Since, I’m not a “political columnist,” instead more of a “lifestyle writer,” I understand why people don’t expect me to bring up politics.
However, being a “political junkie,” I sometimes use elected figures or partisan causes as a launching pad for my broader point. For some reason I cannot fathom, that elicits hate mail.
As example, a few years ago, I wrote about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (and others) who was gunned down in an Arizona shopping center. My piece (or so I thought) was neither an argument for nor against tighter or looser gun controls. Rather, I used the tragedy to illuminate that we have become more concerned with proving our points of view are correct instead of collaborating to discover solutions. My intention was to point out that if we respect and communicate better with each other, we’d all get more of what we need. To me, that seemed a very sensible point. After all, who could argue about being reasonable? Who knew? Yep, there were some.
I was flabbergasted by the vitriol that flooded my inbox.
Ironically, some were more interested in defending their positions than trying to understand the backbone of my piece; the article’s main complaint.
So… with that as preamble, please drop any political pre-dispositions (either positive or negative) when I mention New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom I shall use as example for a greater point.
Mr. Christie is a high-profile politician. We can differ as to whether he’s a suitable presidential candidate, or even a decent executive for The Garden State. What is without disagreement is that Mr. Christie is obese, morbidly obese. In the interest of full disclosure, I disagree with Christie more than I agree with him. Having said that, I still find it distasteful that — due only to his size — it is considered within the norm to poke fun at him.
Why is obesity the remaining physical characteristic socially acceptable for ridicule?
I understand that one could argue that the governor – and obese people – has brought it upon himself by lifestyle choices. I would counter, one, we don’t know that; two, that’s might not be accurate. More importantly, it belies the greater question, “Even if someone makes improper health choices, why are so many so comfortable with teasing others about what they weigh or eat?”
We have evolved; no longer accepting blackface on white actors, stereotyping Jewish people as “money hungry,” nor even gay men as “limp-wristed.” (And thank God we don’t!) So, why is it acceptable to stereotype the overweight as lazy, sloth-like calorie-vacuums who will consume anything slow enough to get a fork in it? Some of the same people, who would never make fun of the physical characteristics of a normal-weight person, find it natural — on national TV no less — to ridicule Mr. Christie for where he tips the scales.
I’m not naïve. I get it that most people can lose weight while no persons of color can change their pigment any more than Little People can become tall. But, does that make one type of insult off-bounds while another equally hurtful one is allowable in polite society? No, simply put, I think not. It’s wrong and it’s unacceptable. Period.
What it does is create another example of “us” and “them,” and we definitely have enough divisions separating us. We sure don’t need any more.
Each and every one of us has habits of which we are not proud. The only difference between the bad habits of overweight people and someone else’s transgressions is — for heavy people — their “issues” are on view for all to see when they act up. Should we spend less time pointing fingers at others, maybe we’d find more time to work on our own habits, and we’d all be happier and healthier.