Today’s Americans have as much lard between their ears as on their flabby butts
America, you’re really starting to creep me out—big time. Make that huge time. Everywhere you congregate, I’m overwhelmed by how overwhelming you’ve become. Fat was once considered funny: from Fatty Arbuckle to Oliver Hardy to Jackie Gleason to Fat Albert, we laughed at the idea of people with enhanced poundage. Some even found humor in the frenzied, repulsive and ultimately pathetic Chris Farley.
But fat’s not funny anymore, not given the sheer number of fat people thundering through America’s malls and markets. As Alfred Hitchcock understood, even things that are benign in small numbers become creepy en masse. Little birdies are cute—even sweet—but when the flock blots out the sun, it’s creepy.
And that’s how it’s become with fat people. You’re everywhere these days, people of a size once found only in tents where yokels paid a quarter to gawk at them. You’re not just fat; you’re huge, ponderous, beyond jumbo, a vast and undulating formidability of flesh, an avalanche of avoirdupois, a devolution of the species back to a future of protoplasmic balloon creatures.
You’re becoming a living metaphor for the way the United States is viewed by much of the rest of the planet: a rapacious, gluttonous, insatiable nation of swine, the Pig People of North America, the fat neighbors who are fouling the whole neighborhood, consuming everything in sight, and strewing waste in your wake. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy, each person in the United States consumes twice as much energy as Germans, 12 times that of Colombians, and almost 30 times the consumption of India’s citizens. For each American’s consumption, 127 Haitians or 395 Ethiopians could consume away.
The United States leads the world, by far, in carbon-dioxide emissions and in water and oil consumption. We have the largest houses in the world. Each year, the average American generates 189 pounds of food waste, 183 pounds of plastic trash, 570 pounds of paper trash and 86 pounds of glass trash.
And we’re the most obese nation in the world. Rates of obesity have doubled during the time George W. Bush has been president. I’m not making that up. Check the stats put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Just visit any county fair throughout the land. Obesity in adults has increased by 60 percent in the past 20 years and has tripled in children over the past 30 years. The kids at those county fairs are often porkier than the comparatively sleek pigs in the FFA stalls.
Lots of those obese people deal with it by purchasing electric carts to haul themselves around in. You’d think when you’d gotten too damn fat to walk, that fact might be a wake-up call, a message from God or just an indication that something is a little out of whack in the old lifestyle department, but the message lots of Americans take from the confabulation of flab is that it’s time to motorize the motion.
In the not-so-long run, that combination of inactivity, sugar and super-sized portions of greasy, salt-filled foods will kill us, but we might as well ride easy on the way to that early grave. Obesity-related deaths now have climbed to more than 300,000 a year—second only to deaths from tobacco-related diseases.
Seeing those stats in the full and bounteous flesh, out in public, strolling in herds and swelling the size of crowds is, as I say, beginning to creep me out. Contemporary America begins to look more and more like that old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which aliens take over the bodies of earthlings, exact replicas of the people whose identities they assume, but minus feelings and emotions. In Body Snatcher: 2007, however, the aliens have snatched the bodies of normal Americans and made them unable to wedge themselves into most public seating or, if able to sit, completely unable to extract their bloated butts from those no-longer-adequately-sized seats once their full weight has spread and settled.
Fat, dumb and ugly is not the image most Americans have of themselves—or their nation—but until or unless we shape up, that’s pretty much the reality.
And shaping up won’t simply be a matter of signing on for weight training or signing off from all that fast-food super-sizing and high-in-sugar-and-carbs convenience food. We’re going to have to get a whole lot less lazy and actually look at what is being done to us. That means taking the time to get better informed, not only about what we’re shoving into our faces, but also about what is being shoved into the minds of our children and down our throats by our politicians, most of whom long since ceased working for us and turned their energies over to serving their corporate masters.
We’re going to have to become Americans again: people who demand the kind of pay that allows us to harvest our own crops and work in our own factories. Shaping up means losing the mental flab that has us tuned in like automatons to American Idol, the latest adventures of Lindsay Lohan and the bimbo brigade, or any of those other Romanesque circuses that make us slack-jawed consumers of whatever swill the media moguls pump into our brains.
The fat on our bodies is simply the external manifestation of the fat that infects the national spirit—the corruption of our most sacred institutions, the incompetence of our public servants, the erosion of our civil liberties and the apathy that weighs us all down like a double Whopper with cheese.
Fat, dumb and ugly: We’re fat because we’re either too dumb or too lazy to either watch what we put in our mouths or take the trouble to inform ourselves of the high-fructose corn syrup added to nearly everything marketed as “convenience” food. As a result, we grow increasingly ugly, allowing our nation to be redefined by the corporations rather than own our politicians. We’ve grown so bovine in mind and body that we may be getting the representation we deserve, especially since a majority of us don’t even bother to vote, and an even bigger majority exercise as little effort informing themselves about who and what we’re voting for as we do about the food we’re stuffing in our mouths.
Our heritage requires of us, as citizens, that we be more than a nation of overstuffed swine wallowing in the mud of our laziness and indifference. We must reclaim our bodies and our minds from those who’ve snatched them from us. If we can regain our bodies and our minds, maybe we can regain our country, too.