by: Wes Ishmael

Hooter saw the news from USDA—pertaining to the White House Memorandum—inviting the public to submit ideas about how the government, private business and citizens could work together to tackle childhood obesity. He had to respond.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

First off, I tried to read the news release from your office pertaining to fat kids, what you refer to as childhood obesity: “…The Presidential Memo that established the Task Force ( directed senior officials from executive agencies and the White House to develop a comprehensive interagency action plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks and goals, describes research gaps and needs, and assists in the development of legislative, budgetary, and policy proposals that can improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and communities. The Task Force was also directed to review the following objectives…”

No offense, but what kind of hogwash is that? Like my 5th grade English teacher used to tell us between fainting spells, grading our essays, “Just say it! For the love of God in Heaven above, quit beating around the bush with a bunch of gibberish and just say it.”

Of course, and not bragging, but by then we could read, write and do all of the big numbers.

      Anyway, once I made my way through, it seems to me you folks need to come to grips with the fact that some folks are just naturally fat, like some folks are just naturally skinny. My second-cousin Lucy comes to mind. Bless her heart, ever since we were kids, anywhere she stood in the house, she was next to the dinner table, if you get my drift. She could look at an ad for ice cream and pop a seam. Another cousin, Boo, could eat chocolate pecan pie from now to the Second Coming and still hide in his own shadow at sunrise.

And you know what? There's absolutely nothing wrong with being fat, any more than there is with being skinnier than an empty tapeworm or somewhere in between.

Speaking of which, isn't that what you folks in government call discrimination, when you focus on one group at the exclusion of others? What are you doing for the skinny kids of the world?

Lest I digress like you folks are known to, unless you outlaw video games and TV…oops forget I said that; the way you folks are going about governing, you're liable to try that. The point being, from babies on, people have no incentive to be as physically active as they were when we grew up. And we were a bunch of sissies compared to our parents and our grand parents and so on.

Once you get to be working age in this country and you're in that middle-class bracket that everybody likes to talk about and no one seems to want to support, once you start working that's about all you've got time for because so much of what you make goes to support folks on either end of the economic scale. Mind you, I'm all about capitalism. I just wish everyone had to play by the same rules. When only about half of us are paying income tax, I've got to wonder where the equality is in that.

So, unless you happen to be one of the minority working in a physical job, since there's so little time for anything else, is it any wonder that folks are getting fatter?

      As for kids, I'd like to believe every one of them has access to at least a basketball court, or enough space to toss a Frisbee. Since that's not the case, unfortunately, why not give them the access to physical activity with a purpose?

      For discussion's sake, let's call it the Community Physical Beautification Program or CPBP for short. Check your history books—there was a program back in the 1930's called the Civilian Conservation Corps that provided emergency employment and vocational training to unemployed men. Far as I can tell, this wasn't a hand-out program by any stretch of the imagination. Tax payers got a whole bunch in return, like parks, public roads and whatnot.

      In every community today, no matter how big or small, there's at least one eyesore—lots or old ball fields overgrown with weeds, abandoned houses and buildings—you get the idea.

Why not organize a supervised work crew and pay these overweight kids to get off their duffs and clean up sites like these?

      Never mind the physical exercise, imagine the psychological aspect of folks discovering perhaps for the first time what it's like to set out to do something, look behind them and see something done. In case you haven't experienced it, there is no happier tiredness than falling into bed exhausted after putting in a dark-to-dark day setting fence posts, working calves, bucking hay bales or anything else that needs to be done.

Up front, I realize you'd need a sizeable litigation fund to fight the inevitable lawsuits. After all, there's no escaping the fact there would be all kinds of risks, like folks getting sunburned, smashing thumbs with hammers, picking up a stickers or splinters, stepping on nails, etc.

      When I grew up we called these kinds of accidents dumb luck, clumsiness or poor planning, and you were a whiner if you tried to blame any of that stuff on someone else.

      Come to think of it, the CPBP could be a model for other programs like the federal and state prison systems. Best as I can tell, there's more than 2 million folks in jail. The last statistic I could find said it cost $22,632 per head per year to keep a federal prison—that was in 2001. Surely, there's a way to put these folks to work without competing with the goods and services provided by those who aren't incarcerated.

Of course, you'd have to figure out all the objectives, inter-agency strategies, research gaps and whatnot.

And, you'd have to accept the fact that some folks don't want anyone trying to help them, especially the government, or that they'll take what you give them and screw it up.

That's just how it is.

Yours truly in thick and thin (pardon the pun),

Hooter J. McCormick


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