The VigilanceVoice

-- June 21, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 282

Fat People Terrorized By Fear Of Buying A Ticket For Their Rumps
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, June 21--America is bombarded with all shapes and forms of Terrorism.  The gravitas of it all is often more than one can handle.  Now, there's a new page in the Terrorism book--being too fat to fly!
         Before we look at the new page, let's take a quick spin through other pages that pop up daily.  Take smallpox, for example.

          Just the other day, the government elected not to vaccinate the U.S. population against smallpox.  Instead, it opted to vaccinate 10,000-20,000 key government employees—those who are involved in “first response.”  The decision was based on the "lack of immediate threat."  It was also based on the fact that 300 of the nearly 300 million Americans might die from reaction to the vaccine.  The point is, Americans won't have a choice on the matter.  The government has made it for them.  Many think this an arbitrary decision, limiting the protection of the public—and claim the decision is another example of government tyranny.
      Is this defacto Terrorism?   It would be if the smallpox virus was released and the public made a mad rush to try and protect itself

      Here's another new one. Second-hand smoke.  For years flight attendants have been trying to win a  lawsuit against the tobacco companies regarding second-hand smoke litigation.  Recently a jury awarded an airline flight attendant $5.5 million to punish the Terrorism of tobacco companies upon the “innocent.”   But this case was unique.  The judge ruled it wasn't necessary to prove a link between second-hand smoke and cancer--a battle the tobacco companies have used to thwart other lawsuits.  Will appeal upset the award and leave the public vulnerable to more second-hand smoke?  Is there a difference between the long-term effects of second-hand smoke and the immediate poisoning of the human system by Terrorist's anthrax    

       How about "Financial Terrorism?"  Who can we trust to audit America's businesses and keep us wary of "financial Terrorists" who prey on our wealth?   Major accounting firms have lobbied against regulators for years to swerve their way around "ethical" rules and regulations.   How many more Enrons are in the wings waiting to suck out more of America's hard-earned public wealth?   Does the Terrorism of losing one's "nest egg" and living in "poverty" rank with the threat of a "dirty bomb" or a "suicide bomber?"  Hmmmmm. 
         Then there's the Terrorism of the "Globocourt" William Safire’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times brought to the public's attention.
         He's upset worried European judges Terrorizing American journalists and citizens as the UN  War Crimes Tribunal tries to prosecute global war criminals and Terrorists..  The “globocourt," as Safire calls it,  indicts  international criminals, including Terrorists.  He claims the "globocourt"  is violating Americas judicial and Constitutional system by demanding witnesses testify against such criminals.  Specifically, he’s worried about American journalists being  forced to disclose their sources.  
        According to Safire, the UN War Crimes Tribunal judges don’t respect the U.S. Constitutional Rights, including the freedom of the press to keep  their sources privileged.  By divulging privileged conversations, American journalists would not have access to troubled areas of the world and any "off-the-record" comments would become fodder for future prosecution. Journalists would be viewed as "spies" rather than reporters.   Safire was concerned the usurpation  of Constitutional rights attacked America's judicial  foundations.  His implication was: U.N. Terrorism!

       Headline-by-headline, I could paint a portrait of constant attacks on America’s foundations—mostly not from Osama bin Laden--but from our own insatiable desire to find fault with ourselves or from others seeking to limit our power.
       So I threw a dart at the Terrorism tableau staring me in the face.   It stuck in Southwest Airlines.
        Southwest Airlines recently announced their hard-and-fast policy of charging a “fat person” two tickets if their body consumed more than its share of "seat space."   In other words, if one is overweight, he or she has to buy a ticket for each buttock cheek.
        Euphemistically, Southwest calls these people "large fliers," but we all know it comes down to the girth of the buttocks--it's a matter of whether one's butt cheeks oozes over, around, or under the armrest to invade the passenger's space next to it.

         On June 26 the airlines will start charging "persons of size" for two seats on its 2,800 daily flights serving 58 U.S. cities, according to Christine Turneabe-Connelly, spokeswoman for the airlines.  Southwest is the fourth largest domestic airlines based on passenger numbers.  (Whether they count "persons of size" twice in their passenger numbers is not known).
        Southwest isn't alone.  United Airlines, according to its Chicago spokesperson, Joe Hopkins, also charges larger passengers if they do not comfortably fit into one seat.  Most airlines have that option, he noted.
        This battle of Fat Terrorism When Flying has warriors in the wings to fight for "persons of size."  The National Association for the Advance of Fat Acceptance has a website that reminds "large people" they have a "right to accessible transportation."
         Miriam Berg, president of the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, questions the fact each agent can make a "judgment call" on whether the individual needs to purchase an additional seat.
         Diana Cronan, a spokeswoman for the Air Transportation Association representing major carriers, says the industry does not have a general policy on airlines' accommodation of large passengers.  Ultimately, it ends up being a "judgment call" by the ticketing agent.
         Of all the Terrorism news I scanned the last two days, this little "fat bomb" exploded in my face.
        It hit close to home.  I'm six-feet four inches tall, and weigh 275 pounds.  I'm a "Big Guy!"

 Cliff Post Vietnam...6-4 160#s

        But I wasn't always.  I grew up as a "skinny kid."  Upon my return from Vietnam, I weighed 160 pounds.   Over the years--far too many for me to want to report--gravity has taken its toll.   My metabolism has slowed.   Even though my weight distributes fairly evenly, there's more by far than the average.  
        And, in rebuttal to the airlines, the seats they offer have been shrink wrapped over the years--at leas in my case.   Smaller and smaller seats have met my hips and buttocks over the years until on some flights I end up with bruises from the compression.  This shrinkage in seat space has resulted in a state of Terrorism.
        Terrorism, for those who do not know my definition of it, has three vital elements:  Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.  When mixed  together, these elements send one into a deep sweat, body trembling, heart racing and renders its victim helplessly unable to react.
        Vigilance, on the other hand, is the antidote.  It counteracts Terrorism's venom with Courage, Conviction and Right Action.    Fear is rendered impotent by muscling up one's Courage;  Intimidation is emasculated by one's stalwart Conviction to not shun his or her responsibility; and Complacency is shoved to the wayside by Right Action, hopefully fueled by a desire to face one's duty to protect one's Loved Ones.
         But how can one this Vigilance antidote be stimulated when one is standing in a ticket line at an airport, approaching a potential Terrorist who may pass judgment on whether your butt cheeks are too large to fit into one seat without oppressing other passengers?   This is certainly a dilemma I gave much serious thought to resolving..

Cliff Now...6-4   275 #s

        To help visualize the scene,  I imagined myself standing in a ticket line at a major airport, eager to make a flight.  Under normal conditions I would be figuring a way to talk the ticket agent into a "Big Guy" seat, one in an Emergency Row, or an aisle or a prized bulkhead seat.    I would plan my tactics of smiling, joking, and trying to win the good side of the agent who might just unblock those precious seats that would provide me leg and butt room.   But not under the new "double-ticket" rule.   Now, instead of seeking a "favor," I would stand as a sore, swollen thumb on a proctologists hand.
      I would struggle not to let the sweat on my forehead drip, fearful I would be singled out as a "Fat Guy" instead of a "Big Guy."
      I would suck in my gut, trying to hold my breath so the eyes of the "double-ticket-sniper" didn't ferret me out, put me in the crosshairs.
      Probably, I would flex my knees, reducing my height so I didn't spear up above the crowd.   Maybe I would duct tape my gut prior to getting into line, to give myself a "flat-belly" look, gasping short breaths to keep from fainting.
       Instead of my normal "eye-contact attitude" I would flick my eyes around, pretending to be nonchalant, nonplussed by the Fear, Intimidation and utter Complacency that I had no say in the matter were I to be singled out.
       I might even have joined the ACLU, and carry their card with me to threaten anyone who pulled me aside and claimed my butt was too big, and one cheek had to pay extra.

       I would try and hide my anger that the U.S. Government in 1998 changed the body-mass index, resulting in 30 million Americans going from government-approved to overweight or obese by the flick of a pen.  This change, according to the Center for Disease Control, doubled the number of "obese" Americans and has placed 61% of Americans in the "overweight" or "obese" category.

      Yes, I would think, it was a government-airline Terrorist plot to keep guys like like me from eating Ben & Jerry's, or inhaling the second helping without a twitch of remorse.
       The closer I approached the ticket counter, the faster my heart would pound.  I would use Sylva Mind Control techniques, trying to slow the blood rushing to my face, hoping it wouldn't pool in my gluteus maximus..   What more humiliating event could happen than for some skinny ticket agent to scan my body and whisper--"Your ass is too have to buy your left cheek another ticket."
       My Marine nature could boil to the surface.  I might be inclined to grab the agent and pull him over the counter, bounce him up and down a few times, and say:  "I think you need a new pair of glasses, don't you, buddy?"
        I have been known to "lose it."  On too many occasions I have let my more "aggressive nature," rule.   But since airports are manned these days by armed guards any attempt on my part to Intimidate the Intimidators might result in an arrest, or worse yet, some National Guardsman fresh out of boot camp shooting me by mistake. (Probably in the buttocks!)
        I would fall into Complacency.  I would be at the "mercy" of whomever, and whatever standards were being decided that day on my "fatness."  If ordered to "sit in the seat," I would probably have to try and wedge my body into the mock airplane seat the attendants would have at the ticket counter, as they have for the carry-on baggage, and suffer the humiliation of standing up with the seat stuck to my hips.  Oh, woe is me.   I could hear the "hissing" of the slimmer passengers.    
        Then I stopped daydreaming.
        I didn't want to take the dream to the countless confrontations between the marginal "large people" and the airline ticket officials.
        I began to think of the irony of it all.   I wondered why airlines were making seats smaller while people were getting bigger.    If the facts were right, Americans are becoming fatter while airlines are shrinking seats.    The two facts just didn't match up.
        And, I wondered why I was dwelling on the issue of airline seats to begin with, when there were far more important issues such as  the continual Terrorist attacks on Israel, or the comment made by the chairman of Starbucks about the growing anti Semitism in Europe, or the massive reorganization of the Homeland Security Department.
        Why was I singling out the "fat-cheek-airline issue?"
        Was I being Complacent?
        Was I tiring of being Vigilant in my reporting, of losing my priorities?
        Was I playing into Osama bin Laden's hands.  I figured he'd love it if we all got so busy fighting one another within our borders we forgot the real defense against Terrorism was keeping an eye out for who boarded our planes and flew them rather than the weight of the passengers?
        Or, perhaps, was my ego bruised?   Was I just protecting my unalienable right to "be fat" at the expense of others' comfort?
        I scratched my head.
        I patted my tummy.

        I laughed at myself.
        I laughed at Southwest Airlines.
       I realized my job was to keep the "main thing the main thing."   That meant I had to keep my focus on Vigilance, not on Terrorism.
       There is little doubt in my mind the issue of discrimination will rise out of this new airline policy, and our nation might end up conducting "fat-cheek" Senate investigations ala the Enron and FBI and Intelligence hearings underway.

      When nearly two-thirds of the American public are deemed by the government either "overweight" or "obese," the general population is poised to storm Congress and ask for redress for being "double charged" because of their excessive fat cells.  If the government wanted to protect America, it should pass a law against all the fast-food businesses, and make the FDA put "Fat Warning" signs on any food product that might expand one's buttocks and belly beyond the width of an airplane seat.
        But was it my business to clang garbage can lids together and rally Americans to take the "Pledge Of Fat Vigilance?"
        I didn't think so.
        I chose to stick to what think I do best--report on Vigilance.
        And while being overweight is a state of constant Terrorism, repeatedly thrown in one's face when one stands before a mirror and sees his or her body growing disproportionately, the final solution to such Terrorism comes down to personal choice--personal Vigilance.

        If I have the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Action, I can choose not to consume that delicious pint of Ben and Jerry's, or, I can push the plate away instead of licking it clean.  I can go to the gym and work out.   I can strive to treat my body with Vigilance rather than with Complacency.
        Instead of fighting for the "right to be fat" I can consider the Southwest Airlines "Fat-Cheek-Policy" a warning shot over my gut--and the guts of all Americans who have become flaccid and lethargic about their weight.   I can realize that the larger I become, the more I broadcast to my children and grandchildren an unhealthy attitude toward my own body.  By default, I can turn my Loved Ones into future "fat cells" who won't fit into airplane seats either.
       If Vigilance ultimately is not about my "rights," but about  setting an example for the safety and security of my children and their children, and their children's children's children, then I have a duty and obligation as a Citizen of Vigilance to fit both my buttocks cheeks into one Southwest Airlines seat.   This responsibility is not a concession to Terrorism, but an act of Patriotism.
      My weapon in this battle is the Pledge of Vigilance.  By taking it daily, it helps remind me to muster the Courage necessary to fight the Fear of being "fat."  The Pledge braces me with the Conviction to admit that being overweight is a state of constant Intimidation, evidenced by my shrinking belt and expanding waist   Most importantly,  The Pledge of Vigilance drives me to take the Right Action and set myself a realistic goal of losing weight rather wallowing in the Complacency of self-justification that shouts:  "I have a right to be fat!" 
       Vigilance, after all, is about responsibility not only to one's self, but to others and society as a whole.
       Southwest Airlines, in their defense, has chosen to make a Vigilant stand in behalf of its majority of passengers who, sitting next to a "fat-cheeked person," must suffer throughout a flight as the "large person's" body Jell-O's its way over into their "space."  I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision.   It took Courage, Conviction and Right Action to "bite the fat bullet."  

     In light of the decision,  I must salute Southwest Airlines.   I offer them an honorary Citizen of Vigilance Award.  Their decision, in the long run, may save countless lives.  It may even force people to lose weight.  And, it could stop a Terrorist trying to attack another American icon.
     Let me explain my reasoning.   If a Terrorist group was able to penetrate one of Southwest's planes and I were a passengers prior to the "large person" rule, I might find myself wedged into one of their seats.  If a situation arose where I might be called upon to help thwart the Terrorists, I would be unable to help.  I would be "stuck in my seat."   I couldn't stand and charge the Terrorists.  I would be a useless blob of flesh clamped in place by the armrests, wriggling like a fish out of water, flailing my arms.   My fellow passengers and citizens would be robbed of any assistance my combat experience might have provided.
       Strangely, I thought seriously of this parody.   I would be a useless tool.  In any emergency, being overweight would slow my reaction time, hinder my ability to help others, and perhaps turn me into a hindrance rather than an asset.
       So, in respect to the "large people" seat decision, I offer this pledge to Southwest Airlines--that I will take your policy to heart. 
      I will consider my responsibility to fight my own Terrorism of being overweight based on your policy.  
       I will not rush to the ACLU or join the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance.
      Nope, instead, I'll join Weight Watchers!


Go To June 20--Cycles Of Vigilance Roar Into NYC   

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