Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moral Obesity in America

Americans are too fat, experts say. The debate on gay marriage suggests we may be growing fat-headed as well.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics predict 42 percent of the population will be obese by 2030, with 11 percent severely obese, at health care costs of $550 billion.

How do we set the price of moral obesity, as reflected in the uproar over the President’s conversion into a supporter of gay marriage?

Just as we have been stuffing our bodies with too much poor nourishment and exercising them too little, are we doing the same with our minds and hearts?

In this election year, opinions are as ubiquitous as fast food and most are just as nourishing. Political debate swerves from contraception to the sanctity of marriage in an eyeblink, although neither subject is on the legislative agenda after a meaningless North Carolina vote Tuesday.

Yet, a New York Times editorial asserts that the President “took the moral high ground on what may be the great civil rights struggle of our time” while other pundits calculate both the timing and political impact of his coming out on the issue.

Where is all this litmus-testing on issues great and small taking America? What was wrong with the President's previous “Yes, but” position on gay marriage? What’s next on the agenda for splitting us into “for” and “against” factions?

Human beings have doubts, ambivalence, uncertainties, zigzags, and, yes, prejudices on many questions. That’s what makes them human.

In his “evolving” on gay marriage, Barack Obama was being human but, in today’s political climate, that apparently is not enough. Someone who shares his previous position and is not ready to embrace his new one finds such an all-or-nothing imperative saddening.

I would vote for him in November against robotic Mitt Romney for many reasons, but it would be heartening to see the President less susceptible to being pushed into the political twilight zone in which his adversary lives.

In the long run, moral obesity is as big a threat to the body politic as diabetes is to individual Americans. A diet of more straight talk and less calculation is indicated.

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