Is it "curiouser and curiouser" or just sillier and sillier?
I may have mentioned this before, but I have attended tent revivals, a voodoo rite in Haiti, the world's championship etouffee contest in Eunice, La., at least two county fairs, a Kinky Friedman for Governor rally and a goat roping. However, I have seen nothing to rival the nanny state's comic war on obesity.
First, let me make it clear that I have no problem with first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against youth obesity. It is a noble gesture and in keeping with former FLOTUS efforts such as Eleanor Roosevelt versus racial inequality, Nancy Reagan and "just say no to drugs," Laura Bush and children's reading, Hillary Clinton and health care and even Bess Truman's struggle to clean up the colorful language of our blunt spoken 33rd president.
Nevertheless, we have been subjected for several years to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's (Food Police) insidious campaign to empower the government to decide what food and drink you may consume. Food activists have joined the battle by proposing legislation, litigation and, of course, the progressive mantra — taxation — as the methods of choice.
That this idea has taken root is exhibited by the center's executive director, Michael Jacobson's admission, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses and meat." The center, or "Food Police," has proposed suing doctors who "don't adequately warn patients about obesity," suing parents who allow TV sets in children's rooms, limiting the portion sizes served in restaurants and stepping up its objections to fast food in general.
The crusade by the center, or "Food Police," against tasty but allegedly artery-clogging cuisine was jump-started by its joining the American Soybean Association in the 1980s by attacking coconut oil in movie popcorn as high in saturated fats, favoring soybean or corn oils instead. It was later proven that coconut oil was far healthier than the others, and the adverse publicity proved harmful to exporting countries. But never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
This utter foolishness has led to such ham-handed excesses as San Francisco's banning of children's toys in McDonald's Happy Meals, New York Gov. David Paterson's proposed 15 percent "obesity" tax on non-diet drinks and the seizure of a 4-year-old elementary school student's home-packed lunch because "it did not meet the USDA guidelines for a healthy meal."
However, even the nation's "Nanny Mayor" Michael Bloomberg's cockamamie notion to combat obesity by banning sugary drinks in larger than 16-ounce servings is not the most absurd by far. That dunce cap belongs to one Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality, and his commentary in last Wednesday's Missourian.
Mr. Pizzigati claims the spike in U.S. obesity began in the 1980s, coincident to the surge in income inequality. He employs the "findings" of epidemiologists to show that social status and stress move people to consume, along with other "relaxants," increased amounts of "comfort foods" featuring sweets, fat and salt.
However, before we point fingers for obesity at the "greedy" one percenters, Republicans, Bain Capital or fast foods, let us have a reality check. The last time I looked, rice, beans, cabbage, carrots, turnips, etc., the primary diet of most of the non-obese world's population, are readily available and much cheaper than the so- called comfort foods. It is a stretch to equate social stress with an unhealthy diet.
Except those suffering from a medical condition, obesity is a matter of personal choice. Placing the blame for obesity on stress and lack of social status is as nonsensical as is the notion that it can be cured by executive fiat or be legislated out of existence. Our government is confronted with urgent responsibilities — protection of our shores, public safety, maintaining the highways and delivering the mail – but the slimming of America is not one of them.
To be sure, the government should encourage proper diet and fitness; nevertheless, the onus for conquering obesity begins at home with parental supervision as the linchpin. When children leave their parents' nest, diet and fitness become an individual, personal responsibility.
The sole requirements to control one's weight and maintain a modicum of fitness are will power and moderate exercise.
As anyone with normal eyesight can observe, obesity is on the increase, particularly among children. However, the solution is definitely not "Big Brother" at the dinner table and standing guard on the pantry and refrigerator.
Instead, it is time to pry the kids away from the computer and TV, take away their hand-held games and, if they are not so inclined to organize and play games, put them to work instead. And, if you find that your clothes are rather snug (they have a tendency to shrink in drawers and closets), join them. Remember, they are your responsibility.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com. Questions? Contact news editor Laura Johnston.