'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
VICTORY DECLARED IN THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
I opened the morning newspaper at breakfast the other day and saw a disturbing headline: “America’s Top Health Problem is Obe.”
Obe? What’s obe, I wondered. Then my wife reached over and brushed away the jelly donut powder which had fallen onto the newspaper, covering part of the last word. “Oh, now I get it,” I exclaimed to my wife. “Obesity. America’s top health problem is obesity. Whew, I was worried there for a minute. Hey honey, any more bacon left?”
The story quoted the director of the government’s Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie Gerberding, as saying, “Unfortunately, poor diet and a lack of exercise have almost caught up with tobacco as being the leading cause of death in the United States.” Dr. Gerberding also noted that 65-percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Wow, that’s frightening.
Another frightening item in the news story was the following sentence: “Cities and schools could get federal grants to pay for nutrition classes and promote fitness under a measure passed by a Senate panel.”
Oh great, just what we need, more government programs telling us how to live. If these anti-fat programs are as effective as the government’s anti-smoking programs, we’ll soon have a national overweight rate of 95-percent.
If I was writing the newspaper headlines, it would’ve read: “America’s Top Health Problem is Government Worrywarts.”
Frankly, it’s hard to get exercised about this news (especially since “exercise” has become a dirty word in our culture). The average life expectancy in America continues to rise. If obesity is really so bad, shouldn’t the life expectancy figure be decreasing?
It’s not that obesity is a fictitious problem. The health risks are real. For example, if you’ve ever walked behind a 300-pound woman squeezed into a pair of stretch pants, you know the experience can take years off your life.
But let’s put things in historical perspective. For the first 10,000 years of recorded human history, the top health problem facing mankind was starvation. Entire populations focused all of their efforts, from morning until night, trying to scrape together enough food to feed everyone. The most dreaded word in anyone’s vocabulary was famine. Various cultures in the past, just like modern America, also had a 65-percent rate. Unfortunately, it was a 65-percent rate of malnourished citizens. Most wars throughout history were started because of a rumor that the neighboring nation had a good harvest that year. Back in those days, obesity wasn’t a problem; it was everyone’s dream.
We shouldn’t be worried and fearful about our fatness. (And don’t forget, when people are upset or frightened, they often turn to food for solace.) We should take an entirely different approach. Let’s stop calling obesity a problem and instead declare victory.
The president should go on national TV and address the country: “My fellow tubbies, here in the 21st century, the United States of America has finally conquered mankind’s oldest foe: starvation. The word famine has been effectively removed from our vocabulary. Therefore, I proclaim tomorrow a national holiday of celebration and non-stop feasting.” In a show of bipartisan and multicultural support, the president should make his address flanked by Ted Kennedy and Aretha Franklin. (Good thing they’re now selling wide-screen TVs.)
Now, if you think I’m making fun of a serious subject and making light of a genuine health problem, please relax. Over the next few years we are going to be absolutely inundated with alarmist news about obesity from government nannies and, much worse, trial lawyers. I’m just trying to get in a couple of final laughs here, because the coming national crisis is going to be somber indeed. (Newspaper headline in the not-too-distant future: “Congress declares War against new Axis of Evil: Ronald McDonald, Little Debbie, and the Pillsbury Doughboy.”)
The certain hysteria will be enough to make someone hide under the bed in fear. With a tray of cupcakes for solace, of course.
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