Dec 142010

You! Yes, you. If you love your country you’ll put down the fork and step away from the plate!

That, in a nutshell, is what First Lady Michelle Obama put forward yesterday at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, as the President signs into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In general, I’m on board with the First Lady’s initiative on combating childhood obesity. Encouraging people to make better food choices and get a spot of exercise regularly is certainly in keeping with both my personal views and my religious views. Hellenic Pagans of old thought that physical education combined with reasonable portions of natural foods were vital to living a life of arete.  Athenian schools looked upon rhetoric, music, and athletics as equal in importance and I share that sentiment.

However, I’m not into fat shaming and I’m also not into declaring overweight children a threat to national security. Here is the quote from Ms. Obama:

“And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.“  Michelle Obama – 13DEC2010
By all means increase the nutritional quality of food in the schools, as this Bill does.  (I should note, the funding increase for the school lunch program came at the expense of the food stamp program to the tune of$2.2 billion in cuts) Go ahead and ban all junk food from school grounds, that doesn’t really bother me.  Add more students to the rolls of those who receive free or reduced cost meals, I have no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with, Ms. Obama, is classifying  overweight children as threats to our national security.  Overweight children, and adults, have enough judgment thrown their way without this from our First Lady.

  21 Responses to “YOU are a National Security Threat (If you’re fat)”

  1. I think it says a lot more about our current political dialogue. If I were to Google “threat to our national security” right now and just look at what politicians and businesspeople are saying I’d probably have over a thousand hits for the last month by itself.

    It says a lot that the Powers That Be feel the best way to motivate people is by scaring the crap out of them.

    • Indeed Fear is a great way to manipulate people, but a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” shouldn’t be engaging in such tactics. We as Americans are supporsed to run our government and instead it is controlling us.

  2. Well, you know, we have to have some manner of Threat to our national security, otherwise the government wouldn’t have an excuse to get away with all the crap they do that violates people’s right to chose how to live their life. And since we can’t speak of Muslim Terrorists anymore (for fear of offending them and being racists) we have to come up with something. And the safest something is Fat People, because hey, “We’re doing it for the Greater Good.”

    I can’t say I like Obama or his administration, but this is just another example of how sad things have gotten. I’m all for healthy living, but it has to be by the person’s choice. Evolution, Fate, and the Gods will see to the rest.

  3. So just to be clear here…,

    Political Correctness is BAD when applied to Islam but is perfectly fine when applied to the obese. I seem to be detecting a double standard here.

  4. Let’s keep comments civil and on topic please.

  5. I’m pretty sure I was both civil and on topic. The commentator and respondents seem to decry political correctness while asking for it where a certain segment of society is concerned.

    “Overweight children, and adults, have enough judgment thrown their way without this from our First Lady.”

    So, the 1st Lady is not supposed to speculate that a growing trend toward obesity in this country could translate in a future impairment of the armed forces in finding suitable recruits? It’s a valid argument that doesn’t dance around the feelings of the overweight. Good for her, she’s being up front about it and not “politically correct”.

    • Just want to be sure this discussion doesn’t get derailed into yet another “evil Muslims” lecture series, that was for everyone in thread.

      As far as the obesity issue I agree on the PC-ness point. If its ok to bash on being politically correct in other places why should it be held up as a virtue in this case? What makes the issue of obesity (which has reached epidemic levels and is a public health nightmare already) sacrosanct?

  6. So if I’m well past cannon-fodder age, my weight is no longer a national security issue?

    • That’s right Baruch – you and – we can get big as houses and remain harmless. But little kids – now THERE’S the threat.

      • Considering that eating and health practices start early in life not to mention the impact unhealthy foods can have on the body during that early, formative stage of life I think it is fair to focus on the kids. It’s where places like MacDonald’s are putting their focus for selling the unhealthy junk they pass off as “food”.

        It makes the most sense to put the most effort where you can exercise the greatest amount of leverage possible. Teach a 40 year old about healthy food and exercise and they’ll have to work at it to break old habits and learn new ones. Teach a 5 year old about it and reinforce such behaviors and you end up with habits that will last a lifetime that never need to be addressed again later in life.

        • As I mentioned, I see nothing wrong with educating children about making better food choices and encouraging exercise. That is a positive action.

          What I think is beyond the pale is when you denigrate a child and then declare them an enemy. I don’t care how noble the aim or if it is done for their own good – a child should never be labeled a national security threat. That is a very, very serious charge to make against someone and should not be done lightly.

          The other part to this is that kids are extremely vulnerable to negative body issues. Fat shaming a child doesn’t help them lose weight, it just hurts them emotionally and further isolates them from their fellows.

          • How about the much wider and more blanket use of the cry of “national security” as the excuse du jour? Logically speaking the First Lady has made the case that it will impact our national security but ethically speaking should she and other politicians in DC be doing the same thing? During the Bush administration practically every single policy Bush pushed not related to tax cuts was justified in some form or another as “essential to national security.” Members of both parties have since been playing with that same rhetorical tack for anything they disagree with.

            This isn’t just about the First Lady. If you’re taking issue with her using “national security” as the reason then what about every single other politician who has used the same thing for policies that were far worse in implications and impact?

            • Well – I suppose I could rent a time a machine and write up a post about each and every time a group of people are (incorrectly and sensationalistly) labeled a national security threat – but the rental fee is quite high. No handy hot tub so I can relive my youth.

              I see a difference between talking about policies that impact national security and when you talk about groups of people as national security threats I start to cast a suspicious eye. I take an even dimmer view of this when when someone labels children as a threat to national security.

              Using fear and shame to ‘encourage’ kids to shed pounds is is about 2 steps past unacceptable.

              • The quote itself looks like it was part of a much larger body of remarks which is not present, linked, or cited anywhere at the original link.

                I’d like to see what the rest of her speech is before I start jumping down someone’s throat for bringing up the military perspective on the issue. If that was the central thrust of her statement that’s one thing but just from that quote it sounds more like an, “and by the way there’s this angle to consider as well” kind of thing.

                I don’t see that as the same thing as shouting, “CHILDHOOD OBESITY HURTS OUR NATIONAL SECURITY” like, for example, the opposition to repealing DADT is arguing to keep that policy in place and were the main arguments for keeping the most odious provisions of the PATRIOT Act in force.

        • “Teach a 40 year old about healthy food and exercise and they’ll have to work at it to break old habits and learn new ones.”

          I got diagnosed diabetic at 57. You better believe I learned a lot of new healthy habits, fast!

  7. Cara,

    According to the 1st page of the article you link to the 2nd page of

    What Mrs. Obama said was that the epidemic that is childhood obesity is also a national security threat as well as a public health problem and an economic issue. THE EPIDEMIC, not the children themselves.

    She did not denigrate children, she did not seek to shame them, she did not blame them or say that obese children were a security risk.

    As someone who has struggled with weight and body image issues most of his life, I know a thing or two about fat shaming; this wasn’t it.

    Also, part of the reason that money to food stamps was cut was that it is a rallying cry of the political Right in this country… and so cutting money to food stamps and the radical restructuring of the program are just as due to satisfying the voices from the Right wanting to cut or eliminate Food Stamps in order to get healthy food to U.S. children.


    • Hi Pax – I linked to page 2 because that’s where the full quote by Ms. Obama we written. I (as you may guess) disagree and think that Ms. Obama’s statement was that overweight children are threat to national security. However – even if I thought she was directing her statement that obesity is a national security threat, I would be almost as exasperated. Not everything needs to be framed as a national security threat. When you classify something as a national security threat, this opens up the possibility that actions could be taken that ordinarily would not be on the table.

      As for the concern that we don’t have enough of a pool to draw from in case we need them due to people being overweight – believe me – if the military needed bodies, they would get them. You’d be shocked at how fast a person can lose weight when they only have access to limited food and have PT twice a day. Also, I think a screaming TI can melt pounds off a person just by the heat of his/her inventive instructional language.

      As for funding – This is the second time that Democrats have cut Food stamps to shift the funds elsewhere. This first time was to grant more aid to States as a bailout for pensions for teachers – foodstamps were cut 13.6 percent. For this Bill – Food stamp funds were not cut to appease the GOP. Democrats didn’t need one single vote from the GOP to pass anything.

      The far Left in the house was against the Bill due to the Foodstamp cuts. The Democrats (and the President) strong-armed the far Left into voting for this Bill so it could pass.


      The president met with liberal Democrats Tuesday in a last minute push to unite his party in support of a $4.5 billion child nutrition bill that would improve lunches in schools and expand feeding programs for low-income students.

      Many Democrats signaled opposition to the legislation in September because it is partially paid for with cuts in future funding for food stamps. But several of them have now said they will support the bill after the Republican victories in the November elections.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also rallied Democrats, holding a news conference with Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts in anticipation of House debate on the bill this week. The two Democrats led 100 of their colleagues against the bill two months ago after the Senate approved it with the $2.2 billion in food stamp dollars.

      In the House –
      247 Democrats voted YES, 17 voted NO
      4 Republicans voted YES, 153 voted NO

  8. Oh, for crying out loud, Cara.

    I’m fat–I don’t know about you–and I can tell you, this doesn’t come close to offending me.

    Trying to whip up antagonism against Michelle Obama over something as innocuous as the phraseology of a campaign to improve childhood nutrition seems to imply a desperate need to find something, anything, to manufacture an anti-Obama news story out of. I know you and I don’t see the world in similar terms, politically, but you usually don’t slip into that particular right-wing avocation.

    It reminds me of the student who, a few weeks ago, after a particularly trying period in my class, stormed out and down to the principal’s office… where she accused me (falsely, as it happens) of calling her “a bad kid.”

    You know you’re doing something right when your angriest critics can’t accuse you of anything worse than calling them “a bad kid.” (And trust me, of the long list of epithets I might have been thinking of calling this student, “bad kid” wasn’t in the top hundred, or even close!)

    If the worst thing you have to say about the Obamas right now is that Michelle has used a form of rhetorical exaggeration to compare childhood obesity to a security threat, then I take it Michelle’s husband will have your vote in two years.


    • Whom I vote for President is not based on their spouse and I don’t see the Obamas (or the Bushs or the Clintons, etc) as being part of some kind of co-Presidency.

      That’s fine this doesn’t offend you. We’re all different and can hold different opinions without “slip[ing] into that particular [insert type here]-wing avocation” being the reason for differences.

      I could assert that you have no problem with this because you are willing to give people on the Left more of a ‘pass’ than you are willing to do for those on the Right, but that would be an assumption that presupposes that you are not-self aware (which I don’t believe) and/or that you are intellectually lazy (which I don’t believe) and/or possibly that you are unethical (which I also don’t believe). I do, however believe that we all have biases and hot button issues, but I don’t see that as a negative as long as it isn’t a blind bias.


  9. I like several other who have posted on this admit that I do not fall into the category of thin, or even good to average weight. I am chubby, curvy, voluptuous or if you asked when my boyfriend isn’t around to hiss about it I’ll say I’m simply fat. As someone in this category I have to admit that I think my weight isn’t a risk to national security but I can see some validity in the statement.

    Being overweight is a serious health problem particularly when it begins at a young age. Probability for a variety of chronic illnesses double and triple as the pounds pile on. These illness increase health care and make then new health care plan more expensive every day. These illness make people less functional it all jobs the could do whether they are civilian or not. A sick country is a danger to itself, so I can agree that it may be approaching that level were the poor health we are giving to are children is becoming a disease infecting the country itself and we need to fight it wherever and however we can. Not to be too trite but prevention is the best medicine. So to look at this epidemic as harshly as Mrs. Obama does is understandable, its better to fight it hard now and make it out to be as ugly as it is then to let it poison the possibilities of our future. Could this be a bit extreme? Yes? But it is not an inaccurate look at the epidemic.

    PS. As stated in posts about the threat is not the children, but the perpetuation of obesity.

  10. I think the quote is tasteless but as high school graduates are increasingly out of shape and overweight, and therefore unfit for military duty, I guess it could count as a national threat.