"If we could go back to the obesity rates of 1980 we could save the Medicare system a trillion dollars."—Barack Obama during Democratic Presidential Debate, 12/13/07Don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of George Bush. I am, in fact, one of those people who basically thinks a sock monkey could do a better job than our current president. But I have to admit, I am personally happy that, aside from certain snarkbound comments made by various Surgeon Generals, he does not seem to have made eradication of fat people a high priority in his administration. Who has time, when you have entire other countries to eradicate, and poor people to screw, and air and water and food to poison for the sake of sustaining oligarchy?
But we have an election coming up next year, and strictly from a fat perspective, I worry about who is going to replace him. When I found out Barack Obama (much like Hillary Clinton, who has made similar remarks in the past) wanted to disappear me solely because of my weight in order to save the government money, I had to ask: Just how far are they willing to go to make that a reality?
No, really, I want to know. I'm willing to sacrifice a lot in order to make life better for poor people, gays, Muslims, waterboarding victims, and a whole lot of other folks who have been personally kicked in the rear a lot more severely than I have by the current administration. I'm willing to sacrifice a lot for a cleaner environment, safer food, no war, no wiretapping or torturing just because you don't like someone's mustache, and more affordable housing for all. Which is why I'm a Democrat. They may not be perfect, but at least they make a pass at giving a damn about those issues.
But I still think I have a right to know just how much agency they are willing to remove from people—and especially fatasses like myself—in the name of "health care cost containment." You'd think the Democrats would be all about personal agency and individual freedom. They damn well ought to be. But I'm afraid that when it comes to nosing around in people's body autonomy, they're just as guilty as the people they want to replace; they just want to nose around in a different part of our bodies, that's all.
Here are some questions I'd love to see asked during Presidential debates (and not just of Democrats):
"Do you believe in reducing the number of fat people by any means necessary? What if people really make an effort to exercise and 'eat right' but are still 'obese'? Do you favor requiring them to have bariatric surgery, or putting them in weight-reduction prisons, or having a police state in which people get their homes broken into and their pantries cleaned out and forced at gunpoint to work out until they drop, or being barred from all restaurants and grocery stores and all public places until they slim down? How far are you willing to go?"
And bonus question:
"If certain medications have been demonstrated to foster weight gain, do you favor taking them off the market, even if they make it possible for a person to live something approaching a 'normal' life in every respect except weight? There are, after all, many more of these drugs on the market than in 1980, and many have attained very high levels of usage. Do you really want to take them away from people to make them thin?"
Not that I expect real, informed answers from any of 'em. They'll probably mumble something about how, of course they don't want to round us all up and amputate our stomachs, of course they don't want to impinge upon our personal freedoms, of course of course of course. All they want is for us fatasses to eat our vegetables and exercise, and most all of us will magically get and stay thin and never have costly health problems again! And if they're Democrats they'll probably also mumble something about how they'll give the veggies away, if they have to, along with the pots, pans, stoves, cooking classes and electricity required to prepare all those nummy orange-and-greens. Oh, and of course, we must think of the children, and take all the skin off their chicken before they are doomed to a life of FAAAAT! Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha. Rich people really don't get it, do they? And who the hell else can run for president and win?
The whole issue of removing personal agency to make people "healthier" should be a serious concern for everyone, regardless of weight. In this country, we allow adults to refuse to take medications or have surgeries or submit to other medical treatment at their own discretion, even if it goes against the recommendation of doctors. The one exception is putting someone on temporary psychiatric hold if they are deemed to be a direct and immediate threat to themselves or someone else, but even there, a fairly stringent standard of evidence applies—unless the person actually says, "I plan to commit suicide or homicide," or someone sees them actually physically carrying it out, you can't just "put someone away." And even then you can only do so as long as the immediate threat continues to exist. I don't know what the laws are in other countries that have government-sponsored health care in terms of patients being allowed to refuse doctor-recommended treatment modalities, but I would imagine that in most cases they are similar—if you are an adult, ultimately you are the one who gets to decide what gets put into your body (or your child's) and what doesn't. (If you have information to the contrary, feel free to correct me.)
As someone who has transcribed and edited thousands of medical reports, I can tell you that people refuse treatment all the time, and not simply at the end stages of their illnesses. I myself have refused to take statins against my doctor's recommendation, because frankly, I don't trust the damn things and haven't seen any evidence they prevent heart disease in women, and thus aren't worth the risk to me. My doctor may not agree with my decision, but he is not going to refuse to treat me unless I take statins. Might people refusing treatment at certain times in their lives "drive up health care costs"? Sure. If you wait, oftentimes the condition becomes more grave and expensive to treat in the long run. It's a risk. But it's a risk we allow people to take without forfeiting future care, and they do so routinely.
Don't people have the same agency when it comes to refusal to diet (or even "eat right and exercise" HAES-style)? Even if they are fat? Even if they are really, really, really, no-kidding-around fatfatfat? I don't happen to binge on soda and fries, but if I wanted to, isn't that my right, and who's to say that's necessarily the "self-destructive" choice? Wouldn't you rather I consumed comfort food when upset than, say, killed myself or someone else, or even drove like a maniac or got into a fistfight or screamed at someone at work or at home who didn't deserve to get screamed at? Is "eating badly and not exercising" really the worst thing I can possibly do? Is there really that much of a difference between, "I hate salad, exercise bores me to death, and I'd rather watch television, I've already given society my pound of flesh so leave me the hell alone," and "I refuse drug X/treatment X/surgery X, just because I don't want it or I'm not ready for that now"? Just how much agency do we want to remove from people to make them "healthy"?
Because, you know, mental health counts too. And having someone holding the highest office in the land who would rather kill me than treat me like a human being is not going to do wonders for mine.