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
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
. 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
. 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
, 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
— 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
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
. 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
— 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
— 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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