This morning, Goodnight told me about a comment one of her teachers made in class yesterday.
They were talking about citizenship and who/what makes a good citizen. Interestingly enough, the teacher did not mention voting, volunteerism, driving at or below posted speed limits, helping one’s neighbors, never showing up late to work . . . etc., if you get my drift. He said fat people and sick people can’t be good citizens and that a healthy diet and good exercise program would make one a better citizen.
Needless to say, we had a chat. We chatted about a lot of things. I had to filter my own agenda of “food deserts” in the inner cities, absent parents who shirk financial responsibilities and thrust their own children into poverty, human abuses and torture that set people up for lifetimes of incapacitation and disadvantage, politicians who abuse public money for private gain . . . I’m old. I’ve seen a lot.
Here are the questions I suggested she ask that same teacher today.
1) Was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt not a good citizen because he contracted polio … twelve years before he was elected into our country’s highest office?
2) Was Timothy McVeigh a good citizen because he was slender when he bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building?
3) Are deaf people/blind people/soldier amputees not good citizens just because they lack hearing/vision/limbs?
4) (Directed to the teacher) Are you not a good citizen because you have stage four kidney failure?
I also told Goodnight that I would pay her for asking the above questions in class today because it would present the opportunity for a candid discussion of stereotypes … and ignorance. Hopefully the obese kid in that class won’t commit suicide or have an inferiority complex about himself and his abilities and dreams.
Goodnight accepted my challenge. I sent her to school with a list of “fat and sick” people who have contributed an awful lot to culture, medicine, education, science, literature, etc. I cautioned her to ask her questions and make her points respectfully because ignorance is not best changed by humiliation and then even by her respect, she can set a good example.