Monday, August 13, 2007

Courtesy Doesn't Have a Weight Limit

"Weight obsession is a social disease. If we cared more about CO2 than BMI there would still be time."

Though an avowed liberal, I regularly listen to libertarian Neal Boortz' talk show. I agree with him about forty percent of the time, primarily his opinions about privacy and civil rights. He's a guy I either agree with wholeheartedly or he's pissing me off bigtime. There's no middle ground with Boortz.

Boortz often talks about the problem of obesity in this country. I have no problem with this, as it's a legitimate health issue. His focus on the issue is usually his assertion that fat people overburden the health care system and are a main reason why there's so much wrong with our health care system today. Another variation on this theme is that they're a primary reason why he believes that a national health care system ("socialized medicine" to use his words) would be impractical and unworkable in the US. In other words, he talks about the issue as a economic one -- he's not overly concerned with the health of fat people for their own sake, but rather, he's more afraid that his tax dollars might go to help someone else, whom he believes bring their health problems upon themselves.

Setting aside the idea that overweight exists for a variety of reasons, not all of them self-induced, I'm less than impressed with his argument when one considers that he rarely, if ever, castigates smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, and others who engage in risky behaviors. After all, these behaviors are a cause of many illnesses: cancer (which is the biggest health problem today, bar none), emphysema, other lung disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, anorexia, TB etc. And these are behaviors that are completely self-chosen -- a smoker and a drinker can completely quit cold turkey, but an overeater cannot totally give up food.

But what's worse is how he presents his views. Instead of discussing the problem in a rational, non-emotional manner, he chooses to engage in ad hominem attacks on all fat people, typically using his favorite term "lardasses". With all the self-righteousness of a fat man who has lost several pounds (though he's still far, far from being skinny), he demonizes fat people as worthless losers, undeserving of any respect or common courtesy simply because they are fat and for no other reason.

I don't know about you, but I wasn't brought up to believe that courtesy has a weight limit. Nor was I raised to believe that good manners should only be exhibited toward perfect people.

While it no doubt would be a good thing if most fat people could lose weight and keep it off, this is hardly a moral issue making someone a bad person. We all have our crosses to bear in this life -- not one of us is perfect. Some of us eat too much, some smoke too much, some drink too much, some of us are assholes, some of us are stupid, some of us are greedy and so on. We all have things about us that need improvement. And I don't see why one person's types of flaws should be "better" than another person's shortcomings..

I'm not a fat man, but I sure as hell am a lazy one! And there are those who would consider my promiscuity a character flaw, though I obviously don't. Yet, I am not subject to repeated public scorn for these traits, as fat people are for theirs. I don't read articles or watch TV where people are constantly bemoaning the increase of "lazyasses" in America, nor do I have strangers catcall "Horndog!" at me when I walk past them in a store.

The right way to approach this issue is to provide common sense information about healthy eating and the benefits of exercise, to call for healthy foods that are more affordable, low-cost gyms, and so on, not to humiliate people who have weight problems. People like Boortz who get off on trashing fat people tell us more about their own shortcomings and insecurities than they do those whom they condemn.

Karma is a bitch and I'm hoping that Boortz gains back all the weight he lost and then some. But I'm guessing that not even this would teach him any humility.


To see the level of self-righteous viciousness that some people descend to in attacking fat people, read the comments following this article. I'm guessing that none of these commenters are perfect people in a position to judge the shortcomings of others.

1 comment:

Steph said...

I just look at the link and watch a bit of the video : it's a comedy program , please it is ... these people can't really mean what they say ... I'm sure something like that wouldn't happen in Europe ... well not yet ...