The thing about running and walking (and I have an incrementally higher run-to-walk ratio each time) is that you move both literally and figuratively. I started out feeling grateful for a sunny morning; the words Life is wonderful may have actually formed in my head. A mile or so later I was teary, and the words It’s not fair, I didn’t do anything formed. You know, just as a general rebuttal to The Man I’m constantly haggling with in my mind.
By the time I looped around the York/Figueroa elbow and back to Franklin High School, I saw three beefy looking guys, one of whom was wearing what appeared to be a bullet-proof vest. Another was swinging a sledgehammer. Is this one of those see something/say something moments? I wondered. But I didn’t, and they made their way onto campus.
Probably to fix something…right?
Two blocks later, I was thinking about an article posted by Craig Santos Perez, about how processed salt contributes to various diseases. When I read it, I simultaneously vowed to get more Michael Pollan-y in my eating habits and felt irked that people’s reaction to most horrific revelations is to look for some little personal habit we can take away to feel better about ourselves. Eat less salt. Do weight-bearing exercise. Recycle.
Those things are worth doing, but if you truly believe that grinding Himalayan salt into your pasta water instead of Morton’s is going to save you, then you also sort of believe the reverse will give you an autoimmune disease, right?
I left this comment on Craig’s Facebook page: “I think these types of studies should absolutely inform cultural shifts and public policy decisions, but (as someone genetically predisposed to self-blame) it’s important not to equate disease with personal behavior. The folks I know with MS aren’t fast food junkies. As one prof in the article says, ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.’”
Then I proceeded to do nothing toward changing public policy and very, very little toward changing culture.
So, I was thinking about personal behavior vs. systemic change, and wondering who these mythical abdicators of personal responsibility that Republicans are always complaining about actually are, because I’ve never met them, when I saw this:
|The Garbage Pail version would be Harry Tongue.|
I had so many questions: Did they come in packs of chewing tobacco, some kind of novel Surgeon General’s Warning? Or were they sold next to the tobacco, like a sad six-pack of Near Beer?
I assume chewing tobacco is a real problem—hence the cards—but I’ve never known anyone who’s chewed it. I live in the wrong part of the country, I guess. So it’s hard to know whether these scared-straight tactics would work, since they’re aimed at a totally foreign species—people who would find stuffing their face like chipmunks and spitting black saliva into a cup appealing in the first place.
The language of scared-straight campaigns bugs me because it taps into all my early-childhood-based fears of being eternally punished for the slightest slip-up. “Irreversible cancer,” promises the Leukoplakia card. “Only surgery can stop it now.”
Okay, so cancer is not reversible in the way that, say, diabetes is. But even the card admits it’s stoppable. If you have a nasty tumor on your tongue, maybe you’ll have to “learn sign language” because “your tongue is history,” but guess what, my cousin and her husband speak sign language (because they’re deaf, not because they’re tobacco chewers) and they have a really nice life. At least if the pictures from her son’s elementary school graduation are any indication.
Scare tactics involve holding up someone’s life as a cautionary tale, ignoring the secret that person knows: There’s life after you fall off the cliff. It’s better and worse than you can imagine. No matter how much tobacco you don’t chew, you will reach the edge of some cliff, and then you’ll be let in on the secret.
Because tobacco chewers with rotting teeth are known for their wisdom, right?