Politics as Usual

Over and out for In-n-Out

The fast food insurrection began at Fisherman's Wharf’s In-n-Out Burger. Photo: Allenlai7/Wikipedia

In mid-October, General Colin Powell passed away at the age of 84. A man who defined leadership and who worked across the broad middle of American politics died at a time when leadership is hard to find and the middle has shrunken and is in ill repute. Naturally, after the announcement of his death, left-wingers got “war criminal” trending on Twitter as they blasted Powell for his role in the Iraq War, and a little later, the abbreviation “POS” trended in response to Donald Trump’s predictably graceless reaction to Powell’s death.

Meanwhile, the Newsmax-curious crowd ignored the fact that Powell had been dealing with cancer and was immunocompromised. They exclaimed “See, he was vaccinated and he still died of Covid!” The reality was closer to what others noted online: He didn’t die because he was vaccinated; he died because you aren’t.

And so we were robbed of even a short moment of unity that often comes from the death of a revered figure. But it underscores the current obsession of some in this country to do as little as possible to help anyone else in any way.

So let’s talk burgers!


About 20 years ago, on a slow day at the office, my coworkers decided to do lunch at In-n-Out Burger at Fisherman’s Wharf. They had learned that I, a native of the upper Midwest, had never even heard of In-n-Out Burger and they wanted me to experience it.

It was legendary, they said. They rattled off some of the special menu items, some animal-related French fry concoction, and the fact that the company printed Bible verses on some of its food containers.

I rather liked that last idea. So much of American society is based on either pretending your religion has no connection whatsoever to your actions or that you are the perfect exemplar of it even though you pursue policies diametrically opposed to the religion’s tenets. I disagree with both approaches; a religion is a person’s philosophy — it explains to them how the universe works and has a set of moral guides, just like almost every secular philosophy. Calls for politicians to leave their religion out of their decision-making therefore strike me as absurd; unless they’re lying about their faith, that is the framework in which they make decisions. Same for businesses. You don’t want your dry cleaner’s faith shoved down your throat, but I find it somehow comforting to see a Buddha statue or a cross or a photo of Tom Cruise at some local family-owned store.

So off we went to In-n-Out. I don’t recall the food being much different from other fast food joints, but I enjoyed the experience. It was my first In-n-Out visit, and now I have reason to suspect it will remain my only visit.


It made national headlines last month when the Fisherman’s Wharf In-n-Out Burger was temporarily closed by the city’s Department of Health because the store refused to enforce the vaccination mandate. Arnie Wensinger, the chain’s chief legal and business officer, reportedly said, “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government” — thereby clarifying that they wouldn’t help China’s government, either — and that they “fiercely disagree” with government requirements that make private businesses “discriminate” against customers.

Here’s something to consider. If it’s known as a place that doesn’t enforce the vaccine mandate, doesn’t that suggest that people who are unvaccinated will go there in higher numbers than to mandate-adherent restaurants? So wouldn’t it become the absolute last place you’d want to get your food if you believe in science and like life? 


With mask mandates, shelter-at-home orders, and assembly limits, San Francisco was able to be a star performer nationally in terms of low infection and death rates. 

If In-n-Out Burger wants to make itself the Hobby Lobby of greasy lunches, that’s their business. But news that the company is oh-so-fiercely opposed to vaccine mandates does make one wonder if they enforce basic public laws against full nudity in their restaurants. If not, I hope they’re sanitizing the chairs regularly.

We can’t make people pretend they care about others. But Bible verses might not be off-topic when we are trying to make people at least be considerate of others.

In a recent Commonwealth Club interview, columnist and self-proclaimed “amiable atheist” George Will recalled England’s problems when the science of distilling flooded the country with gin. “It took a horrible toll on families, on the social fabric of the burgeoning cities of the industrial revolution. They tried to pass some laws.
 . . . But that’s not what took care of gin. John Wesley took care of gin.  . . . We need several John Wesleys.” 

Wesley was the posthumous founder of Methodism. His preaching about faith, personal responsibility, and the exercise of faith by helping others transformed England and was a major force in the new United States. Faith, politics, and public health can be in a virtuous relationship.

Here’s a quote to put on a burger wrapper: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” and enforce the darn vaccine mandate.

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