Yay! We win. America is number one!
No, this is not about finally passing some modicum of health care reform. And it’s not about putting the first man on the moon or winning the cold war or developing a cheese product that comes out of an aerosol can. Well, actually it is a little about a combination of winning the cold war and aerosol cheese.
A recent report out of China states that one out of every ten Chinese now has type 2 diabetes. Yep, China has joined the big boys – pun fully intended – and caught up with most first world nations in record time in going from a country that could barely feed its people to a country whose people believe McDonald’s is a gift from god that they can afford. America wins.
I first saw this winning strategy in Vietnam when I visited in the early 1990s. America had not yet lifted the trade embargo imposed when that country had had the gall to fight us to a draw over whose country it really was. That embargo left Vietnam among the poorest of poor countries. But despite that, despite the embargo and despite the fact that American companies could not do business there, American culture was already creeping in.
As we drove from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue, our guide, who had fought in what he referred to as the American War, lamented that Vietnam’s children wanted nothing to do with the revolution. All they wanted, he told us sadly, was jeans and rock and roll. America had won the war, not with bullets but with the Beatles.
We win wars not with napalm, secret agents or a shock and awe strategy. We win with something much more subtle and insidious. China is discovering that no matter how carefully they tried to isolate their population from outside influence while opening the front door to international trade, we crept through their people’s stomachs with MacDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC.
Why eat healthy food you have to cook when you can buy cheap, fast food that tastes great and leaves plenty of time to work more hours at the office? Why indeed.
American culture caters to the lowest common denominator in any given society. It’s what makes us great. We may look with amazement upon the giants of industry, the gabillionaires who can afford to have Maine lobsters jetted to their Colorado retreat if the mood so strikes. But we don’t really care because we can always walk into MacDonald’s and get our very own ambrosia of the gods with change for our $10 bill. They have lobster, we have a triple sized cheeseburger with bacon and ham thrown on top to make sure we get the highest cholesterol count possible. We’re number one.
I think we could save countless young lives and limbs if, instead of using military might, we use our cultural might in countries we want to vanquish. Send in our best salesmen and open up fast food chain stores in every city in the country. Blare rock and roll from loudspeakers and triple size the sugared drinks. Then sit back, sip on your blue Slushee, and watch as American might flexes its muscles while watching the muscles of the host nation turn to unsightly fat and flab.
Michelle Obama has wisely chosen to not demonize fast food in her latest campaign to stop America’s headlong plunge into Type 2 diabetes. Instead of just pointing out unhealthy foods, she pushing for generally healthier habits that include balanced meals and exercise, after which the occasional Twinkie will not do as much harm.
But what China has found to, I presume, its horror, is that it’s awfully hard to get up the urge to do anything after 1500 calories of fat and salt washed down with 30 ounces of sugar.
Yep, we win. Now America just has to sit back and watch with bemusement as even the autocratic Chinese government finds itself stymied in its attempts to turn back this deadly trend. My mom always said you caught more flies with sugar than vinegar. And we win more wars with fat than bombs.
I will give up my bacon cheeseburger when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.