Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three Shades of Discrimination

I belong to three groups against whom it is still acceptable to discriminate. I'm a) overweight, b) a smoker and c) an agnostic. Thank God, I don't want to run for president because any one of those labels would be enough to doom my campaign, much less all three of them.

Two are synonymous with weak-willed self-indulgence - smoking and obesity. Smoking is, of course, beyond the pale in 21st century USA. You can drink, even to excess, and no one will hold it against you. It's the American way. People will probably even find you amusing. Adultery - no big deal (although I think a woman would have a harder time getting away with it than a man) . It's all that macho testosterone, don't you know? Manly men sometimes just can't help themselves.

In a complete over-reaction to the effects of our evil habit, we smokers were first chased outdoors, then our allowable smoking areas were moved farther and farther from whatever facility we were at and finally, we were banished entirely from the property. You can no longer smoke at all in my airport - not in the terminal itself, not in the parking lot, not in the cow pasture that borders the other side of the runways. Same with my local hospital. Evidently, even seeing us from a distance is enough to inspire gasping indignation in anti-smokers.

My obedience to these dictates goes only so far. I will smoke in my car. That's still my property even if it is in your damn parking garage so the hell with your "thank you for not smoking" signs.

And then fatness. We saw the kind of narrow-minded criticism Governor Christie got when contemplating a run for the presidency. Gene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post took it upon himself to lecture Christie on his size in one of the most holier-than-thou, judgmental pieces of drivel I have ever read. At the end, he advised the governor to eat a salad and take a walk. It's enough to make you want to drive your car to Long John Silver's for a grease-drenched meal of deep-fried fish, fries and hushpuppies in rebellion to his sanctimony.

Of course, our society has been obsessed with weight for decades, not underweight, of course, just over-weight. We worship at the alter of emaciation as portrayed by the sweet young things on t.v. and the movie screen (who probably depend on pills to stay that way). We can't wait to place our order when the spokesperson tells us how she became a skeletal size 2 via NutriSystems. And then we are shocked, shocked, when our daughters become bulimic and/or anorexic and/or suicidal trying to live up to this unrealistic image.

Our culture equates obesity with mental dullness, lack of energy, slovenliness. The media and entertainment worlds promote this mindset with their depictions of overweight characters. It simply isn't true. Chris Christie is one of the brightest and most vital of the (almost) GOP candidates, a field which includes a number of the less intellectually endowed despite their svelte shapes. We are more prepared to overlook idiocy if it comes in an attractive package.

And finally, religion. My belief that I don't know the answers and I don't think anyone else does either would be a deal killer for sure if I ever ran for office. Saying that Jesus may or may not have been God's (whoever and whatever God is) son is not allowed. You must profess an unyielding faith in Christianity to be our president.

But...if you say that you find what the Mormons espouse to be approximately on par with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in believability, you'll be looked at with horror. That's how I see it though. In my book, to be a Mormon, you have to be either a dissembler to take advantage of the many benefits Mormons bestow upon their (male) followers or you have to be brainwashed. Those are the only two possibilities.

Not that other denominations of Christians aren't perfectly capable of believing two impossible things before breakfast. My own Catholics, for instance. The infallibility of the Pope? Seriously? When history tells us that some popes have been arrogant, selfish, dishonest, fanatical and even downright evil in some cases.

And all this at a time when history also proves that some of most publicly devout public officials have been the worst sorts of hypocrites.

I don't care if my president smokes. I don't care if he or she is fat. I don't care of he or she believes in any particular religion or none at all.

I just want my president to do a good job as the leader of this country. Beyond that, I could care less.