The All-Star Rodeo Challenge came to Madison, WI last weekend, and the farmer took me and my kids. I was not thrilled about going, but I try to be open-minded when it comes to stuff that is new to me that I am not ever wishing I will get a chance to experience.

I asked the farmer if rodeos are bad for the animals.

He said, “City people probably think so. But most farmers don’t.”

He told me that if I really hated it, we could leave.

I really hated it before there were any animals. Before there were animals there was the flag, rising above the dirt ring, and the announcer saying everyone should sing the Star Spangled Banner to honor “the flag that protects our troops, and our churches and our great country.”

I looked over at the farmer for churches, and before I could roll my eyes, the announcer said, “Everyone please rise in the name of Jesus and sing the Star Spangled Banner.”

I told my kids to stay seated.

The farmer stayed seated out of solidarity even though he hates standing out. It was a great moment of compromise for us.

We watched the rodeo. There was a clown. The kids did not quite know what was going on and they wanted to know why the cowboys had weird clothes. But then Ronald McDonald came out — right into the bull ring. The kids recognized him immediately, and then they realized the clown was not a cowboy; with Ronald McDonald present, the world seemed to fall into place.

Then out came the animals.

In between cowboys falling violently to the ground, the announcer would say jokes like, “My girlfriend says she wants to get married. I told her I hope she finds someone nice.”

The theme of the evening, in general, was “real men get thrown off bulls and treat women like crap.”

Until the women came out. They were acrobats on fast running horses. Sort of like the clowns, only dressed like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. The most special time, I think, was when two girls did tricks on one horse. The girls did not share a horse because the tricks are more difficult that way, it was more like the girls shared a horse to make you think they’d be available for a threesome after the show.

Luckily, this was lost on my sons. And the farmer acknowledged that this was not a family values kind of thing.

Okay. So we stayed. And then, the clown started talking about doctors. He said there are 120,000 doctors in the US and there are 70,000 accidental deaths a year. And there are 80 million gun owners in the US, and there are 12,000 accidental deaths a year. Then he shouted out, “So doctors are more dangerous than guns! So Washington, keep your hands off our guns and our health care!”

I looked at the kids. They were concentrating on their popcorn.

Then, out of nowhere, the clown brought out a wig, that had dreadlocks, and he put on a Rastafarian hat, and he started pretending that he was Barack Obama. He said, “I feel so presidential.” And he made jokes about whether Obama is a US citizen.

Why am I telling you this?

First of all, it made me feel lonely. I have heard the doctor/gun owner argument before, but not in a stadium, in Madison, WI, which is one of the most left-leaning cities in the country. And I know there is racism in this country. But I can’t believe that not a single person in that stadium yelled out anything after a racist joke. I would expect, actually, that people would boo and hiss and throw things into the ring. But no one said a word.

I felt lonely that I live in a city where this could happen. I wish I could find a place where I feel like I fit in. I think I find it, and then I don’t. And really, how could I even think that I’d fit in at a rodeo? But I kind of thought the place would be full of people like me and the farmer. Now I think I don’t even know what that means.

Another reason the rodeo makes me sad is that McDonald’s sponsors it. My ticket stub says “All-Star Rodeo Challenge. Pre-show: McDonald’s Cowboys 4 Kids”. Somehow the whole thing is more upsetting because it’s sanctioned by McDonald’s. And they know better.

My company, Brazen Careerist, just launched a company section in our social network. The reason we did that is because according to Cone, 50% of generation Y communicate with companies through social media. And Jeremy Owyang, from Forrester Research reports that, “In approximately two years social networks will be more powerful than corporate web sites. Brands will serve community interests and grow based on community advocacy.”

Today, young people see corporate brands as an extension of their identity. This is why Facebook has been so successful with corporate fan pages — young people want to express themselves by linking themselves to corporate brands they like.

And, people who manage their careers well end up paying more attention to a company’s reputation for caring about people and community than what any given job description is. After all, a job description can change the day you walk in the door, but how a company participates in the world around it is not likely to change quickly.

Okay. So. I confess to being relatively close to the McDonald’s brand. I didn’t use to be. I never ate at McDonald’s in my life until I moved to Madison. But in Madison, it’s a long, cold winter, and McDonald’s has great indoor playgrounds, all over the Madison area. And each is different and fun in it’s own way. So we tour them all winter.

Also, now that I understand the beef industry a little better, I understand that McDonald’s single-handedly cornered the beef industry, yes, but also listened to consumer outcry over animal conditions, and meat quality, and improved both (by hiring Temple Grandin.)

So I like McDonald’s. But today, I can tell you that if I had a job at McDonald’s, I’d be lonely. Because they sponsored an event that teaches kids prejudice and hate and racism. And if companies want to attract good employees, they need to be good corporate citizens. Those are the type of companies we want to work for.

One of the most important changes in work life is that we do not define our career by working for one company—we change jobs too frequently. Today, we define ourselves by the integrity with which we manage our career. That requires working with companies we respect. The integrity of individual companies matters more today than it used to—it affects the bottom line for those companies on both the consumer side and the employee side. We watch corporate brands closely, to see how we will use them to extend our own brand.

Finally, since it’s Martin Luther King Day, and since Psychology Today just published a study that says people feel better if they do an act of activism, I have a proposal:

We should each twitter today:

@McDonalds Racism is not okay and neither is hate. Please stop your support of the All-Star Rodeo. http://bit.ly/4AiXT1

UPDATE! Here’s a response from McDonald’s:

Hi Penelope,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This appears to be a local pre-show program in support of a local Ronald McDonald House Charities fundraiser. Rest assured, McDonald’s does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are currently looking into this matter.

Jessica Thompson

Manager, U.S. Communications

McDonald’s USA