When Michelle Obama began her campaign against childhood obesity my first reaction was, good idea -- let's get the kids off the soft drinks and out of their soft bodies and help them to longer lives and a healthier future. But on reflection I want her to stop. Now! This minute, Michelle. Listen to Grandpa Sherman here. I am blessed with three petite, naturally slender grand-daughters so I speak from an unprejudiced place. But I live in the world and I see what goes on in it. I served some hard time as a kid in the New York public schools and I saw the bullying of the fat kids that went on there. The Miss Piggy and Mr. Porky that was and is hurled at them as they walk down a school corridor or struggle to climb a rope or shoot a basket, and the endless humiliation of the tricks and jokes played upon them by the mean and muscular that forms the "in" group. Now I have no dog in this fight. I was never fat. In fact, I was such a skinny kid that my mother would force feed me malted milkshakes to fatten me up. I was the skin and bones of the Yellen family, a source of concern in a family that had been decimated by tuberculosis in its immigrant years before I was born. But despite the weight gain of my later years, I will always think of myself as that skinny guy -- that's what your childhood image of self will do. And by focusing on weight, taking it out of the medical dimension and placing it in a moral one, we more deeply imprint it as a stigma on those who suffer from it. In plain speech -- this campaign against obesity can too easily become a campaign of cruelty.
Michelle, by trying to help the childhood chubbies lose weight you may well be compounding the abuse they receive by adding a moral scolding coming down from on high to their considerable troubles: "Are you too dumb to listen to the first lady? Why, she's got the smarts and the pumped up arms and the Presidential pulpit -- so lose weight quick, Fatty, or face a life of abuse and failure." Losing weight today is both an entertainment (The Biggest Loser) and an industry what with Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and Kirstie Alley. Dieting may be the one industry that we can't subcontract to India or China. Indeed, this may be the secret plan to get us out of the recession. Diet centers at every street corner where telephone booths used to be before cell phones made them obsolete.
Most of all this focus on weight loss is an obsession. Some kids are born fat and don't need scolding or strict diets -- they know it and they struggle with it daily and lose their battle time and again to their shame and humiliation. What they need is plain old fashioned acceptance which means a hug, a handshake and an occasional milk shake. If I could, I would proclaim a "Love Your Fat Child Day" sometime in August when ice-cream cones and french fries take over the land. I would do so, but there's no Senator or Congresswoman alive with the courage to help my cause. I will not deny that Americans in general are too fat. A vacation in Disneyland or a trip to any stuffed lobster resort in Maine will show you that the touring-tubbies have invaded our once slim and sprightly land. We have spread out in ways and in numbers unimaginable to our forefathers. But there were always the overweight among us, as portraits of the founding fathers reveal. Benjamin Franklin was no Hugh Jackman, and we are all the better for it. The bible calls upon us to live off the fat of the land and I, for one, am prepared to do so. So please pass the spare ribs, and the fried rice. And leave my fat friends in peace.
Now, the fat kids are too often abused by the fit; like the Sarah Palins, whose tone of mockery towards our present government can only have been perfected in high school as a leader of The Mean Girls Club, one which specialized in bullying the fat, the friendless, and the brainiacs. How she must hate Obama for not providing an easy target with his slim build and athletic fitness, aided by basketball and secret cigarettes.
Mine is pure speculation about Sarah, I have no facts to back it up, but where else could she have perfected that snarky tone of voice? Her spoken words (confession -- I haven't been able to try the written ones) come off a combination of a beauty queen representing state of North Ignoramus and that of the late, great Margaret Hamilton, the witch in the Wizard of Oz who threatened Dorothy saying, "I'll get you and your little dog too." It is the very self regarding nastiness of that voice, filled with loathing for those who would attempt to defuse the bombshells in her mind, that nastiness that represents a real threat to America today. Ignorance has a power that is often dismissed too lightly with an "Ah, they will see through her in time." Well, we don't have that much time and the lady is anything but transparent. She is opaque as she advances selfishness and cultural bigotry under cover of protecting our freedoms -- the freedom to be selfish and uncaring. The lady is dangerous -- not because of her ideas -- but because of her lack of them. Where her ideas should be there are only slogans, hints at a bigotry she lacks the courage to express directly, only hurling abuse at "them" -- the un-Americans as opposed to the gun-Americans -- and her unspoken loathing for those fat kids among us who might, just might end up as thinking liberals with a compassion born of their own personal suffering.