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Wed July 2, 2003
The Age of Denial - A Commentary
By Tom Dodge, KERA 90.1 commentator
Dallas, TX – The lawyers are huddling I understand, getting set to attack the food industry the way they did the cigarette makers. The implication here is that fatties are being force-fed fat-filled burgers, tacos, French fries, and I really don't know what all. This is not true. People are simply denying any responsibility for their rotundity. The lawyers are looking for somebody to sue. They haven't said yet whose purses they're going after. I suspect they're looking for the heaviest ones.
Ordinarily I'm not sympathetic to big corporations, but maybe they don't deserve being gouged in this case. It's just business. Fat and salt taste good, and they're cheap and legal. McDonald's, and all the rest, sell it to us. They also offer low-fat, low-salt burgers. We pass these up for the good old greasy ones. If we went for the fat-free, then that's what they would offer in profusion. If we liked boiled tree bark, McDonald's caldrons would be crackling night and day. I'm dubious about prosecuting the guy that only sells you what you want. This happens all the time, of course, with drugs, pornography, and prostitution.
Who has it all their way? Personally, I don't like cynical, peanut-brained AM radio talk-show hosts and creepy television evangelists. They make vulgarity and ignorance respectable. But they're on the air because a lot of people like them. I'm not for censoring them or suing them. If listeners suddenly got smart, these shows would dry up. They won't smarten up though, because they deny that learning is important.
Getting smart has been a low priority for a long time, I think. Those who do are called nerds, geeks and losers, but they grow up to make society better for all the rest. They become artists and scientists. They write the scripts for "Toy Story" and "The Lion
King." The author of Harry Potter books was said to be a loser a decade ago. It was a nerd who made award-winning documentaries like "Roger and Me" and "Bowling For Columbine" that infuriate the AM talk-show hosts and their listeners. Writing the script for "Toy Story" and originating the animation for it take brains and hard work, but those who can't do it deny they can't and deny those who do the recognition they deserve for it. Think about it: "Toy Story" and the Harry Potter books, too, center on bright kids who are persecuted outcasts.
A majority of deniers, born after World War II, grew up in materialistic heaven. They think that just because they can drive in air-conditioned bliss and yap on the telephone at the same time that everything else ought to be perfect, too. But being perfect requires deniability, unfortunately. Today's leaders set the example.
Oval office romance? Vast right-wing conspiracy.
No weapons of mass destruction? Not my fault. Bad intelligence, so to speak.
Got cancer from smoking? Sue Liggett and Myers.
Fatter than Mr. Pickwick and have high blood pressure? Sue the restaurants.
Too illiterate to read the label on the blood pressure medication? Sue the school.
I have another suggestion. If smoking, fatty food, pornography, drugs, and prostitutes are bad for you, stay away from them. If you like them, then enjoy them, take the consequences, and shut up.
You don't actually have to be very smart to see that denying responsibility started with Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit. "The woman gave it to me," he said. "The serpent deceived me," she said.
I don't think it was a perfect world that God was interested in. I think God just wanted someone to take a little responsibility here.
Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian.