Friday, July 15, 2011


Alex Beam of the Boston Globe asks, What’s wrong with subjecting obese Americans to the same stigmatization that smokers are?

He's serious. I read the article (click here to read it yourself)and he proposes a campaign designed to stigmatize the overweight in the same way smokers have been made to feel for the past quarter-century.

The original idea was not Beams. He'd heard professor Daniel Callahan (retired cofounder of bioethics research institution Hastings Center),speak on a radio program and pose the question "why aren’t overeaters subject to the same stigmatization as smokers?"

Callahan makes a persuasive case: 67 percent of Americans are overweight, he writes. “Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure. There are some prima facie reasons for thinking about stigmatization as one more arrow in the quiver of possible solutions.

No category of US citizens, with the possible exception of prisoners, has been subjected to more government-sponsored economic and social harassment than cigarette smokers. Taxed up the wazoo, forced to pay hundreds of extra dollars for health insurance, tossed out in the rain and snow to sneak a few puffs of the dreaded cancer sticks - smokers are the deadbeat dads of the public health landscape. .

Sadly, the answer Callahan and Beam would propose is to to lead another crusade for stigmatizing men and women, that would be enormously hurtful for a lot of people.

I have an idea!

Why don't we round all these tubbos up and put them in camps?

I'll have to get in line, because those pictures of me in shape are so old that they're worth something to antiquers.

Maybe we can get a good rental rate on Auschwitz!

In both cases we are talking about behavior that is harmful to the individual and costly to society. If the proposal is to charge smokers and obese people more for health insurance, I agree.

In fact, insurance companies already do this. They charge higher rates for people who are expected to incur higher claims dollars. This is a process called underwriting.

The fact that humiliating smokers is a societally approved parlor game is wrong. Treating the overweight the same way will not make it right.

Obese people have been the butt of jokes far longer than smokers have, and yet the obesity rate has climbed to proportons that lead America to label it an epidemic.

You could argue that the obese are the last acceptable targets of discrimination.

Let's say Mr.Beam gets his way. Where would we stop?

Would those rotten cancer sufferers be next? Who do they think they are, anyway, with their special treatment centers and chemotherapies?

And what about those darn Alzheimer's people?

Certainly Mr. Beam and Mr. Callahan are capable of the selection of the new master race!

Maybe we should simply send everyone with a handicapped license plate or a maintenance drug prescription off to a detention center!

Or maybe,and I'm just saying, maybe singling a group of people out or having  preconceived judgments toward people or a person due to a physical characteristic is prejudicial and not in accordance with either the founding principles of this nation or the Golden Rule passed down to us by that Jesus guy a couple of thousand years ago.

Maybe by singling out these groups and persecuting them, America is acting a little bit like a European nation did a few decades ago when it was bent on world domination.

I'm talking about those wacky loveable Nazis, who treated the Jews the way Americans treat smokers and apparently would like to treat fat people. Or were they evil? That's right-they WERE evil!

Hold on - having another idea here - maybe we're supposed to be better than that!

I live in a state where smokers can basically only smoke in their home and in their car without breaking the law. They are reviled and treated like lepers, taxed and bad mouthed, and you know what? People still smoke!

I don't think all of the McDonald's waring labels, Michelle Obama kids programs and increased health insurance premiums are going to get to what really are the roots of the obesity epidemic. A few obvious drivers:

(1) Our lives have become increasingly sedentary. Things that used to require manual effort have been automated, and technology has advanced to where we sit all day at work, sit all night at home in front of a TV or PC, ride around the lawn on a riding mower (if we even bother-there is plenty of immigrant labor to exploit)-heck, we don't even open our own doors on our cars-everything we do has been automated!

(2) Our food has become increasingly processed and unhealthy. Our meats are infused with chemicals, our starches are processed and loaded with sodium, and our vegetables have the nutrients soaked out of them in the cans, or worse sit in refined sugars.

(3) Junk food is readily available. It was not that long ago that if you wanted a piece of chocolate cake you had to make it yourself. From scratch. And what you made would have been better for you than the prepackaged, chemical-and-dye-infused, toxic junk we consume today. How many people under sixty can even bake anymore? It used to be a treat, and a somewhat rare one, and now you can stop and buy all manner of snack foods, and many people have several per day.

(4) Television, the Internet and video games have sapped our children's creativity and activity levels. Pull the plug and kick your kids out of the house. Why don't you go out and join them?

Or come meet me in the weight room-I need a spotter.

And Mr. Beam? Just because no one is buying your rag of a newspaper, don't blame the overweight. It could be worse-you could be working for the Airheadzona Repugnant!


  1. >>...No category of US citizens, with the possible exception of prisoners, has been subjected to more government-sponsored economic and social harassment than cigarette smokers.

    Man, but ain't THAT the truth!

    I realize that and I've never even been a smoker.

    They are incrementally increasing their control over our lives and our behavior all in the name of "benevolent totalitarianism".

    If there were any Americans here today with the courage and the love of liberty that our Founders possessed, the streets of Washington D.C. would already be running six feet deep with the blood of politicians from both parties, and there would be a trail of sh#t that one could follow directly out of the back door of the White House and leading into the woods of Virginia.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  2. Actually Stephen, "the woods of Virginia" made think of a point no one seems to have made about smoking.

    Wasn't the tobacco industry a cornerstone in the growth of this country?

    It saddens me that the public at large have become so docile and sheep-like they they are willing to abdicate all of their decision-making so readily simply because they are so afraid of actually having to accept responsibility for their own lives.

    Maybe we can't get the people to march on Washington, but can't we get them to agree to my new slogan:

    "You'll have to pry this pint of Ben & Jerry's out of my cold dead hands!"


  3. Ha! I dig your new slogan.

    It seems to reflect the extent of modern America's passion for their Constitutional rights.

    "I have a right to a pint!"

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  4. Yes, yes, yes!

    Oh, and I'm officially adopting your slogan as my own, though I'm trying really really hard to love kale as much as I do Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. So far, no dice.

  5. Throw it all away and start again? We would have full employment all round the western world as we all work to grow our food, make bricks to build our adobe houses and build canals to move our water.

  6. Peter-was not sure what point I made you were referring to, but I might agree that a little anarchy would go a long way towards making the world a better place.

    Beth-I thought I'd responded to yours-must have forgot to his post-but while my passions run more towards "Cherry Garcia" I certainly support your right to choose a different flavor!