The other day, msn Finance published an article about the potential savings to the US economy if nobody were fat. Never mind that the author’s math doesn’t add up on any level. After all, she assumes that a) every fat person eats lots of Big Macs and b) no thin person does. She also assumes that McDonalds would survive – nay, would continue to be profitable – if instead of selling Big Macs they sold ‘little steamed chicken snacks.’
In this Thintopia suggested by the author, diabetes and heart disease would nearly disappear. What’s more, apparently nothing else would kill us! Insurance rates would plummet and more money would go into preventative care…or:
That sounds good, but Roland Sturm, a senior economist for Rand in Santa Monica, Calif., doubts anyone would pay for preventive care. More likely, he says, some doctors would be on the street. “They could drive cabs,” he suggests.
Of course, no thin person has diabetes or heart disease or suffers a stroke, right? And nothing else would come along to kill us because if we would just stop being fat, clearly we would live forever. And people are only willing to pay for catastrophic health care over preventative or maintenance care because…well, we’re not entirely sure why, but since an economist said it, it must be true.
And of course, in this new nirvana, nobody would ever take a sick day because we all know that every time someone calls in sick at work it’s because of fat…not colds, flu, sprained ankles, or a host of other ills that befall everyone, fat or thin. Our dependance on foriegn oil would evaporate as our trim little bums would lessen the strain on our SUVs and airplanes could fly with less fuel making up for the difficulty of getting a bunch of lardly butts into the skies. Farmers could stop growing so many sugar beets which we bad fat people have been demanding and start growing lots of vegetables which fat people never, ever eat, of course. Because clothing manufacturers wouldn’t have to cover such a wide range of body sizes, they could – and of course would! – concentrate on covering a much wider range of body types. Yes, it is because I need a size larger than the average store carries on a regular basis that some deserving thin person is unable to find pants that fit both her hips and her waist properly. I stand utterly chagrined in the face of such logic.
Really, if we would all just stop being fat, everyone would ride unicorns and find true love, tra la.
The thing that worries me most, however, is not the way the math doesn’t add up, but the fact that our very individual human lives, whether fat or thin, are treated as a matter of pure economics. Our value as people does not diminish because we need health care or transportation or food. Our value depends so much more on what we bring to the people around us. So what have some fat people in history brought to our world that’s worth having? What could a fat person possible have accomplished? Well, here are a couple examples I think are worth considering.
William Howard Taft is the only man in US history who has served both as President and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Other offices he held included: Solicitor General of the United States, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War. As president, he worked to bust the trusts, improved the postal service, and strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission. He was a staunch advocate of world peace, as well.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is best known for her pioneering work in the early feminist movement. She worked tirelessly throughout her life for not only voting rights for women, but property rights, employment and income rights, child custody rights, and changes in divorce laws as well. She was also an outspoken abolitionist and a crusader for temperance. She wrote the Declaration of Sentiments delivered at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. This declaration formed the basis of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Along with Susan B. Anthony, she remains one of the best-known figures in the struggle for equal gender rights.
Orson Welles was the enfant terrible of both American stage, screen, and radio in the 1930s and 40s. Controversy surrounded him every bit as much as his talent was lauded. His 1939 premiere of the Mark Blitzstein pro-union opera Cradle Will Rock has gone down in history as the only theater production in US history to be shut down by National Guardsmen. Not so easily stopped, Welles, producer John Houseman, Blitzstein, and the cast moved the show to another theater. Since the cast was prohibited from performing, Blitzstein started the show sitting at a piano onstage. The cast did their parts from their seats in the audience.
This was, of course, not Welles’ last brush with public controversy. When his Mercury Theater on the Air performed their adaptation of War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938, panic swept the nation as people tuned in late and failed to recognize it as a radio play.
Welles’ best known and most lauded creation, however, remains his 1941 film Citizen Kane. Enough said.
Love him or hate him, the landscape of American film and stage would be a very different place had Orson Welles never existed.
Ma Rainey was one of the first professional blues singers, and among the first generation of vocal artists to record professionally. Known to many as The Mother of the Blues, she also fostered other singers in their careers, most notably Bessie Smith. She recorded more than a hundred songs – quite a feat in the 1920s! – including such classics as C.C. Rider, Jelly Bean Blues and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Other examples? I could name dozens. Alas, I don’t have the room or the time to add them all to this list. But there is one more link I’d like to share with you all about a man who hasn’t conquored worlds, run governments, or set the arts world aflame, but is still clearly a very precious human life. In response to the article I referenced above, another writer wrote a love letter to a fat man. Read it. I dare you not to be moved and touched as I was. The worth of a human life cannot be measured by weight, but it should be measured by the impact for good on those around. This man may not be a mover and a shaker on the world scene, but he is obviously a man of great worth. What a pity the woman who wrote that first article cannot comprehend something so basic.