Fatness bothers me.

You ever see those news segments on CNN, MSNBC, FOX or the nightly news on the epidemic of obesity? While the reporter narrates their piece they do it over footage of random fat people crossing busy city streets. The shot is always from the waist down and the person is oblivious of the fact that their gross legs and rear end will be broadcast to a nation.

I used to feel bad for those people, but now when I think about it I can’t. A person who has gained too much weight in the last few years (though it’s been melting off pretty good), I know that no matter where you are in public, people see you.

For several months when I was at my heaviest I worked at a state agency here in New York (known for it’s fat people) which had a corridor with very reflective glass, I used to look away as I passed it. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. Certainly, in my mind I knew that I’d gotten fat, but I couldn’t bear to look at my image. It was a perverse denial of sorts. After all, I was fat, 224 pounds at one point. I’m now under 200, but still overweight.

Regardless, the one thing that I know for sure is that when a person is not comfortable with who they are, they are more likely to have maladaptive behaviors like overeating or using drugs. To do so helps a person avoid dealing with the fact that they don’t like where they are in life, where they’re going and where they’ve been.  I know because I’ve been in that position.

A recent story that made headlines in the news of the weird sections circulating in American newspapers speaks to our nation’s obesity epidemic.

It’s a depressing thing when we have people who can accept the fact that that they are fat and do nothing about it. Just like myself avoiding my reflection in the Department of Transportation building window, a person who denies their fatness is doing their self a horrible disservice.

We are now the most obese nation in the world, a country filled with fast food joints, buffet style restaurants and eateries that advertise the big plate, 16-pound sirloin and all-you-can-eat fixings. It’s upsetting to think that I’m a part of that trend and the sad state of our dietary lifestyle. I don’t want to be, so I’m taking the bull by its horns and doing all that I can to melt away my fat. It’s not as hard as it seems. After all, I have good motivation, I don’t want to be one of those people taped for the nightly news walking across the street for a segment on obesity.

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It's just a flag. Don't make a federal case out of it.

Is it 2007 or did someone get the flux capacitor in the Delorean working and I’m back in another time? Let me check. Well, my computer calendar says that it’s 2007, July 3 to be exact. Good. At least I know where I am. That said it sure does feel like we’re back in another time altogether, an era of intellectual pre-evolution? Maybe just 2005.

Last month, Rep. John Murtha, the Pittsburgh area Democrat known for his vocal support of an unconditional withdrawal from Iraq turned the other cheek on rationality and sponsored a bill that would ban desecration of the American flag. Murtha is certainly not the first or only congressman to support the unconstitutional attempt to restrict the inalienable right to freedom of speech nor will he be the last. He’s merely one in a chain of legislators from both parties who believe it is their duty and privilege to tell us what is acceptable speech or not.

Generally speaking, when he or she thinks of flag desecration the average American pictures some misanthrope who looks something like Chubaca setting it ablaze at a rally to support some unpopular leftist cause. In fact, defilement of the stars and stripes has become synonymous in the collective consciousness with fire engulfing America’s most sacred symbol.

But let’s hold that thought for a moment. Put on pause the internal video replay of the man with the Birkenstocks turning red, white and blue to ash and consider some other forms of vandalism that can happen to Old Glory.

Several years ago while I was up at Lake George during the Fourth of July weekend there were several women wearing American flag bikini swimsuits to celebrate the event. As nice as a woman in a bikini is to look at, could that not in itself be a form of desecration? After all we’re talking about intimate body parts and the sacred symbol of liberty and freedom making contact. Still, I’ve yet to hear the outcry from congressmen or flag-waving speedboat enthusiasts.

Here’s another case: How often do we as consumers open the newspaper only to be buried in an avalanche of glossy advertisements peddling televisions, menswear, lawn and garden equipment, intimates and sporting equipment? Next time you dig yourself out from underneath the catalogs and fliers that come from between the sports and business sections take stock of how much the likeness of the American flag is used to illustrate any number of sales events, from Memorial, Labor and Veterans days to the Fourth of July. It could be the Ides of March and you’re still likely to find it. Is that not a form of despoliation as well? After all, those of us dog owners use inserts to clean up after our pooches.

Take for example the irony that is lost on the owner of a car on whose tail bumper is an American flag sticker with the empty slogan “These Colors Don’t Run”. Unless he changes it often those colors do something worse than running. They fade into a mucky yellow and brown that is more evocative of an atomic flash burn than the sight that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our cherished anthem. Isn’t that a sacrilegious neglect of our flag?

Everyone knows tattoos can fade. They also stretch and distend too. Depending on how well a person keeps himself in shape his American flag could end up in rough shape on the body of a careless person. It could get pulled every which way by body fat or cellulite until it is a revolting monstrosity. Certainly that is a form of insulting our national symbol.

To convince someone of the fallacy of his position one need only to reduce its suppositions and foundations to absurdity. I propose that in order to demonstrate how ridiculous the idea of banning the flag desecration is, we appeal less to its obvious unconstitutionality and disregard for the principles for which the flag stand (which are strong) and instead to the simple fact that getting up in arms about desecration is about as rational as flying off of the handle over someone wiping sweat on a Coors Light t-shirt.

Plain and simple, the flag is an image. It may stand for lofty things, but let’s face the fact that it’s really just a piece of cloth or sticker, or plastic or ink. In itself it has no intrinsic value. It can be honored or dishonored and either way the world will keep turning. So, if one is not worthy to stand up for his Coors Light t-shirt than why should he stand up for another inanimate object? It’s a flag. In the end it really doesn’t mean anything but what we individually prescribe to it. For some it’s a symbol of freedom, to others a reminder of the Union and for another crowd it’s a living embodiment of a nation in which one is free to drive a huge truck and shoot animals. You may believe the flag stands for inalienable rights but to your neighbor it represents the power to stampede on your rights and the rights of others.

I personally challenge people to desecrate the flag in anyway the see fit. Certainly, it’s tacky, but let’s face it, so is the Bald Eagle tank top or those meaningless yellow magnet ribbons. Desecrate it in your own way, whether that means making it into clothing, a table cloth, dragging it from your car, putting it on a shopping bag or yes, burning it. I love America, but I love America not for the virtue that it exists, but for what it offers us in regards to our God-endowed faculties of reason, introspection and compassion. These are the virtues on which our republic was constructed and ones on which she will rise and fall, not a piece of cloth which merely serves as a reminder of what we could lose if we follow in the path of those who are bold enough to deny our rights of reason and self-expression.