Food Fight Becomes Open Class Warfare

December 7th, 2010 at 12:55 am | 39 Comments |

| Print

Ross Douthat’s latest column, doctor observing the decline of religion, store marriage, and the two-parent family among the working class, was a depressing read. So much for the Palinesque illusion that there exists a virtuous, traditional “Real America” in the heartland, besieged by liberal coastal elites — educated, cultured despisers who hate them for their homespun values. In fact, according to a forthcoming study by the National Marriage Project, cited by Douthat, strong marriages and fidelity to churchgoing are increasingly the habits not of liberals or conservatives, as such, but of the educated middle class. As Douthat avers, whatever the regional, income and class voting patterns of Americans, the statistical evidence indicates “that a culture war that’s often seen as a clash between liberal elites and a conservative middle America looks more and more like a conflict within the educated class.”

As a Southern-born conservative who has for many years lived and worked among the coastal elites, I have been struck on my visits back home over the past few years how difficult it is to talk about anything political with my friends and family there. They are as closed-minded and combative about politics as any urban coastal liberal I’ve suffered over my years in exile. I was shocked, but (on second thought) not surprised, by the new study Douthat reported, because over the past decades, I’ve seen the same social trends play out in my very Red America homeland, on return visits.

There was another report today that hit me even harder than Douthat’s column: this interactive diabetes map showing the explosive growth of diabetes rates from 2004 to 2008. The Southeast – my home region – is by far the worst place in the country for diabetes. I checked the stats on my home county, and its rate is among the most dismal in America. Surprising? Not really, at least not to me. I’ve watched over the years as people back home have become much heavier than they were when I was growing up there. The interesting thing is how food and food culture is as much a cultural marker there as it is in Alice Waters’ San Francisco – but in the opposite direction.

In a much-discussed 2009 Policy Review essay, Mary Eberstadt talked about how odd it was that liberal elites are extremely permissive about sex, but Puritan fussbudgets about food. What’s less well explored is the culture-war role food plays among conservatives, especially in the South.  My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I’ve seen emerging back home a growing sense that food intake is not something that can be held up for moral analysis and judgment. Those who attempt to do so are typically seen as liberal snobs trying to impose their own preferences.

There’s no doubt that liberal foodies can be horrible snobs, and excruciatingly moralistic (to shop at the organic co-op in my uber-liberal neighborhood is to rub shoulders with people every bit as prissy and intolerant as the Church Lady). But at some point, it’s downright absurd for conservatives to ignore that food choices have moral implications. For me, going to my home county is an occasion for culinary culture shock, because middle-class people there simply do not have the same outlook on eating – especially for their children – as middle-class people do in my liberal city. Put plainly, people eat whatever they want, and lots of it, without giving it a second thought. More to my point here, they see the idea that one ought to care about such things as a sign of effete, high-handed liberalism.

It comes as news to my churchgoing conservative friends here in Coastal Liberal Land that making sure your kids limit sugary snacks and junk food is something only liberals care about. None of us are what you’d call foodies, and none of us go to the gym. It’s just understood that living responsibly, especially in a culture that celebrates the abolition of limits, requires a great deal of vigilance, especially when it comes to child-raising. That’s why though fasting is not really a part of American religious life today, there is still among my conservative friends real moral awareness of a religious duty to live a self-disciplined life, and to avoid the sin of gluttony. Why is the South – the most culturally conservative part of the country, in most respects, especially in Christian piety – so thoughtlessly permissive about eating?

The obvious answer is that they don’t see food choices as having moral weight. That stance is groundless from a Biblical point of view. Scripture aside, how can that point of view be sustainable from a common-sense conservative position when so many people are coming down with diabetes, a chronic disease closely related to overeating? New neuroscience research suggests that overeating certain foods earlier in life changes one’s brain in ways that make it harder to stop later in life. This means that parents who let their kids eat lots of sugar set them up for a lifetime of diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases. How is that not a moral failing?

The costs to society of treating diabetes is enormous, and is expected to triple to over $300 billion – if obesity plateaus, which it may not do. Who is going to pay for that indulgence? Both the taxpayer, in higher Medicare and Medicaid costs, and individual insurance ratepayers. It becomes difficult to take seriously Southern conservatives who complain about the morally lax lower orders (read: poor black people) being a drain on the taxpayer when they themselves have their mouths full of Super Sonic Cheeseburger.

It must be admitted that diabetes, like obesity, is correlated with race and poverty. You would expect to find a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the South, given that the South is home to a greater concentration of poverty and African-Americans – especially poor African-Americans. Appalachia, please note, is a diabetes hotspot; it has few blacks, but many poor whites – as does the rest of the South. For all that, it is striking to see how America’s Diabetes Belt coincides so neatly with the geographical core of Republican voters.

I remain puzzled by how normal, everyday discussions about diet and nutrition among my people either don’t happen, or occur in an emotionally charged, culture-war context. Like most folks, I don’t appreciate being preached at or lectured to about food or anything else, but as a conservative, self-reliance, self-discipline and personal responsibility are principles I seek to live by. What’s wrong with that? The careless, self-indulgent, self-righteous attitude towards eating that I see among many of my fellow right-wingers back home in the South can be called many things, but conservative is not one of them.

I was going to say that however gluttonous our side can be, unlike the Coastal Left, at least we get it right on God and sex. But the forthcoming National Marriage Project study indicates that outside of the educated middle class, we increasingly can’t claim the high ground there either. What, then, constitutes proof of our supposed conservatism as a superior way to live?


Richmond Ramsey is a pseudonym for a conservative who would rather not be reproached for eating a Super Sonic and drinking a Route 44 cherry limeade when he goes home to visit his Mama.

Recent Posts by Richmond Ramsey



39 Comments so far ↓

  • Madeline

    It becomes difficult to take seriously Southern conservatives who complain about the morally lax lower orders (read: poor black people) being a drain on the taxpayer when they themselves have their mouths full of Super Sonic Cheeseburger.

    Of course, if you’re not sucking down a mouthful of grease and salt, it’s perfectly acceptable to have racist views regarding the morality of African-Americans!

    So much for that vaunted conservative morality.

  • ms.michelle

    Why is the South – the most culturally conservative part of the country, in most respects, especially in Christian piety – so thoughtlessly permissive about eating?

    I guess Southerns have to check out some way and they chose food.

    All kidding aside, many Americans are overweight. One reason is due to lack of exercise but I believe it’s mostly from over sized portions and/or junk food. To me, junk food is the USA’s 21st century cigarette. Addictive and a slow killer.

  • larry

    As a Palinite might say, “Let them eat cake.” But, Ramsey instructs, as least they’ve got God right. Is that Homer’s Zeus, Egypt’s Ra, or the Jewish Yahweh? Please explain.

  • Tina

    I am on a diet now. Because I get fatter and fatter.
    My favourite Belstaff for you.
    http://www.belstaffjacketsoutlet.com

  • jakester

    Maybe they should check out the divorce stats too in those homespun moralistic red states. All the twaddle about old fashioned morals is some nostalgic view by “elites” of what they envision the pure rural types are like.

  • dlg1976

    I think the link you’re missing is that of diversity. Coastal elites (like myself) pride themselves on their multi-ethnic “tolerance” and their embrace of different cultures. A small fraction of this embrace has to do with hanging out with people from other cultures, but a large chunk of it has to do with eating other people’s culture’s food.

    Along with tolerance for religious and ethnic diversity that we find in the big coastal cities (and increasingly their suburbs) comes an enjoyment of diverse, “exotic” cuisines: Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Northern Indian, Southern Indian, Korean, African, Ethiopian, Greek, Turkish, Egyptian, Venezuelan, Californian, Cuban, Russian, Ukrainian, Moroccan, etc. etc. etc. Most representatives of these cultures, particularly recent immigrants, are going to feel more at home in the coastal metropoli than they would, say, in Mumfreesboro, TN or some other predominantly Evangelical Christian district. Face it, the Southeast doesn’t have much of a reputation for tolerance and inclusiveness, and foreigners and their cuisines are going to tend to concentrate elsewhere.

    The notable thing, besides the incredible diversity of international cuisine, is that – with the exception of some central-European cuisines – these all tend to be *much* healthier than traditional American cuisine. In fact, most of the Asian cuisines have a rich history of vegetarian diets. Just spending time looking at their menus will begin to change one’s mind about what is acceptable cuisine and what is “alternative.”

    Exposure to different philosophies of food- from Ayurvedic to Macrobiotic to Kosher and Halal will all but guarantee that you will start to take your nourishment more seriously. And you will likely lose a lot of your taste for the monotony of American cuisine besides. Of course the coastal elite cities will also have a wide variety of southern, burger, Bar-B-Q, and homestyle cooking – to say nothing of traditional “soul food,” but they are often given the same treatment as any other “ethnic” cuisines, and they are often cooked with fresh, or even organic ingredients, that real red-state confectioners shun.

    Foodie culture and an appreciation for the importance of (at the very least) a balanced diet is the direct product of exposure to multiple perspectives on eating. This is the province of the elite cities primarily, because they have drawn on cultural diversity – rather than religious homogeneity – for centuries to create their own “global” culture. I know “One World” folks have a bad reputation in some Christianist circles, but ignoring the multiple intelligences of the world’s cuisines will only hurt those who reject them- or don’t even bother to get to know about them in the first place. The diabetes epidemic is certainly a leading indicator of that fact.

    Yes, foodies can be exhausting, preachy, and uptight to be around, and there are plenty of reasons not to like the condescending – usually white – representatives of this clique. But remember that they are only the secondary sources, the messengers, if you will. The real diet-bringers are the immigrants whose peoples have practiced healthier eating in their home countries for millennia. They are the ones who are enlightening us about what we put into our bodies. Beefing up the culture wars against Park Slope snobs is to misdirect our energies. The philosophy of inclusiveness goes way deeper than that. It is a culture war of sorts, but it may be just a proxy war, not the one we’re pretending to be fighting.

  • ProfNickD

    Whether someone has diabetes isn’t another person’s concern — when the government decides the other person must pay for the diabetes treatment of someone the diabetes still isn’t his concern.

    The problem is the government forcing people to pay for things desired/needed by other people when it has no Constitutional mandate to do so, not the diabetes treatment or whatever else the thing is.

  • Madeline

    ProfNickD: Whether someone has diabetes isn’t another person’s concern — when the government decides the other person must pay for the diabetes treatment of someone the diabetes still isn’t his concern.

    Even without the government “deciding”, we are all paying for others’ poor health, in a variety of ways. If you are part of a group health plan (perhaps through your employer), your co-workers’ health determines the rates you and your employer will pay. If (as is currently happening) poor health is shortening a significant number of citizens’ productive work years, that’s less time that those folks are paying into Social Security and Medicare, which ends up costing us all. (Now, perhaps you are opposed to Social Security and Medicare, but, frankly, you might just as well be “opposed” to rain and snow, because, like rain and snow, SS and Medicare aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.)

  • jerseychix

    ProfNickD

    With that logic, then we should have 100% government funded abortions. Whether a woman is pregnant isn’t another person’s concern – when the government decides the other person must pay for the abortion treatment of someone’s pregnancy still isn’t his concern. I’d think a whole lotta people around here would disagree with that statement. I would say that health care costs at 17% of the economy are a pretty compelling argument under the commerce clause.

    The fact is, like it or not, health care costs for poor people are distributed to the middle class. And, like it or not, it is the people making money on the coasts that are hit with the biggest burden of those payments. There’s a lot of $$ that flow South and inwards from the coast. The government has the right and responsibility to see those taxes used well.

    But more to the point of the article, I think it is a question of stewardship. Being a Yankee, and having lived about a decade in GA, I saw a total abdication of stewardship. I believe we are stewards of our bodies, minds, marriages, family, and the earth. Which means I respect my body and what I put into it and how I treat it. I respect my mind and do not watch violent movies and just about anything on TV. I respect my marriage and work very hard, every day to treat my husband with the same love and respect I would like. We pray together to be good parents to our children and to build our marriage/family in the image of the Holy Family. And we work to be good stewards of the earth by teaching respect for it through gardening, living simply, and trying to make the best decisions we can with regards to stuff.

    Yet, I am still considered a liberal elite and not a “real American” by the people I lived with down south because I am (in this order) 1) Catholic 2) Yankee 3) educated. Despite the fact that I was an Army Officer and can probably shoot better than half those folks.

    And this cultural divide is now sitting at our waistlines. And it has a real cost in terms of health, family, and society. It is also as Mr. Frum pointed out, having some real security implications with our Army.

    There isn’t an easy answer, though we could certainly start by changing the farm subsidy program whereby we support mixed vegetable farming and not monoculture corn that makes soda cheaper than water. And the answer certainly is not in moralizing, but it isn’t also ignoring the very implications of eating patterns.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. It seems to me that morality, as opposed to tribalism, means constantly inquiring as to your own biases. It’s no fun to see the flaws of oneself or one’s side, but it’s how we grow.

    More to my point here, they see the idea that one ought to care about such things as a sign of effete, high-handed liberalism.

    Conservatism has no policy content– consider the flipout over the health insurance reform plan that, as David Frum has pointed out, came from the Heritage Foundation, or consider how eagerly Republicans oppose policies they’d supported when a Democrat proposes them. So it’s only appropriate that conservatism, in personal life, means, “if it feels good, do it.”

    How else could conservatives embrace people whose professional lives, and in some cases personal lives, cover them in shame, like Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, & George Bush Jr.? It’s because there is no longer any policy or moral content to conservatism. It’s pure identity politics.

  • Carney

    dlg1976 hilariously assumes greater virtue in non-Western cultures that don’t have as much obesity. But they’re skinnier because they have been poor, and unlike in the incredibly prosperous and free modern West, poverty elsewhere equals thinness. And much of that poverty has been a moral failing, the lack of freedom and respect for property rights. It’s easy to eat like an abstemious hermit, avoiding meat, when you’re too poor to do anything else.

    Pervasive in his post is the kind of gullibility that makes people fall for “traditional Chinese medicine” and New Age fads. Ooh, they’ve done it for millenia. So what? Where’s the evidence of effectiveness and safety, in proper, large-scale, double-blind studies?

    Reminds me of some lines from that classic song from “The Mikado” about people whom we would best be without:

    “Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, /
    All centuries but this, and every country but his own;”

  • Nanotek

    the war against the middle class started with Reagan and kicked into high gear under Clinton with NAFTA … Ross Perot was right … that giant sucking sound is all the manufacturers leaving the US to find a cheaper labor source and no environmental, child labor, etc laws to bother with.

    We need to reset manufacturing …

  • Xunzi Washington

    Carney –

    If you are right, then we can say that obesity in Americans who can afford to eat better are not virtuous in this respect in relation to their bodies, and that cultures, or sub-cultures, that promote better eating habits are in this regard more virtuous. As a consequences, this would mean that certain areas of America, in this respect, are truly less virtuous.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Whether someone has diabetes isn’t another person’s concern — when the government decides the other person must pay for the diabetes treatment of someone the diabetes still isn’t his concern.

    It may not be any particular person’s concern that any particular person has diabetes, but it is a social concern that societal members as a whole are not overly susceptible to diabetes, and that they have the capacity to deal with it when it emerges, just as much as it’s a social concern that we have an educated populace and we take steps to assure that this happens.

    The problem is the government forcing people to pay for things desired/needed by other people when it has no Constitutional mandate to do so, not the diabetes treatment or whatever else the thing is.

    We have a social contract that permits us to actually vote for things like taxes that some people don’t like. If in any particular case a person or group of persons thinks that a particular law is not Constitutional, they can raise that challenge and bring it to the Court. We’re still waiting for this to happen.

  • _will_

    I agree with the bulk of your piece, Mr. Ramsey, but:

    “As a Southern-born conservative who has for many years lived and worked among the coastal elites, I have been struck on my visits back home over the past few years how difficult it is to talk about anything political with my friends and family there. They are as closed-minded and combative about politics as any urban coastal liberal I’ve suffered over my years in exile.”

    Really?! You’ve been ‘struck’ by their close-mindedness and combativeness?
    I, too, am a Southern-born (relatively fiscal) conservative who has lived and worked among the coastal elites. In fact I presently reside in the deep south when I’m not doing consulting work for blue staters and I have seen first-hand their unique brand of prejudice.

    I realize the counter-narrative ‘OMG it’s the liberals who are really the narrow-minded!’ meme is really popular these days. But c’mon, are you really going to pretend to be surprised by the close-mindedness of people who have voted en masse for Constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and/or all other kinds of same-sex unions? Or folks who become apoplectic about government spending, even though Red states are consistently the largest beneficiaries of government spending? Please spare us the the po-faced reproach.

  • narcissa

    Well, this article had a lot that was good to say but it forgets that the South was always bigger than the North. In my childhood which had much shuttling from the two cultures the only place one could see obesity as a rule was the South. This was due to the Southern sweet tooth, sugary drinks (it is a Southern tradition to have coke in the morning, or an RC and a moonpie), and very few vegetables—most of them boiled a point that would violate the Geneva conventions.

    The only difference was the mitigation of heavy physical labor due to the South’s formerly rural nature. The south is no longer pre-dominently rural so those moonpies just sit there.

    On the other issue, I take issue with the idea that liberals don’t believe in the sanctity of marriage. The reason there was a push to liberalize divorce laws is because liberals believe in the sanctity in marriage—so we shouldn’t recognize people as married who have already divorced in their hearts. Additionally, freer divorce laws let women escape oppressive or abusive marriages.

    And as for the loosening of sexual mores, let’s be honest. Men were always permitted to have promiscuous sex. Hence the world slut refers to women not men. The sexual revolution just allowed women to have it without paying a heavy social price. There is nothing moral in treating your sexual partners tainted goods or inferior to yourself because they had sex with you. And how moral is it to call any ensuing progeny bastards and therefore they don’t require your care?

    Obviously, once the first social moray changed there were transitional growing pains, many of which have settled out into a pattern for people who publicly accept this way. Most liberals don’t try to find their marriage partner in their youth (when one is both unlikely to know what one wants long-term, and less capable of discipline in general, and sexual discipline in particular).

    Still, the images of wild promiscuity is not true for most of us, nor possible for most of us. But once one has decided to be serious, most liberals live together first, some more than once as they test out if a relationship really jells properly, then they marry, spend some time as a couple and then have their kids. Essentially, giving each transition time to happen before greeting the next. How precisely is that not treating human relationships as if they are sacred?

  • Stewardship

    Doesn’t this all come around to political correctness? By focusing the discussion on healthy diets, we’re ignoring the core question. That is, should tax payers and insurance rate payers subsidize the health care of people with self-inflicted health issues (diabetes caused by diet and obesity; lung and heart disease caused by smoking.)

    I won’t question your menu choices, as long as I don’t have to pay for your healthcare (and as long as you don’t run over my toes with your Rascal at WalMart.)

    Two weeks ago, a very good friend of mine had the ‘sleeve’ procedure performed on his stomach. The person tried and tried and tried to diet away the 100+ pounds of extra weight for years. But, the willpower to fight off life-long habits and tastes could never be mustered. The total bill will run over $30,000, and will be shared by others in the insurance pool. You think the skinny guy who takes care of his body, in the cubicle next door, is going to be thrilled to pay 40% higher insurance premiums next year?

    We need to build the true cost of our decisions into our lives. Obese people, smokers….they should be paying substantially higher insurance prices and more out of pocket. I guess by draining them of cash is one way to force them to stop buying smokes and Twinkies.

  • WillyP

    For all the talk, on both sides, about keeping the government “out of the bedroom,” I am continually surprised how obsessed liberals are with moving sex into politics, and how purported Republicans obsess over how the left judges their sexual ethics.

    I rarely bother attempting this, but can we all agree, in principle, that there’s something unique about the emotions that encompass sexual intimacy?

    Conservative, so far as I can tell, say very little about the topic because (I suspect) they don’t feel that most people need a lecture on basic ethics. As if there aren’t enough stories of rape from the ancient world, enough special categories of law dedicated to prosecuting crimes of a sexual manner, enough exemptions from punishment for “crimes of passion,” a crime known as “adultery” defined by sexual acts, enough violence and smut and degradation revolving around excessive worship of the flesh… It just seems to me obvious that anybody who purports to be a moral person must learn to curb their appetites and not treat the topic flippantly.

    Liberals, meanwhile, make the case ad nauseum, that sex is fun and should be enjoyed and celebrated and abundant. We need reminders that sex is fun about as much as we need reminders that drinking (and so many other pleasures that can easily turn into vices) is fun. It’s all fine and good until your partner realizes s/he’s not exclusive, or you become an alcoholic/addict of another sort.

    I suffered through Douthat’s article (as one is wont to) and just came out thinking… do we really need an editorial on this? Like anything could replace the institution of marriage? Cultural liberals who really believe in “free love” are one step above infantile. I don’t care whether it’s a yokel, a puritan, or a liberal elitist affirming that healthy marriages are indispensable to a healthy society. It’s a fundamental fact that you’d hope liberals and conservatives (that is, most responsible adults) could agree on… and I suspect most privately do.

    As for food, it’s simply barbarous to believe that government should be used to stop you from ingesting substances that aren’t acutely dangerous.

  • Mercer

    ” the South was always bigger than the North. In my childhood which had much shuttling from the two cultures the only place one could see obesity as a rule was the South. This was due to the Southern sweet tooth, sugary drinks (it is a Southern tradition to have coke in the morning, or an RC and a moonpie), and very few vegetables”

    I have a lot of relatives in Southern West Virginia. When I look a old pictures of family members and others from 50 to 100 years ago the tiny number of obese people in the past is striking. This a region that has had little immigration since WWI so it is not genes that is making people fat there.

    Sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra and black-eyed peas used to be considered standard Southern food. The old staples have been replaced by McDonalds and KFC.

    I don’t think people from other parts of the country can change the current Appalachian diet. It will take people in the region to persuade them to change.

  • Madeline

    As for food, it’s simply barbarous to believe that government should be used to stop you from ingesting substances that aren’t acutely dangerous.

    Who is suggesting anything even remotely like this?

    ETA: Well, I’ll take that back. Human flesh isn’t acutely dangerous, but there are laws against ingesting it nearly everywhere. I fully support those laws. Endangered species are not allowed to be hunted and consumed, and I have no problem supporting those regulations.

  • Rob_654

    WillyP // Dec 7, 2010 at 11:26 am
    I am continually surprised how obsessed liberals are with moving sex into politics, and how purported Republicans obsess over how the left judges their sexual ethics.

    Seriously? Isn’t it the Conservatives that have outlawed and tried to outlaw certain sexual acts that occur among consenting adults? Conservatives are the ones who tell us that while they want the government out of the lives of the individual – they want the government right in the bedroom to make sure that people aren’t doing things, among consenting adults that would freak out the bible thumpers out there.

    As for food – I don’t care what people eat – or how fat they get (as long as they don’t wear spandex and think that they look good) – but where I draw the line is when my tax dollars goes for treating obesity related diseases via Medicare and Medicaid – and even when I pay higher health insurance premiums because insurance companies have to deal with fat people and their illnesses – as long as fat folks are willing to take Personal Responsibility when they get diabetes, etc… and not ask everyone else to help pay for their care – they can do whatever they want – otherwise its time to drop weight and get in shape.

  • WillyP

    madeline,
    Of course I was referring to things like tobacco, transfats, fat (in general), salt, fast food, etc.

    If I want to smoke a cigarette, which costs about 1 cent to produce, there’s no justification – period – to making that cigarette cost 75 cents. It’s extortion.

    Once government runs healthcare and “incurs the costs” for “bad dietary habits” and “harmful addictions” whatever, there’s no limit.

    As an intelligent, discerning adult, I don’t need some ninny in city hall telling me what is good and what is bad for my health. My parents did a fine job telling me to eat dinner before dessert, to exercise, and to visit doctors if/when I felt ill. Oh right, and they also told me to study, get good grades, tell the truth, apply for and get a job, and be able to support myself.

    Never did they tell me to use the government to get what I need. To most self-respecting people, you see, that’s the very last resort. (How ironic it is, then, that it is the exactly government policies which have destroyed the economy that have forced otherwise self-sufficient citizens to accept unemployment and welfare payments.)

  • Watusie

    WillyP, did your parents also teach you how to build your own roads, direct your own air traffic, patrol your neighborhood at night, keep communism at bay, write and enforce your own uniform commercial code, test your beef for e-coli, etc, etc?

    Were it not for the government your parents probably would have been telling you that cigarettes were good for your health – becasue that is what they were learning from the manufacturers.

    Did you parents also teach you it was just common sense to wear seat belts? Well, who can you thank for your car having seat belts??

  • cdorsen

    Good points Stewardship. Instead of forcing more government intrusion into our lives, how about just affixing people’s dollars with their lifestyle choices. I agree that I would not be happy to pay my co-workers health costs when they drink, eat, and smoke heavily. So, why not allow insurance companies to sell policies that get pooled outside of your workplace. They do it for automobiles, and guess what? People with DWI’s and 10 foot stacks of speeding tickets pay higher rates. Why is this so taboo for health insurance?

    But, I do love hearing tolerant PC liberals slamming a minority group, southeastern whites. If SE whites were lecturing blacks on their eating habits (ever had real soul food? It’s about the worst dieting choice….ever), their drinking or smoking habits, it would be pure cynical racism at its worst. Especially southern whites complaining that blacks were a burden to our society which seems to be the point about SE whites here. Stereotypes abound, but no problem because it’s about those racist, burdensome, and fat white southerners.

    Is traditional southern food unhealthy, yes. But, it is as much a part of southern culture as fish n’ chips in the UK. It isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And, like most cultural foods, it has traditional reasons why it has always been a part of the southern diet. The south economically is only now recovering after the CW. When you’re poor, you use what you have. Unless you live in the coastal SE, pigs are cheaper than fish or cows. Use all the parts because you can’t afford to waste parts. You fry things because you didn’t always have the best tasting freshest foods, but it was okay with batter and cooked in oil.

    I lived in Korea for 2 years. Is Korean food healthier, absolutely, but it has it’s history too. Korea can have a harsh climate in the winter and until recently not much refrigeration for the summer, so they fermented vegetables to eat all year round. They didn’t do it because it is more healthy regardless of the fact that it is. Nor did they do it out of any sense of moral obligation. Now Gimchi (its not kimchi or kimchee) is Korea’s national dish and inseparable from the peninsula. Gimchi is Korea. If modern science found it to have carcinogens, Koreans would revolt before giving it up. Should the southeast look to eating healthier now, sure, but by government dictate?

    Traditions and cultures can and do change, but the south simply feels like it is change by dictate. They may seem hostile to coastal elitism, but its because for right or wrong, after the CW, they have always felt talked down to, stereotyped as dumb and backwards, and made to adapt to NE “sensibilities” like it or not. Can you blame them for being a bit hostile to any government mandate requiring them to abandon their culturally inherited favorite dishes?

  • Mercer

    ” abandon their culturally inherited favorite dishes?”

    Do you consider burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and pizza culturally inherited Southern dishes?

  • Xunzi Washington

    “Can you blame them for being a bit hostile to any government mandate requiring them to abandon their culturally inherited favorite dishes?”

    What government mandate?

  • WillyP

    says Watusie,
    “…did your parents also teach you how to build your own roads, direct your own air traffic, patrol your neighborhood at night, keep communism at bay, write and enforce your own uniform commercial code, test your beef for e-coli, etc, etc?”

    The purchasing of a service (through confiscatory taxation) is different than the provision of a service. For example, government contracts with private companies to pave my roads. For example. government gives money to seniors to pay doctors. In other words, government redistributes. In my home town, the community I grew up in used to contract with a private snowplower, and our roads were clean and safe. In the last 20 or so years, this function has been assumed by our township, and now the snowplow refuses to do our street because “it’s dangerous.” (You see, I grew up on a hilly street.) Great service there, huh? Thanks.

    I don’t believe in a state that tells me what is safe and what is unsafe, and then bans all unsafe things. That’s not freedom. That’s called a second-hand life. What kind of a psychological infirmity do you possess which makes you so inclined to defend a philosophy which has no logical end? Think about it for just a minute: if I do not want to wear a seat belt, what business is it to make me? Who will pay the consequences? Whose life is in danger but my own? (I do wear seat belts, but not absolutely 100% of the time.) Does common sense teach me to wear a seat belt? Not so much as elementary physics. As if car manufacturers wouldn’t allow them as an option for a trivial fee. As if you’re not paying for them already…

    And what does it matter if I choose to ingest copious amounts of friend chicken, of sugary drinks, and smoke several cigars per week? What do you care if I’m paying for my own insurance? Who in their small mind thinks it is any of their business to tell me if it’s “right” to smoke? Now, I don’t eat excessive junk food and don’t smoke all that much. But that’s not because it’s expensive or because I’m subjected to state propaganda. It’s because I’ve been raised properly and educated. If anything, the excessive hatred of smokers which envelopes NYC only makes me want to smoke more (though, truthfully, I rarely smoke).

    Risky behavior is, you know, risky. That’s life… Should we ban mountain climbing? Should we ban bike riding on city streets? Should we ban drunks on train platforms? Should we ban slippery floors? How about football, or horseback riding? Should we ban pitbulls? What about guns, sharp knives, and swords? Should we install speed limiters in cars? Should cars drive themselves to avoid accidents when this technology becomes available?

    How about BBQs? What about flammable liquids? What about installing breathalyzers in cars? Apropos to the post, should we ban promiscuous sex due to disease and risk of pregnancy? Should driving be illegal in icy conditions?

    If not to any of the above, why tobacco? Why transfats? Why attack salty foods? Alcohol probably costs more than tobacco in terms of healthcare costs (if we’re counting). It also leads to broken homes, abuse, wasted lives, accidents, homelessness, and other substance abuse. Why go after smokers and not drinkers? Just because they’re a minority and easier to target politically? How did prohibition work out for us?

    You see there is no logical divide. It’s the fashion of the day. However the rules will build, and soon you’ll be left wondering why you can’t sip your Coke while driving way home from White Castle.

  • cdorsen

    Sorry, to clarify, I was not suggesting that there was currently a government mandate or one on the government table. Based from the other posts, it seems that people in order reduce health care costs were coming pretty close to advocating or suggesting that one would be justified.

  • Watusie

    WillyP “I don’t believe in a state that tells me what is safe and what is unsafe, and then bans all unsafe things. That’s not freedom. That’s called a second-hand life. ”

    So I should consider my existence diminished because I’m not allowed to drive 180mph? Consider me unconvinced by your hyperbole.

    “Think about it for just a minute: if I do not want to wear a seat belt, what business is it to make me? Who will pay the consequences? Whose life is in danger but my own? (I do wear seat belts, but not absolutely 100% of the time.) ”

    The only reason you have a choice whether or not to wear a seatbelt is that government intervention has forced automakers to supply you with the belt. Without government intervention you would not have that choice because you would not have a belt.

    “As if car manufacturers wouldn’t allow them as an option for a trivial fee.”

    I see you are completely ignorant of the actual history of the automobile industry.

    In 1983 only 14% of Americans used their seatbelts. Today it is over 80%. Only a moron would argue that this is a bad thing.

  • Fastball

    I don’t care if people are from the North, South, East, West, or from the dark side of the moon – their right to eat unhealthy crap ends where my wallet begins. If you want to eat double-triple bacon-cheese super-duper monster burgers and wash it all down with enough sugary soda to dissolve a battleship, go ahead. Just don’t make me pay for your bad habits through my taxes or my insurance premiums.

    And as for smoking, anyone’s right to fill their lungs with toxic combustion byproducts ends where others’ noses begin – anywhere, everywhere, all the time, no exceptions, and no whining.

  • WillyP

    as much as it bothers me about cigarettes and salt, here’s a bigger problem:

    http://1431731ontario.net/Current/Articles/AmericanProfligacyAndAmericanPower_TheConsequencesOfFiscalIrresponsibility.pdf

    Yes, our government is way too big. It needs to be pared back severely and with extreme prejudice before it’s too late.

  • Xunzi Washington

    cdorsen –

    I don’t think anyone is even coming close to suggesting such a thing.

    It’s not (in this case) Southern regional cuisine that is the issue, it’s the culture of food intemperance in the South. The number of morbidly obese people in the South is skyrocketing, and not because the regional cuisine has changed over time. Instead, look right at the article’s author – talking about how he wants to get a super Sonic cheeseburger (1270 cal) and a route 44 cherry lime aid (370 cal). Of course you know he got a large fries too (450 cal). Total = 2090 cal in one meal. This is typical eating here in the South, and I can assure you that people eat that lunch on top of a very filling breakfast, dinner, and many snacks in between.

    Look, I live in these areas myself. People are immense here. It’s not the cornbread, and it’s not the sausage bakes, or even the bbq ribs. It’s the “eat until you puke” culture, added to the fact that every square mile has 10 buffets and 20 fast food restaurants. I have no desire for anyone — state or local govt — to ban Super Sonic burgers (they are pretty nasty, though). Buffets are fine with me. I don’t care about the existence of trans-fat.

    However, to have school cafeterias not set that example by serving junk food to small kids is also fine with me. Govt schools do not need to be complicit, and can serve a positive role. If a parent wants to stuff a bag full of crap Sonic for their kid to eat at school, go ahead – kill your kid. But schools should not set the example.

  • Carney

    Watusie, my father was having seat belts custom-installed in his car in the 60s, long before government forced it on all the manufacturers as a standard feature.

    It’s saved lives, no doubt, but you have to admit that as government expands, non-government (the voluntary sector) contracts. We need to be very cautious about such expansion, realizing that government has a natural tendency to “want” to expand on its own anyway, like a snowball going downhill.

    I do support, for instance, a flex fuel mandate, but that’s a national security matter.

  • Madeline

    Govt schools do not need to be complicit, and can serve a positive role.

    And this is the crux of the matter for me. Nobody is talking about banning salt or sugar or junk food, or making it unavailable to the general public*. However, federally funded school lunches should consist of fresh, healthy food, not pre-packaged salty sugar bits.

    *I know New York tried to enact a trans fat ban. Personally, I don’t have much of an issue with that. Trans fats don’t exist in nature – they’re frankenfoods, and they can be easily replaced with animal or vegetable fats. Chicago briefly enacted a foie gras ban on the grounds that production of foie gras constituted animal cruelty. I have minimal issues with that (I mean, frankly, how often do you eat foi gras, anyway?) I don’t know of a single city or state that tried to enact a ban on fast food or soda.

  • Richmond Ramsey

    Hi y’all, thanks for reading and commenting. I was trying to be funny about the Super Sonic Cheeseburger. I really do like them an awful lot, but I only eat them when I go back South to see my kinfolks. I don’t care if people eat unhealthy food as a general rule. I do it myself from time to time.

    The problem I have with all this, in general, was touched on by one of the commenters, who mentioned the huge amounts of food (especially junk food) that Southerners eat. It’s generally true about Americans these days, but the statistics on diabetes indicate that it’s worst in the South. Having grown up there in the 1960s and 1970s, we always had overweight people, but nothing like what we have today. Why is that? The problem I see is NOT that people down South eat greens and pork and cornbread, all of which I love and eat every chance I get. The problem is that they eat lots of junk food, and eat it all the time. The moral problem is that nobody sees this as a moral problem — I mean, the fact that lots of people, especially kids, are getting quite fat, with all the health problems that accompany obesity, doesn’t seem to strike anybody as an issue of moral concern (and it didn’t for me either, until I moved out of the South, and started to change my eating habits). Near as I can tell, it’s a matter of gluttony for most people, though not all.

    It’s so strange to me now to see how people back home eat all the time, and such huge portions. I see overweight people here on the coast where I live, but nothing like at home, WRT the numbers. Too, when I’ve raised the question of eating habits with my friends and family back home, they act like I’ve gone all Blue State on ‘em. It’s like being fat and not caring about what and how much you put in your mouth is a badge of regional and cultural credibility.

    I am not calling on the government to regulate anything. I am calling on people who call themselves conservative to regulate how much food they put into their pieholes, and to live within their means, or at least to recognize that when it comes to self-discipline and the gospel of personal responsibility, we say one thing but do another. And it shows.

  • sayward

    Love the cultural argument. I don’t feel like a foodie, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gradually changed my diet towards fish and vegetables and have been surprised how family and friends have reacted to that.

    There is also an economic argument, which doesn’t necessarily apply to the general case of the South. There is a great study just released about food choices in the San Francisco area which shows that healthy food options are limited in economically depressed areas and in fact nutritionally poor options are promoted over healthy options:

    http://www.foodispower.org/scc_study.htm

  • space2k

    The fact that this piece has to be written under a pseudonym speaks volumes.

  • Steve D

    Havin’ Deja Vu Attack #1 here. I’d go home from college during the late Sixties and try to tell people what was driving campus radicals. Then I’d go back to college and try to explain to the radicals how they were perceived off campus. I was fascinated that, at either end of the spectrum, I got identical responses. It wasn’t that people couldn’t understand, they WOULDN’T. I would get responses so specious and irrelevant that it was clear their intent was to block comprehension and divert the discussion somewhere else.

  • What's the value of immigration? - Southern Maryland Community Forums

    [...] is quite interesting. It's now bookmarked on my browser. Anothe interesting observation from Frum. Food Fight Becomes Open Class Warfare | FrumForum __________________ If you always seem to say the wrong thing, you might just be talking to the [...]