You didn’t think this could happen here because we in Canada should never be faced with disgusting American nightmares from times past. Yet here we are.
The McRib is back.
At the very same time, Danielle Smith is trying to turn Alberta into Florida minus the warmth. Coincidence? I think not.
Alberta under her watch is proposing to violate the basic human rights of trans and gender-diverse children by insisting parents give their consent to pronoun or name changes at school. It’s also planning to restrict gender-affirming care and barring trans girls and women from female sports.
Look, I’ve known Danielle for a long time. Since before I had kids, which as they remind me with annoying frequency was 2.76 eternities ago. Let’s call it 2005.
The first time I met the then-radio person who would one day, somehow, become premier of a Canadian province we were at a libertarian conference in Montreal and I remember being bothered by her perfect nails for some reason I can’t now explain.
I just distinctly recall how they clicked on everything and how annoyed that made me as I was trying to focus on enjoying my lovely meals without paying any attention to the loud rednecks from Three-Teeth Central freaking out because they’d just learned what made blue cheese blue.
I’m better now that I’ve left libertarians behind.
I see Danielle still has perfect nails and I’m reconciled to letting her put her best foot forward, as it were, because in my old age I endeavour to be charitable.
But you want to know about the McRib. It was invented by the same guy who came up with nuggets, and suddenly everything is clearer. Unnatural shapes of preservative-rich boneless “meat” with lots of sweet sauce. Or as we who’ve had the dubious privilege of eating military rations in the field call that sort of thing: Pressed Objects in Fluids. Unless that was just me; my memory of those army exercises, which also took place in that distant time before popping offsprung, is fuzzy.
In fact the process known as “meat restructuring” that has gifted the world little chickeny fried ovals kids can’t stop demanding was developed by the American military as a cheap way to deliver protein to soldiers. I’ve never hated being so right so much.
“The McRib was not immediately successful,” deadpans Wikipedia. Or, I might add, at any other point afterward. So why bring it back?
I don’t know, because the Chicken Big Mac wasn’t fucked up enough?
On Saturday I dropped off Middle Kid and two friends at the movie theatre and decided, what the hell, I said, let’s swing by the drive-thru on the way home. I only ordered the sandwich and put the bag on the passenger seat for the short ride.
Right away the car started smelling like someone had gotten drunk on liquid smoke and that’s when the idea of combining the review of the McRib with that of Smith came to me. Drunk on liquid smoke explains sooooo much.
The McRib is a sandwich that tries to capture southern cool without having to bother with the actual BBQ part. If, like me, you’ve spent any time roaming the South, you’ll know BBQ is more serious than jesus. More regional, too. I’ve tasted charred pig in at least half a dozen southern states and enjoyed ketchup, mustard, other weird hot sauces, hickory and any number of regional variations. Personally I’ve loved the backroad pits of Brunswick County in North Carolina, but anything that features actual bone-in meat slowly cooked behind a shed works.
Alberta is not a sandwich but at the moment if we had to pick one to describe its government, the McRib would be a fine choice. The premier is currently engaged in a sad and lame attempt at vibing like Marjorie Taylor Greene but without bothering with the hard work required to be as stupendously stupid as the infamous Georgia legislator.
A good thing I'm old, otherwise I wouldn't be this charitable.
In her obvious desire to embrace every last social conservative kook she encounters, Smith is on her way to making Alberta the worst human-rights offender in Canada. We've been in this movie before, when gays, trans and gender-diverse people were denied their basic human rights and we really don't need to go back there do we.
Here’s why the Alberta way is awful, in case you need to hear it: Policies that force schools to out queer kids to their parents are fundamentally violent and also unconstitutional as they violate children’s right to life and security of the person. That’s section 7 of the Charter, if you need to foot the note. And while you’re at it I suggest you go looking real hard into any law book for a definition of “parental rights” that includes being able to hurt your kids. You’ll be at it a long time because here’s the newsflash you didn’t know you needed: Once a human is out of the birth canal and breathing on their own, they are considered a “person” under Canadian law and entitled to the same fundamental rights adults have. They are humans with rights, not things their parents own.
If that’s news to you, please stop voting.
If your kid wants to experiment with different names or pronouns, regardless of whether they’re questioning their gender or sexual identity, and said kid doesn’t feel safe to tell you about it, you are – precisely – what they’re afraid of. Kids who feel safe with their parents have no trouble sharing important information. It’s the ones who fear their homophobic or transphobic parents who hide and internalize the storm without any supports.
Forcing parental consent will drive a bunch of kids in a most unhealthy closet. Others will get outed then beaten up, or kicked out of the house. Some will suffer further harms (depression, substance use disorders, self-harm, homelessness) and some will die.
But hey, maple MAGA, amiright.
Of course most people in Alberta are against hurting children. And judging by the large protests taking place over the weekend against Smith’s faux de Santising, the policies will not be implemented. I am also fairly confident that if they were to be implemented there would be plenty of very good and awesome lawyers working on the constitutional challenge. In fact they’re probably at it already. In this business you don’t call anything a slam dunk until the Supreme Court says it first, but damn, there is no way the good people of this country will stand for any laws that deprive children of their basic human rights.
When the Dobbs decision came out nearly two years ago I went on the teevee and said watch out, the next thing the hard right will target will be queer rights. I also wrote a column about it. Abortion is the right wing's gateway drug to a society in which people who aren’t straight and married to same don’t have as many rights as those who are.
My 17-year-old, with whom I shared the dubious pleasure of testing the McRib, said she found both the sandwich and MAGA-inspired politicians unappealing and slightly upsetting to her stomach. Me, too, and I don’t just mean acrylic nails and incongruously tangy pickles.
I am damned if I leave my kids a world in which they have fewer rights than I had at their age. Smith and her fellow transphobes, homophobes and anti-choicers will find me in their way, being as annoying as I can be.