Hazard, TN — When Clem O’Connor walked into the Taco Bell in his town for the first time, he was greeted with words, smells and tastes that offended him to his core. Though someone’s taste buds being offended in Taco Bell is nothing new, what made us reach out to Clem was the reason for his outrage, and the campaign he’s started because of that outrage.
O’Connor is convinced that Taco Bell is “an agent working for the Mexican government” and they are “infiltrating American culture one Cheesy Gordita Crunch at a time.” So Clem wants Taco Bell run out of his small Tennessee town, and he’s petitioned everyone from his local city council on up to the governor of the state to have the fast food chain thrown out of Hazard for good.
“You know there isn’t a single hamburger to be found on Taco Bell’s menu,” Clem asked our interviewer rhetorically while adding, “there is nothing more American than a hamburger. So I have to ask, what is it about America that Taco Bell hates?”
O’Connor says that he’s “not racist at all” but that he “just know[s] that you can’t have a huge welfare state and let any Tom, Dick or Jose in the country” even though he also says he “understands that undocumented people can’t get Federal and most state benefits.” O’Connor says that his fight against Taco Bell is symbolic as a “struggle against the silent invasion from the South.” When shown immigration statistics that prove no major influx of Mexican immigrants is coming into the country, O’Connor told us “it’s the principle of the thing” and “just because it’s one way today don’t mean it won’t be another way tomorrow.”
Clem said that “until the border is secure, we can’t have any more Mexicans coming over here” and that “coming to a place like America and seeing authentic Mexican food at places like Taco Bell might encourage them to come here illegally and never leave.”
“Would it kill them to put a nice steak and potato meal on their menu,” Clem asked. “I mean, steak and potatoes is American as fuck. But no, it’s all taco this and burrito that. It’s offensive to me that in America I might have to read menu items in a different language. I don’t go to any fancy-shmancy restaurant where the menu is in whatever language the cuisine is in. I’m an American, different cultures frighten and confuse me. I want my menus in English and my waiters better speak it too, or you can get the fuck out of this country as far as I’m concerned!”
Clem told our interviewer that he doesn’t “want to make it seem like [he’s] anti-immigrant” he just “wants the invisible boundary lines made up centuries ago to be enforced.” He also said that “it’s a great thing that these people still see the U.S. as such a great place to make a life for themselves that they risk everything and break all kinds of laws to get in here” but that “we should take a hard-line stance with them because it’s not like immigrants have ever helped us build intercontinental railroad lines or something like that.”
“All I’m saying is that we live in America,” Clem said while continuing, “and if you’re not going to adopt American values then you should get out. Taco Bell is an American restaurant in America. There should be cheeseburgers and fries on the menu, and I should be encouraged to bring my gun into the joint. That’s American values right there. But instead I have to settle for a Chalupa and a seven layer burrito and I have to leave my gun in the car.”
O’Connor says that he is still waiting for the Hazard city council to return his calls, but he has been picketing outside the Taco Bell for the last two weeks. Holding a sign that says “It’s The U.S.A., Not The U.S. of Tacos,” O’Connor says that though most people who approach him have laughed and gone inside anyway, that he knows he’s “sparked a lot of conversations around the dinner table lately” and that “at least a few people will think twice about getting a quesadilla.”
“It’s just too Mexican in there,” Clem told us, “that’s all I’m saying. It’s just too Mexican. Would it kill them to put an apple pie on their menu?”