The VigilanceVoice

Tuesday-- April 23, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 224

Fast Food Terrorism
Parental "Promise" Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 23-- If you've ever been to a Macy after holiday super sale, you know what Terrorism is all about.   People grabbing items, shoving, growling deep from their primal guttural gullets to ward off others trying to reach over them and snatch away the ultimate retail marked-down prize.
       Or, perhaps you've been on a windy street and an armored car crashed, spewing out hundred dollar bills from torn money bags, and if that's not enough, you're in a refugee camp starving and a McDonald's or Burger King truck pulls up and starts throwing Big Mac's and Whoppers into the crowd of emaciated people.
        What if you don't get you're fair share?
         What if everyone got something from each of these scenarios but you?
         The Fast Food Terrorism Conspiracy is similar to the above illustrations, but far more insidious in its impact.
         It seems the Fast Food Conspiracy is bent on turning strong, confident parents into sniveling beggars, failing to perform their acts of Parental Vigilance in behalf of their children.  At least, that's the way I view intent.  And, to be more specific, it's how my wife has become Terrorized by their plan to whittle away at our grandchildren's confidence in her as a Sentinel of Vigilance.
       It's all about toys, gifts, freebies.
       Since the fast food chains promote "fast fat food"--non-nutritional globs of potentially E.coli-laced food quickly prepared in unhealthy grease to sate the appetite at low cost-- they need something to mollify the wastefulness of their food and at the same time glamorize themselves as "The Sentinel of Food Champions" in the kid's minds.
      There's hardly anything healthy about fast food, that's why it taste so good.  And, it's manned by unskilled employees who have to have signs and penalties to force them to wash their hands so after they blow their nose or go to the bathroom their germs don't contaminate the food and foul the stomachs of millions of patrons.
     But that's not what this story is about.
     It's about a far more vicious form of Terrorism than contaminated food, or non-nutritional food supplements for children.
     As I said, it's about toys.
     Our experience started with Peter Pan.
     To lure the kids into the store over and over, Happy Meals are sold at McDonald's.  Inside a Happy Meal is a toy, usually something current to promote a movie such as the recent release of the remake of Peter Pan.
     The latest traffic generator the marketing departments dreamed up was to offer a Peter Pan ship.  It came in various parts.   You get one Happy Meal and you get one of the Peter an characters and the bow. You get another Happy Meal and you acquire another character and the stern.  Yet another store offers you the midship, and so on, until you have the entire  cast and the ship that Peter Pan and Captain Hook found a great stage for launching children's imaginations.
      But, try to find all three pieces.
     When the promotion came out, Lori, my wife and the grandkids' G-Ma, promised to acquire all the elements.    However, such a pledge turned out to be a Terrorizing ordeal in which she failed miserably to complete the set.  
      Frustrated, she went from McDonald's to McDonald's to try and find all the pieces, ready, willing and able to purchase useless Happy Meals to fulfill her vow to her loving grandchildren waiting for G-Ma to deliver.
      The problem is the Happy Meals come with plastic bags hiding the toy within.  You have to rip it open to see what's inside, and once the bag is opened, you cannot exchange it.  You have to buy another Happy Meal.  And, the toys aren't sold separately.
     Hunting down the right McDonald's that carries the right toy part in New York City is like trying to find a block where there isn't a panhandler sticking an empty cup in your face asking for a quarter to feed his starving family.
     Of course, as you are hunting for the missing pieces you see other little children walking out of McDonald's with their set complete, and you feel like a utter failure, a loser, a bearer of false promises when you rush to the counter only to find the store is giving away with Happy Meals the piece you already have.
      Once, G-Ma asked a little boy's mother if she could buy his midship.  The boy clutched his Peter Pan ship to his chest, reading the frustration in G-Ma's eyes and the possibility that shown there suggesting she might rip it from his clutches and dash down the street--turned into an unarmed toylifter.  She was refused, even when she offered to buy the boy two Happy Meals for one mid ship piece. In yet another frenzied attempt to acquire the missing piece of ship, she actually purchased three Happy Meals. One more time, there were none of the treasured toys in any of the bags.   She generously gave the takeout food to street bums.
        Just when the promotion for Peter Pan was waning and G-Ma was defeated, up pops Ice Age.
        This time it's Burger King's turn to torment G-Ma.
       Again, she rushes from one Burger King to another, this time her head is lowered in a threatening manner, kind of like a mommy duck warning everyone in her path to not mess with her ducklings.  They say the worse kind of death is being bitten to death by ducks, and anyone looking in G-Ma's pinpoint blue Germanic eyes would see she was not a "mamma to mess with."
        Burger King after Burger King netted characters from Ice Age that had little to do to appease her promise to get the dominant characters--the woolly mammoth, the saber-toothed tiger, the sloth.    She kept acquiring secondary characters, wart hogs and rhinos, while nice, certainly not the "prize" for her kinders.
        Her Terror was heightened when our five-year-old grandson's upper lip began to curl and quiver and tears streamed down his eyes as he looked at the non-descript character and sobbed, "But, G-Ma, you promised the saber toothed tiger."
        Of course G-Ma knows better than to promise anything to the kids for fear of breaking such a promise and leaving a trail of broken promises that would mar her credibility as a Grandparent of Vigilance, but often the children hear the "I'll do my best to get you the saber toothed tiger" as "I promise on my life, on my credibility as your grandmother, and one who loves you so deeply that I'll get that damn cat toy no matter who or what stands in my way." 
     It isn't that kids say the darnedest things, it is that they "hear the darnedest things."
     Frustrated trying to find the toys in Burger King's version of McDonald's Happy Meal, she finally went to the Walt Disney store to just buy one.  Ooops. She didn't find the sought after toys but she did find out that the Ice Age Movie is not a Walt Disney production.   Nonplussed, G-Ma marched to FAO Schwarz with no luck.  At Toys R Us, a diligent salesman told her that Burger King bought up all the rights for the toy production and  if you want a saber toothed cat, you've gotta order lots of "Happy Meals" ala Burger King.
     Now, to help celebrate Disney's 100 year Anniversary. McDonald's is offering most of the Disney characters.  Oh, what a mess that is when the kids open their "gifts" and their faces turn from high expectation to utter Complacency.  Our granddaughter tried not to show how upset she was when she opened the crab from The Little Mermaid.  She had her heart set on either Mulan or Snow White.
     See, I think Osama bin Laden is plotting with the marketing departments of the fast food chains to Terrorize the credibility of parents and grandparents in the eyes of their children.
     If the children see their parents and grandparents as abject failures in delivering the "goods," they will then seek someone who "really cares."  I've often waited for the day Osama bin Laden drives down Avenue A in a convertible with a big sign on the side:  "Osama loves little children," throwing out saber toothed tigers and midships for Peter Pan boats.
     Winning the hearts of children can be as easy as giving them what they want.
     Once the Terrorist has them in his clutches, he twists their thinking from peace and harmony into Terrorism, promoting capitalism and modern technological society is out to "get them" by offering toys they cannot deliver.  He tells them he has real guns and real bombs they can play with, ones that go "boom" and can obliterate anything near it, including people they don't like.
        Obviously, he doesn't tell them he stockpiled all the best toys to shrink the market and give himself power over their parents.   Or, that he gets his money to support his Terroristic activities from capitalism, or, that he doesn't allow fast food chains in his master plan.
       Seduced by the wiles of  bin Laden's false claims they will find a land of endless toys at McDonald's and Burger King that parents and grandparents can't find, the  misguided children follow him to Terrorist Training Camps, where, he claims as any good Pied Piper, there awaits a land of milk.
       Now, you might think the above scene a little absurd.   But, when a child is reduced to tears over not getting an expected toy, and, a grandmother is driven bonkers racing all over town to attempt to get an advertised toy, there is obviously something terrible going on.
      A child thrives on parents' and grandparents' promises.   A child also is crushed by the failure of those promises to blossom.
      As a child my parents threw out cheap promises to sate my hunger to have things I wanted.   It was easy for them to say, "I promise I'll do that for you, or get you that, but not now, later."
      Later never came in most instances.
      Instead, I would wait for the promise to develop, and when other promises came out of their lips, I recoiled.   I began to suspect their lips as false.  Why would they lie?  Why would they crush my expectations?  Why would they make me think I was important, and then ignore me?
     Raising our children, my wife and I agree to avoid the use of the word "promise" with our children.   "We'll see.  I can't promise anything, but there is always a possibility. And, if that doesn't happen, perhaps something else will."
     I even went so far as to explain to them why I avoided the word promise.  I told them my parents had promised me many things, and when they didn't happen, or they forgot to keep their promise, I was hurt.  And I told them I didn't want to hurt them by making them think I was going to do something and then not do it.   I told them the best I could was to try and remember, try and fulfill an obligation, but if I didn't, it wasn't because I didn't love them, it was because I had gotten selfish and self-centered and put myself first."
      I was big on reality training, not just for my children, but for myself.   That didn't mean I used such explanations to justify not doing things for the children.  Quite frankly, my concern for not promising anything enhanced my ability to do things for them, to stuff my selfishness in favor of their needs.  What I didn't want was their image of me as a father, or my wife as a mother, to be based on the delivering or non-delivering of promises.  The only real promise, I told them, was that I would love them no matter what, even if they didn't think I did.
      I believe too many children's feeling of loneliness and alienation from their parents comes from dashed promises.    It is so easy for a parent to bend to a child's demand for something with a promise, and just as easy for a parent to forget that promise in the hectic melee of life's demands.
       To fully comprehend the Terrorism of broken promises, one only needs to travel back in time to when one was a child.   Focus on broken promises between yourself and your mother and father, or your loved ones.   Let your mind flow through them and realize how jagged the edges are of childhood resentments that you were led down a false path.
     Extend that thinking into teenage years.  Remember the promises made by parents and friends, boyfriends and girlfriends that were broken, neglected, forgotten or misused.
     Travel forward farther to adulthood.   Take relationships and think through the litter of broken promises and the devastation they imposed on your emotional well-being.  
     Think about your job and the boss who promised you this or that and then forgot or recanted the promise and left you feeling abandoned, stranded, shipwrecked on a lonely barren island of unfulfilled expectations.
     Marriage is another battleground of ravaged promises, pacts, vows mutilated and masticated by one party ignoring them, forgetting them, not upholding them while the other clings to them as though they were gospel.
     And finally, think about the promises you have broken to yourself.  The ones about losing weight, or exercising, or changing various behaviors, or seeking more happiness than sadness, or vowing to "never do that again" until you do it again and find yourself helplessly trapped in your own self-imposed Terrorism of falsifying your own self-will.
     Now, think about a promise to your child.
     As the word "promise" passes over your lips, use the history of your own experience with promises to decide whether you want to amend the word, to alter it so that it won't be used as a band-aid to quickly assuage the expectations of your child.
     Promises are nothing more than Terrorism's booby traps.   If they go unfulfilled, they explode in a child's mind, destroying the faith and confidence in the one who issued it, chipping at the integrity of you as a Sentinel of Vigilance, a protector and guardian of your offspring's sense of fairness.
     Unfulfilled promises create Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in a child, as well as in an adult.   The equation usually equals--"You can't really love me or you would have kept your promise to me."
      What greater Terrorism is there than feeling "unloved?"
      President Bush promised to rid the world of Terrorism.  Look at him.   He's straddling a razor blade.   If people view him as the "Father Of The Nation" and he doesn't fulfill his promise, he will destroy a major portion of his credibility.   Politicians issue promises as though they were candy. Their goal is to get the "instant vote."  After they are elected, they find that the promise they made cannot, in many cases, be fulfilled.   Their intent initially might have been good, but if they can't deliver, then what?   We lose confidence in them as a "leader."  We feel abandoned.
       It takes Vigilance to not promise a child, or, for that matter, anyone.   It takes a lot more Courage to face up to the fact you're human, and may not be able to make your promise come true, and to tell whomever:  "I'll do my best, but I can't promise anything."
       It takes Conviction to pursue one's commitment to "do their best," realizing that "doing one's best" is in and of itself a promise that one must keep not to the child or other person, but to one's self.  It becomes a Pledge of Internal Vigilance rather than an external placebo to quell the demands of another.
       Finally, one must act on one's Conviction for there to be any sense of attempt to fulfill any obligation.   Such action may result in one of two things--achieving the goal or failing to achieve it.    In either case one can look the other person in the eye and say, "I tried."
       So the next time you are lured into a Fast Food Terrorism establishment by the "promise" of a "free gift," be wary of the Trojan Horse of Terrorism.
       Inside that little package might be a test of Vigilance.  When the kids open it and stare at you with sad eyes and quivering lips because the toy they wanted isn't the one they got, try and stifle the promise to "fix their pain."  If anything, tell them you'll try your best.
       And, be also wary of those who promise you things.   It could be Osama bin Laden in disguise as the head of the marketing department for McDonald's or Burger King.

 Go To April 22--The First Terrorist

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