By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Our national love of fat is taking on even larger proportions. The State of Massachusetts is moving toward fat-acceptance and enacting legislation that protects fat people under that State’s discrimination laws. Legislators there want fat seen as a disability and in the same category as ‘height’. “Right now, fat is just a marker of bad character, an undesirable personal trait that people bring on themselves.” Fat acceptance folks are feeding the myth that weight is not a choice.
American Fat is prized throughout our society and overflows into our popular culture. Even television glamorizes ‘Fat’ in such shows as "Bulging Brides" and "The Biggest Loser". In Texas, there is a 242-pound yoga teacher who demonstrates "HeavyWeight Yoga”. At the same time we have a War on Smoking and an old War on Drugs and Gambling and Prostitution, we pander to the largess of our most unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors. All hypocrisy aside: Either we are a people who pride ourselves on personal responsibility or we are not. It cannot be both.
When he was still a viable Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Bill Richardson called for fat people to be protected by the Americans for Disabilities Act. “This is an issue of basic civil rights. There are no federal laws that protect obese Americans from discrimination in the workplace, school, or anywhere else. This must change.” We are protected by federal anti discrimination laws but only if it is shown that Fat is an actual disability and not a lifestyle choice.
Fat people do not deserve special shielding by our nation’s civil rights laws. These laws are in place to assure that every American is treated equally and not disparately for a reason over which they have no control. Race, gender, religion, and even sexual orientation are human conditions that individuals cannot control. Smoking, drug use, and being fat are choices we all make and, at the same time, choices we can opt out of if we wish. But unless cigarette smokers are going to get special treatment, then no way should fat people demand ‘reasonable accommodation’ (unless you define that as being a stairmaster).
At the same time and taking the opposite approach, Gavin Newsom, Mayor of the People’s Republic of San Francisco, a place dear to my heart, signed off on a law adding a tax onto soft drinks because of their impact upon the weight and diet of City residents and consumers. Likewise, a New York City Councilman from Brooklyn wanted to “ban” fast food joints from poor neighborhoods. His justification was, “there is a high concentration of fast food eateries in low-income communities, and … that might contribute to obesity rates, which also tend to be greater in those areas.”
Both of these elected officials donned the feedbag of stereotypes and rapidly consumed and eschewing popular myths. Steven Colbert calls it “truthiness”; the assumption of a fact as being true because it sounds true or feels true but which is not necessarily true.
Having been a “poor person” at one point in my recent life; including having to stand in food lines for a monthly bag of free groceries, there is news about the causes and dangers of fat people. Putting a fat tax on soda pop will burst my Dorito clogged arteries.
First of all, removing fast food restaurants from poor neighborhoods will not diminish the neighborhood poundage. Fat comes from prepared foods as well. The dietary habits of a poor person are very restricted. Believe it or not, but if you try and shop on a very limited budget, you will find that your priority is to alleviate hunger for as long as possible. In any supermarket, you will find that the least costly foods are also the most fattening, most laden with hydrogenated vegetable oil and high fructose syrup, and offer little in health benefits. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and uncooked meals are beyond the budget of those in very limited and fixed incomes. But you can buy liters of soda pop for a buck and generic chips, 2 for the price of one.
Second, removing fast food restaurants from poor neighborhoods will only contribute to the poverty and problems. The poor tend to not have private transportation or cannot afford the cost of long drives to work or shopping. Fast food restaurants also provide entry level jobs for kids and folks who may not otherwise have access to employment. If you remove these establishments, you will cause chaos and the poor people will go hungry. What do we do when the fat people come looking for food? Will they eat the poor and kill two birds with one fork? Is Coca Cola now going to be the drink of the rich and famous at North Beach? Are our children safe from a Modest Proposal?
Third, even if the assumption is correct that removal of fast food restaurants from poor neighborhoods will reduce the number of fat people, there still is the problem of exercise. Australia has the right idea mandating that by 2020, every citizen will have to pass a physical fitness test. With our poor, shall we build them public gymnasiums … will there be mandatory exercise classes for the poor and fat people? Will preventing poor fat folks from downing a Big Mac be the Final Solution to fatness? Is a tax on soda going to be our first new Jenny Craig Law?
Before I go further, I want to make it clear that some of my best friends are fat people. A lot of them are pretty cool. I have found they are just as kind and honorable and intelligent as are skinny people. Tolerating their Twinkie stained teeth or the stank of cooking grease on their clothes can at times churn my stomach but I do not object to working with them or dining with them or when I have had too much to drink, having sex with them. Recent medical news suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is healthier. Because there are so many fat people, one can only assume they are seen by many as beautiful and worthwhile. I know I do. If they were not, we would have bred them out long ago; as they did in Beverly Hills. This has nothing to do with them.
What really brings me to a boil is the greater hypocrisy in society. Fat people and smokers make the perfect example of how we have gone berserk in our thinking. We banish smokers, we tax them as hard as we can, they are looked down upon, frowned, ignored, disregarded, and considered “dirty” amongst the general population. At the same time, America is SUPERSIZING up for the new millennium. Airline seats are growing larger. So too are movie theater seats, household and office furniture, and automobiles. More food, fry it well, slather it with something, and don’t forget dessert.
Addiction is nothing more than an excuse. I choose to put that cigarette to my mouth. Only from my pocket can come the fire that burns away the cilia in my lungs. Same too with a Big Mac; unless there is a gun at your head, you are the one taking that next bite of mouth-watering savory deliciously greasy salty fatty carb-loaded machine-separated animal parts. You choose to spend your two free hours per night in front of the television instead of running laps around the block. The same rule applies to alcohol, heroin, and crack. We all make choices in our lives; not all are productive. It is simply ludicrous to blame the drug, the casino, or the Twinkies for our actions.
The day we accept this principle will be the day we move forward intellectually as a species. There will never come a time of absolute uniformity. Nobody can live a perfect lifestyle where everything done is for the betterment of the mind, body, and soul. Even if you did manage to perfect this ideal, still one day you will get very sick and die. Assuming you are not first hit by a bus. They say (whoever ‘they’ are) such a lifestyle is the goal for a longer more satisfying life. A point is made, however, that the years gained come at the end of your life. Personally, I would prefer the extra ten years or so to be between my 20’s and 30’s. Giving me my 80’s and 90’s may or may not be such a good idea depending on my savings and physical condition. It could be a living hell.
We are beating each other over the heads with taxes, insurance, and ostracism as we struggle through the confusion. If I smoke, my medical insurance premium is higher assuming I can get any insurance at all. Life insurance premiums are obnoxious in comparison to a non-smoker. The combined taxes on my drug equal to more than half the cost of the product. Yet, only regular sales tax applies to a bag of Doritos. My butts are saving your fat ass.
Taxation is a means of enforcing social change. We use it to offset losses and raise revenues. “Sin” taxes help moralists and religionists ease their consciences by bringing down the mighty hammer of the Lord upon those who would choose to sin. We want smokers to quit. Excuse upon excuse is made to legally justify enforcement of this simple edict.
Consider the impact fat people have upon our medical system. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, kidney, and geriatric dementia pile on with creeping older age . What about early demise? I hear fat people don’t live very long relative to their skinny counterparts. Fat people require development of special equipment for hospitals and rescue crews. It once took rescuers more than three hours to remove a 900 lb fat man from his home for medical attention. It was not a pretty tale. The pressure fat people put upon our medical system is unbelievable and unbearable.
Also consider the “Dutch” experiment. The Dutch government experimented with eradication of smoking in society. Performing very well, smoking dropped significantly in their nation. Over ten years, there was a marked decrease in smoking related illness and consumption of medical services. But over twenty years, the backsplash took back all the gains. With more people living longer, consumption of more expensive geriatric, long term nursing care, Altzheimers and other age related ailments, they lost money.
How much longer are we all going to be subsidizing fat people? Why should my taxes be higher? I do not deserve to suffer higher insurance premiums. Or, do I deserve it? Do we all? Why does a fat person get job protection and I have to go stand outside in the cold. Perhaps, my donut chomping friends will soon be joining me huddled around the ashtray in the snow.
There are certain common purposes around which humans congregate in societies. Nobody should object to mollycoddling fat people. In New York, for example, we passed a car seat law that exempts fat kids from having to use special car seats. Insurance companies offer all kinds of incentives for policyholders to lose weight. Heck, there are even stop smoking programs that can be covered by insurance policies.
But the reason we Americans have congregated and organized our society is so that we can provide for each other’s health, education, and welfare. I am all for free choice in how one lives their lives. Lifestyle choices do not have to always be healthy and good. There is a lot to be said for those who choose to thin the herd early on. We should, however, make available 100% education and 100% health care for every citizen. Part of that should include the cost of helping those who choose to be idiots though it may drive up costs.
The fundamental reason why we should support this position is that we too retain for ourselves that very same freedom. Breaking a leg skiing is a lifestyle choice and we all share the costs of medical treatment and lost productivity. We want the opportunity to break our leg, clog our arteries, or fry our brain. It is not necessary that we do, but to deny ourselves mutual help and protection for doing so limits to a great extent the freedom we all enjoy.
So why at the same time, do taxpayers have to fund fat people? Why give them special protection under the law?
Of course we should fund and protect fat people. Let them eat their cake and their bread. Let our hospitals and airlines burst at the seams from fat people. I have no objection to paying for their sins; so long as they do not object to paying for mine.
Liberty and freedom are at the core of what we believe. If we love our fellow man, then we should step aside and let people enjoy that liberty; even if the decisions made are stupid. The stupidity we protect is our own.