Thanks to Brian for passing this tidbit along to me:
“Military leaders … tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight,” the first lady says in the prepared remarks, “childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.”
You know, I still have an old certificate from high school tucked away in storage proving that I had earned the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, “in recognition of outstanding physical achievement and exceptional dedication to the ideal of a sound mind in a strong body,” with the Gipper himself congratulating me on this accomplishment. Yet even in those glory days of missile defense shields and Red Dawn, I can’t say I recall any of my gym teachers, in between mouthfuls of Diet Pepsi and glazed pastries, urging us on to tally more sit-ups, more pull-ups and faster fifty-yard dashes in the name of being ready to beat back the commies from our sacred shores. What was it Jennifer Hecht said about this strange fetish for physical fitness…?
Through studying history, I came to believe that gyms are occupying precisely the role they did in Ancient Sparta and in Fascist Germany. Being obsessed with bodies is actually a pretty rare thing in human history and we’re in lousy company.…So what is the real story with gyms and gym bodies? What does the cult of exercise really mean?Whenever it pops up in history it means the same thing. It always means: We are strong even though the peons do all the real work for us. We have special arenas marked as leisure where we get muscled at play.…When we see this behavior in Ancient Sparta (where the population of Helot slaves outnumbered the Spartans) and in Fascist Germany, and we see the art of those two cultures focusing on the beauty of the toned but clean and uncallused body, we know what we are looking at. It’s more than shallow, it is military, it is deluded, it is oppressive, and a bit grotesque.