Written By Sherwood Kohn

It seems obvious that our country has a weight problem.

From all accounts, we are in the grip of an obesity pandemic. As Patricia Rouzer reports in this issue, doctors are seeing more children who are asthmatic and diabetic as the result of being overweight.

Manufacturers of automobile children’s seats, Ms. Rouzer reports, are making their products larger to accommodate bigger kids. Airlines are saying that they hear more passenger complaints about the size of seats on their planes, and that they may have to raise fares to compensate for rising fuel costs, in part because patrons are getting heavier. And more and more–if the television talk shows are any indication–hordes of hefty women are parading in front of the cameras, proclaiming that they are “proud of being large.”

What’s going on? Is it just that we, as a nation, are fat and happy?
Is this trend toward avoirdupois an indication that we have become so sated with abundant food that we are subsiding into an uncharacteristic, even dangerous, complacency?

There are indications that that is just the case. The country is awash in unsolved and unresolved problems, and no one seems able to overcome the national inertia. Almost five years after terrorists viciously attacked New York and Washington, our shipping ports remain unsecured. Nearly 30 years after OPEC almost shut down our gas stations, we remain, as President Bush observed, addicted to oil–and, despite soaring gasoline prices, we are still buying Hummers. More people voted for their favorite “American Idol” singer than voted for president in the last election, and our polling places still register among the lowest number of active voters of any democracy in the world. Almost a year since Hurricane Katrina devastated one of our most important cities, that place–New Orleans–remains vulnerable and unreconstructed, much of its former population scattered about the country.

What do we really care about? Apparently nothing gets our attention but fear. Are we nothing but a nation of French fry-scarfing, TV-watching, sports-spectating waddlers?

There are those who would take advantage of that characterization, and most of them are right here at home. We need to get up, shed our paunches and show them that we are not, as they seem to believe, a collection of Jerry Springer-mesmerized, frightened Teletubbies.