Views from afar vary on McDonald’s

McDonald’s was a landmark institution in Hillsboro. Its neon lit sign was the third tallest structure in town-overshadowed only by the grain elevator and the water towers.

The news of its demise spread like a prairie fire among the View From Afar gang. This motley crew of friends, some expatriates from small towns-including Hillsboro-and other armchair pundits, was true to form and quick to opine and speculate on this crisis.

“I presume the McDonald’s had already driven out the locally owned restaurant and is now getting its just desserts,” wrote Brian from Paris.

I had to explain that when the hometown restaurant, the Iron Kettle, burned down, many of its patrons just walked across the highway to encamp at McDonald’s for their morning coffee.

The most outrageous interpretation shocked me.

“Clearly, the Nancy Pelosi loving, Hillary Clinton supporting, white wine sipping, fern bar devotees of Hillsboro have achieved what the citizens of Berkeley, Boston and Taos were unable to achieve in their battles with McDonald’s. Hillsboro has fought and won a cultural battle to prevent America from becoming a gigantic, boring strip mall. Could the city be emerging as a Blue pimple in a very Red state?”

This purple prose from a nameless alumnus of Tabor College demonstrates the very limited value of graduate degrees in English. He fails to understand that in Kansas strip malls are symbols of progress and nobody even knows what a fern bar is.

Another Kansas friend wrote me: “These folks need to go for local products. Didn’t they realize that McDonald’s buys beef from Argentina and their milk shakes are made with seaweed?”

Even if his facts are a bit skewed, I had to give him points for his provincial pride.

My international friends from Iraq and Sudan asked about what restaurants remain in Hillsboro.

“There is a place serving pizza, a new place with Mexican food and an established business with a German buffet,” I said.

“Clearly you are becoming an international city serving Italian, Mexican and German foods. Why not exploit this and get the city declared a UNESCO world heritage site, fly the United Nations flag over the high school and attract tourists from all over the world,” they suggested helpfully.

Ideas like this leave me silently rolling my eyes.

“So now where do the farmers go for their morning coffee?” asked Tim, the caring, peace-loving person.

“I understand some of them go to Ampride-the gas station and mini-mart owned by the farmers cooperative,” I said.

He became very excited. “You mean the peasant farmers in the county gather at a worker-owned cooperative for their morning consciousness-raising sessions? Do they join in solidarity with the campesinos of El Salvador and Nicaragua as they drink their Fair Trade morning coffee and discuss the presidency of Daniel Ortega?”

He seemed very excited about this option until I explained that most of these farmers were landowners-not peasants-and that they drive pickup trucks worth more than the GDP of El Salvador and were probably mostly skeptical about raising the minimum wage.

Adam, the elitist, saw the situation from a unique perspective.

“Clearly the farm economy is booming with higher grain prices and Marion County folks are ready for a bit more upscale coffee. Why don’t they open a Starbucks coffee shop franchise? Once they have tasted a Grande Low-fat Caramel Macchiato, their lives will be forever changed,” he said.

“And about how much will this cost?” I asked.

“Well, about $3.65 plus tax,” he replied.

“Sorry, I suspect these folks would sooner drink recycled swill for under 50 cents a cup than pay that sort of price,” I said.

The View from Afar gang has lots of opinions but very few solutions for life’s persistent questions. I shudder to think what they will say about more troops going to Iraq.

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