04 February, 2008

How to tackle obesity? Discourage walking, of course

One of the great ironies of life is that for nearly all of human history, being fat was considered a sign of health, wealth, and (if you were female) fertility. Here now come modern times to correct old superstitions. The wealthy pay doctors to make them look as if they haven't had a decent meal in years, while the lower classes fret over the fact that they eat healthier than kings of old, and look it, too. Even pregnant women today worry that their husbands will be displeased with the amount of fat that they've put on, and will be tempted to sample other options. I don't know what's worse; that our culture breeds that fear, or that I've known enough men to know that women are very often right.

Here in Mississippi, where (with one exception) my wife and I are still the only people over 15 years old that I've seen walking around a neighborhood, obesity is a real problem, blamed for pretty much every health problem the state has. Poverty is blamed for the obesity. That sounds really weird if you stop to think about it long enough; only in these modern American States would someone think to classify poverty as a cause of obesity.

Comes now a triumvirate of Mississippi legislators, Messieurs Ted Mayhall from Southaven, John Read from Gautier, and Bobby Shows from Ellisville, to introduce a bill into the legislature that would prohibit restaurants from serving obese people. In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

By his own admission, Rep. Read is no lightweight politician, in the non-metaphorical sense of "lightweight", so he himself would be banned from such restaurants. The point isn't to actually pass the law, but to draw attention to the problem. That hasn't stopped anyone from complaining that this offensive bill perpetuates discrimination against the obese. Apparently they've confused our politicians with those of New York City.

I don't see why people are so upset. This is precisely the sort of mischief that State governments should be getting into. If they're going to collect a 7% sales tax, very nearly the highest in the nation, with no exemption for food, they very well ought to combat rampant obesity with symbolic, meaningless gestures. At least Governor Barbour goes walking in a commercial with his wife and bunch of children.

What could they really do to fix the problem? That would make for a good family discussion one day while we take the 5 minute leisurely stroll to the mall. Unfortunately, we can't take that walk. The mall really is only a 5 minute walk away, but there is no sidewalk on the potholed road that leads there, and cars fly by quite a bit faster than the 35 mph speed limit implies.

I'm still trying to figure out what they do in Jackson with all that money. They're not building sidewalks, and they're not paying policemen to watch for speeders along Weathersby Road. I don't even feel safe in my vehicle sometimes, let alone on my feet at the side of the road. Don't even get me started on the sparsity of streetlights or the lack of serious bus service.

It's too bad these three men don't represent my area. Two are Republicans and one is a Democrat, which in Mississippi tells you nothing more than the lawyers' club they hang out with. In any case, these men have my vote. Anyone un-serious enough to think that obesity can be tackled by introducing a bill that would forbid restaurants from serving the obese deserves a seat in the state legislature no less than Caligula's horse Incitatus deserved his seat in the Roman Senate.

Yes, dear reader, the best part of having a weblog is knowing that my writings leave a legacy that guarantee I will never be elected to anything.

1 comment:

Clemens said...

Welcome to the Deep South.

From you eminently unelectable friend,