Bit by a Dead Dog

TALKINLOUD, SAYING NOTHING: You may not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, but the good news is that sometimes you can’t always fool them with the same old ones. A case in point is George Bush’s notable failure to gain traction last week by yanking the old Marriage Protection Amendment out of mothballs. In this case, Bush sought to explain how the homosexual threat to the sanctity of marriage had grown so dire that the Constitution itself needed to be changed. The whole thing would have been silly if it weren’t so obvious. Bush’s approval ratings have taken a beating even in such blue-chip, white-bread Republican states as Utah and Idaho. Like a rat activating the lever that always delivers the food pellet, Bush sought to win them back by rekindling the homophobic passions of his core constituency. But even the hard-core gay haters found Bush’s most recent exertions on behalf of the sexual status quo all huff and no puff, and efforts to amend the Constitution failed to clear even its first hurdle.

On one point, however, I agree with Bush. The much-maligned American family clearly needs help. From where I sit, the obvious solutions involve significant infusions of time and money, both of which were significantly absent in the Marriage Protection Amendment. Until these ingredients are on the table, however, I think the American family would be better served by a wholesale attack on the single most pernicious threat to family values — the American pizza industry. Since the mid 1980s, the per capita consumption of pizza has skyrocketed alarmingly. It’s hardly a coincidence that as pizza sales have soared, so too have American divorce rates, juvenile crime, adolescent drug use, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, Internet porn, women in the workplace, and finally, interest in Wicca by pre-pubescent girls. The evidence is irrefutable. As families consume more pizza — seduced by the “we-deliver-and-no-dishes-later” convenience — they spend less time preparing their own food. They spend less time eating together, preferring instead to cram a few quick greasy, cheesy wedges down their throats, belch, and bolt. As the family meal atrophies and withers, we place at risk the fundamental bedrock upon which the fate of Western civilization depends. Frankly, I am a little surprised the Conspiracy Conservatives haven’t figured out that it’s the dinner table, not the bed that demands attention. Certainly, one would have thought that these conservatives would have recognized that pizza was brought to these shores by sun-darkened foreigners clouded by dual allegiances. In fact, for years the nasty epithet used to describe these immigrants was the acronym for WithOut Papers. I remain surprised that anti-immigrant activists have not objected to the ubiquitous presence of the Italian flag and artwork celebrating violent crime in so many pizzerias. I mean, when was the last time you went to a pizza joint and did not see a poster for the movie “Godfather” on the walls?

Given the dire implications, one might have thought the pizza-industrial complex would have sought to maintain a strategically low profile. But instead, it revels in its wretched excess. Each day, Americans consume 100 acres of pizza. Fully one-sixth of all restaurants today are pizzerias, and pizza — a $32 billion-a-year industry — accounts for 10 percent of all food-service sales. The average American consumes 23 pounds of pizza a year, but more alarmingly, 42 percent of all children between the ages of 6 and 11 surveyed by agents with the Department of Agriculture confessed they’d eaten pizza within the past three days. Clearly, pizza qualifies as a gateway drug, yet our elected leaders choose to look the other way. And Americans’ pizza addiction is growing. In 1994, the average American consumed 7.93 pounds of mozzarella cheese a year, ingested exclusively as a pizza topping. Two years ago, it was 12.5 pounds a year. You do the math. It adds up to a lot of bloated, constipated bellies. Pizza’s effect on the heart — salt- and fat-saturated cheese and meats — is even more damaging. Worse yet, the pizza lobby is funding research into the development of new cheese molecules that do not break down under the intense heat of the newer, faster pizza ovens. Guess what? These molecules don’t break down in your body either, and the mischief they inflict while inside ain’t pretty.

The problem has gotten even worse in recent years as the pizza industry has teamed up with the purveyors of Ranch dressing — which, along with the environmental movement and the Egg McMuffin, is a decidedly Santa Barbara invention — to make America the most obese nation in history. To the extent that pizza’s popularity reflects a dearth of family values, Santa Barbara’s ostensibly family-friendly Mesa is in big trouble. Giovanni’s is currently building a new pizza emporium just spitting distance from the Mesa Pizza Company and right across the street from Deano’s and Domino’s. While the Santa Barbara City Council fiddles with neighborhood preservation ordinances, the pizza ovens burn. To what end this conspiracy? If you have to ask, you obviously did not see The Da Vinci Code. In this film, we learn not only that the Holy Grail is really the vagina, but that a small sect of conservative Catholics — along with Mel Gibson — is trying to take over the world. In this light, it’s important to remember that the owner of Domino’s Pizza, Tom Monaghan, is currently building a brand-new city based explicitly on Catholic values — named Ave Maria — in Florida where, among other things, it will be against the law for pharmacies to dispense condoms and other forms of birth control. Get the picture now? Or do I have to explain that the real reason the right wing keeps talking about gay marriage is to distract from the real issue of pizza. In the meantime, make mine with anchovies and extra pepperoni.

— Nick Welsh

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