Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann Pan Michelle Obama

My last post focused belatedly on Rush Limbaugh’s take on Thanksgiving. In my mind, that ridiculous rant was yet another of the seemingly endless examples of angry people on the right spewing anger to serve no productive purpose. Mr. Limbaugh and people like him spew their anger to attract listeners or adherents, but then never seem to do anything productive with their followers. They just encourage people to gripe and indulge in self-righteousness and/or self-pity. And sometimes such media celebrities frankly start to run out of material to spark outrage, so they have to really get inventive and dig deep to find something new. To me, Mr. Limbaugh’s silly rant against Mr. Obama’s expression of gratitude to the Native Americans on the occasion of Thanksgiving is evidence of that desperation to continually find a source of fuel for unproductive anger and outrage Similar examples of such desperation can be found in recent rhetoric by Governor Sarah Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann as they pan First Lady Michelle Obama.

Ms. Obama has been trying to champion non-partisan issues that impact many Americans. One of the main causes she has championed has been the fight against childhood obesity. She has been promoting the eating of veggies, portion control and leading an active lifestyle. She has visited schools, appeared on the Disney Channel and cultivated a garden at the White House in support of this cause.

I personally appreciate Ms. Obama taking on this issue. My husband and I have both always struggled with our weight. We dreaded P.E. because we were never any good at the sports played and were last to be picked for teams. Our childhood memories are full of fast food and many hours watching T.V. We both want something different for our kids. We work hard to include a lot of fresh produce in our family’s diet, and to limit sweets and fried foods to occasional treats. And though my husband and I both loathe sports, we try to hide that fact from our kids and to encourage them to get plenty of exercise. Beyond their soccer teams and dance lessons, as a family we all go hiking, bike riding, and swimming together throughout the year. Despite my own sedentary work life, I also try to set a good example for my kids by regularly putting my treadmill to its intended use instead of using it as a coat rack (which frankly would be my natural preference if little eyes weren’t looking up to me).

I also appreciate Ms. Obama taking on the issue of childhood obesity because I have seen firsthand what a huge problem it is in our country. When I taught grade school, I had a lot of obese children in my classes. It always broke my heart. The health consequences of obesity are serious. Many of the students I taught had family members with diabetes. A few of my students had themselves already developed the disease. Beyond the health issues, I also felt for the obese students in my classes because they were socially ostracized at times despite my best efforts to intervene and encourage everyone to be friends. Children can be cruel.

So, yeah, for Michelle Obama. I’m so glad she has taken on this challenging issue. And one would think that everyone would rally around her in a nonpartisan manner. Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee both have championed the cause. It seems like a no-brainer. I mean, no one is pro-childhood obesity, are they? Even if you have no intrinsic concern for the human suffering involved, from just a detached, economic point of view childhood obesity is a very bad thing. In this age of out-of-control health care costs, no one could possibly think rising rates of juvenile diabetes are a good thing, right?

Well, instead of being supportive of Ms. Obama’s efforts, Sarah Palin has chosen to make snarky public comments attacking the First Lady. Apparently, per Governor Palin, Ms. Obama needs to get off our collective backs. Governor Palin has always been slim and athletic, so maybe she hasn’t noticed that we have a nation of obese folks. The status quo has not worked. As a result, maybe it is not the end of the world to talk about this problem publicly and bring attention to it. I’m disappointed in Governor Palin’s attitude on this issue. Her ugly comments seem to have no purpose other than to encourage the anger of those prone to taking offense easily. The comments are not productive and do not in any way help solve the problem of childhood obesity.

For more information on Governor Palin’s comments, see the article in the link below:

Recently, Representative Michele Bachmann has jumped in along a similar vein. Ms. Obama made comments supportive of breastfeeding and making it easier for mothers who choose that for their infants. She has noted the evidence that breastfed children are less likely to be obese, so these comments are part of her efforts to fight childhood obesity. I frankly hadn’t heard about her comments, but good for her. Most women work outside the home these days, but logistically it is extremely difficult to breastfeed when you are not with your infant during the day. Again, who is against breastfeeding? What is wrong with Ms. Obama encouraging breastfeeding? Unless you work for a company making baby formula, I’m thinking no one could really be against it. Again, it should be a no brainer.

Michele Bachmann is even pro-breastfeeding. She has shared publically that she breastfed all five of her children. Good for her. Good for her kids. That is wonderful. But despite being in the pro-breastfeeding camp, Representative Bachmann finds fault in Ms. Obama encouraging others to breastfeed. Somehow such encouragement from the White House is a bad thing. A former tax lawyer, Representative Bachmann is also irate that modest tax incentives might be available in to help women who want to pump breast milk when they work outside the home. Per Representative Bachmann, this is all apparently evidence of a “nanny state.” I’m glad that Representative Bachmann was able to be with her five children in person to breastfeed them and/or to buy her own breast pump to provide them with breast milk when she was not with them. Not all women are financially able to do such things.
For more information on Representative Bachmann’s comments, see the article at the link below:

I find the attacks on Ms. Obama to be ridiculous. It is a good thing to encourage people to do things to benefit their health. That is particularly true when we live in a nation of folks suffering from diseases that are preventable and when we are in the midst of an unsustainable escalation in health care costs.

And Ms. Obama’s campaigns against childhood obesity and her comments in support of breastfeeding are certainly not unusual when looking at the work of her predecessors. Was Nancy Reagan being paternalistic (or maternalistic) when she encouraged kids to “just say no” to drugs? Were Barbara and Laura Bush pushing a nanny state when they were encouraging people to learn to read and patronize libraries, respectively?

Clearly there are a whole lot of Americans who use illegal narcotics and their lives are ruined as a consequence. But maybe First Ladies just shouldn’t get involved. Perhaps we ought to have told Nancy Reagan to get off our backs in the 1980s when she spoke out. The nerve. Lecturing us about drug use.

As First Lady, Barbara Bush used her platform to promote literacy. Maybe she should have just backed off. Maybe the folks who are unable to read just don’t like phonics. This is a free country. Step off, sister! Let us live in ignorance.

More recently, Laura Bush used her influence as First Lady to increase the funding of libraries. How dare she?! What meddling. We didn’t need her interference. We knew how much funding libraries needed without her butting in.

Obviously, the last three paragraphs have been sarcastic. That is how silly these recent attacks on Ms. Obama have been. What is Ms. Obama supposed to do? Is she not allowed to take on any causes? How pathetic that even nonpartisan efforts against childhood obesity and in favor of breast feeding can be manipulated to rile up the masses.

I feel frustrated that these types of manipulation have been so successful. It is just not productive and it is ugly. Clearly, as a nation, we did not achieve greatness by sitting around whining and indulging in pointless anger over minor points. That is not how we established the first modern democracy, stormed the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from fascism, developed a vaccine against polio or developed the internet. We Americans are better than that.

Job 26:2

"What a help you are to the weak!
How you have saved the arm without strength!”

No comments:

Post a Comment