? Apparently, not these kids or their parents. It's all news to them.

Yeah, right. And if you buy that, I've got a magic weight-loss pill you're going to love.

Hey, I like seeing a huge conglomerate get soaked as much as the next holder of a shrinking 401(k). But I have to side with the Golden Arches on this one. It's not even close.

The nascent move to hold fast-food restaurants responsible for the obesity of their customers is obviously inspired by last decade's crusade against the tobacco industry. Cigarette makers were forced to -- pardon the pun -- cough up billions of dollars to recompense decades of death caused by tobacco. Granted, the states seem to have applied the windfall to every use but the promised one -- health care -- but, still, there was a certain logic to the lawyers' argument that Big Tobacco was at fault.

Big Fat is another matter entirely. After all, tobacco companies lied for years, disputing the proven scientific link between using their product and dying early. They also designed that product to be as addictive as crack, so that people who tried to quit found it maddeningly difficult to do so.

By contrast, McDonald's has never pretended it was selling health food. Nor have I ever seen anyone need an arm patch to facilitate their withdrawal from Big Macs.

I also find it hard to believe that a kid who was eating at McDonald's several times a week was dining on steamed fish and brown rice the rest of the time. So how is it that Mickey D gets tabbed to bear responsibility for making the kid fat? Maybe I'm just the suspicious type, but I'm thinking that nearly $15 billion in annual revenue might have something to do with it.

There is a reeking cynicism to this suit, and while that's galling, what's truly obnoxious is the message it sends to its young plaintiffs, a message that is unfortunately ubiquitous these days.

Namely, that you can do whatever you want and never be held accountable for it. That you can always find somebody to blame.

What happened to those kids, lamentable as it is, happened because they -- and, more important, their parents -- failed to exercise control and moderation. It's their fault. You think they'll ever accept that?

Fat chance.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

11/19/02: On question of Megan's Law, information trumps other concerns
11/12/02: Winona, just say, 'I'm sorry'
11/08/02: Your local police, brought to you by Joe's Bar and Grill
11/05/02: A father, a son and an essay
10/29/02: Things like this don't happen
10/22/02: Real monsters look just like women and men
10/18/02: Snoop's new tune rings hollow
10/15/02: A reminder of life's random cruelty
10/08/02: He toils in the name of change because he can't just stand by
10/01/02: Sharpton, crossing swords with the white corporate dragon, needs to learn what the civil rights movement really was about
09/25/02: A skewed sense of compassion
09/18/02: On death and a pop-culture mindset
09/10/02: Inconvenience me, PLEASE!
09/06/02: Latest CBS joke isn't funny
09/03/02: A rewarding life as a working stiff
08/30/02: We infants in men's clothing
08/27/02: Sept. 11 - How much is too much?
08/23/02: Cut it out already, media!
08/20/02: Brace yourself for attacks of the stealth ads
08/16/02: Russia, please, pretty please let the rocker hitch a ride into space
08/12/02: Racial 'colorblindness' is silly
07/30/02: Oh, to be famous
07/19/02: In Pop-Music Thriller, Jacko Takes on Sony
07/09/02: The password is 'frustration'
06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald