President Goody-Goody is getting on my nerves

Posted: Jun 26, 2002 12:00 AM
One can give credit to George Bush for restoring dignity to the White House. Done. One can commend George Bush for responding appropriately to the Sept. 11 Islamist attack on the United States. Check. One can even give ol' George a pat on the back for his personal decision to kick alcohol and live a clean, reverent life. Patpatpat. But one can also draw the line at eating all one's fruits and veggies just like the president says good Americans should. Bush's four-day plug for more nutritious eating habits and improved fitness for a Better America has left me wishing for a bag Cheetos, a cooler of Bud and a pack of Marlboros. Not to be a square-dance pooper or anything, but there's such a thing as too much goodness. Anybody still wondering why "they" hate us? The president's new fitness and health program -Healthier US -must rub the world's anti-infidels into a rare frenzy. Here we are, the richest, fattest, laziest nation on Earth, currently on the receiving end of a near-global assault, and we're obsessing about our capitalist girth. How `speshal.' While Osama bin Laden's propaganda machine was announcing that America's Fourth of July may be more combustible than usual, the president was touring a senior citizen spin class in Florida; pitching at a White House T-ball game; running a 3K against administration staffers, no doubt gearing up for the Tora Bora 10K; and lecturing the nation on the merits of eating nutritious foods. Well, yeehah, I'm feeling better already. I mean, when the president can focus his attentions on the USDA pyramid and find time to jog and play ball, well, dang, the world must be a safer place than we thought. I don't know about you, Gomer, but I can hardly wipe this happy little grin off my happy little face. At this point, I admit, my inner Tourette's is giving me a bit of trouble. But I shall prevail, just as I prevail over my inner glutton, my inner sloth, my inner junkie and, less successfully, my inner cynic. There's nothing so seductive to the rebellious spirit -that cherished American thing, remember -than an authority figure urging others to self-improve. Maybe Bush's previous brushes with temptation are what compel him now to proselytize -a common affliction among the recently converted. One wishes him Godspeed in his recovery, but meanwhile, exactly
when did the Republican Party join the Nanny State? For the record, I am a member of the choir in this particular church. I do everything the president says he wants Americans to do -exercise daily, gave up cigarettes 20 years ago and wouldn't put Cheetos in my mouth without a gun to my head. But here's the point. I do my nutrition/exercise bit because I want to. Because it's the way I prefer to live. Because it's a choice I make. Because, as my trainer puts it, I'm a "little bit crazy." Not because The Government says I should. When government decides that Americans should do something, it usually isn't long before government figures a way to change "should" to "must." Ask a smoker. One day, the government determined that smoking was bad for you. In no time, government agencies conceived a plan to make smokers into social pariahs. Can it be long before we make overweight, unfit Americans equally unattractive and morally reprehensible? There's something Savonarola-ish about the Healthier US campaign, well intended though it may be. Gluttony and sloth, after all, are among the seven deadly sins, the biblical intolerance of which, you can be certain, supercedes any tolerance mandates currently in vogue. The fact is, anyone who can read a newspaper, operate a remote control or plug in a toaster knows -or should know -what it takes to be healthy and fit. It's just that certain people choose to ignore the information, just as some 50 million Americans choose to continue smoking cigarettes despite knowing that they're increasing their risks for heart disease and lung cancer, as well as mind-boggling jury awards following contraction of said diseases. You eats your burgers; you takes your chances. It is also fact of human nature, meanwhile, that few people change their habits because someone else says they ought to. Indeed, the opposite result is almost guaranteed, she said, brushing orange crumbs and ashes from her desk.