Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vitriol Is Pervasive

A recent article in a local paper referred to a news story about a North Carolina program designed to insure proper nutrition for young school children by either providing school lunches or by providing supplemental food items to balance a child's "paper bag" lunch.  Apparently an overzealous Health Department employee doing a random check of home prepared lunches told a little girl she had to go to the cafeteria and eat a school lunch.

I was curious so I looked up the story here, and the follow-up, here.  Of course the story was featured by Faux News and was not particularly "controversial", but merely revealing of how some people might take a well meaning program to an unintended extreme.  However this angle - the fact that an individual state health department worker may have an erroneous or grandiose interpretation of his or her role in implementing the program - was not explored.

What did strike me as disturbing was not the meat of the story, but the fact that it was an opening for all kinds of vitriol in the readers' comments section which followed the stories.  The discussion almost immediately turned into a condemnation of Obama, health care reform, and government policies;  thrown in for good measure was First Amendment rights, the Catholic Church's stance on birth control, homosexuality, rampant socialism, etc.  I'm surprised no one mentioned the NRA and the right to bear automatic weapons.  And this in response to a story about school lunches!

My point is this: we read blogs and news that more or less supports our world view and the issues we care about, so become somewhat insulated from the reality of an alternate universe; but there are countless others who only need an innocuous story about a school lunch program gone awry as an excuse to vent their irrational fears, anger, contempt and hatred toward Obama and every issue we care about.

These people are both scary and pathetic. Should we be worried?


  1. Can I just the avoid the scandal but stay within the realm of this topic? Since my oldest has been buying lunch at school this year instead of us packing it for him, we noticed that he is gaining a lot of weight. Fred and I will start to pack lunches a couple of time a week now.
    Sorry if I avoided this issue. I don't have the energy to take a side today. m.

  2. Maybe North Carolina has lower calorie lunches?

  3. I was going to blog about this but got busy with something else last week. I just looked at your second link, the follow-up, but it doesn't answer all my questions.

    The thing is, Frank, just because some Republicans are upset doesn't mean Democrats should ignore an issue. Bureaucracy is a disease, and having worked for various state governments for most of my adult life, I know whereof I speak.

    There are plenty of people with corner offices and cushy chairs who do nothing all day but sit on their fat butts and dream up more and more arcane rules and regulations to pump out on the workers and the public.

    One day 3 or 4 years ago, I got a memo that had been passed down from the state bureaucracy in Austin. Among other infuriating points, it said that I, and every other person who worked at my place of employment, had to retain every single memo they receive for at least one year before discarding it.

    Naturally, I promptly tore that little missive up and tossed it straight into the garbage can where it belongs. Our office has a secretary who is paid to keep a big filing cabinet full of memos and records; there is no point in every single person in the outfit keeping every goofy memo somebody sends out. Give me a fucking break.

    I may or may not read further about the school lunch thing, but I have had long experience with minor functionaries who, as a good friend of mine used to say, are wearing their first pair of pantyhose and think they are supposed to lord it over everyone.

    It may be that in some cases, there are parents who are too poor, too ignorant, or too drugged-up to send the kids to school with a halfway decent lunch; if so, yeah, the school ought to politely offer the kids more to eat.

    But OMFG I can just imagine what my own mother would have had to say if anyone had dared question what she packed in my lunch box. I bet your mom would have had a fit too.

    Bottom line: there is such a thing as an overweening nanny state, and we should all, left and right, be on guard against it. A dictatorship of the left is really not very different from one of the right; at that point, the spectrum merges into a circle, and I want to stay on the opposite side of that ring.

  4. Russ,

    Point well taken. I can give you examples of inefficiency, do-nothing bureaucrats, territorial peons and nepotism to match yours based on my own experience working for the state and local health departments here.

    But what struck me was the readers' comments which immediately strayed from the topic to personally attack Obama, health care reform and even the evils of homosexuality. The vehemence and hatred that comes through is what I find frightening and pathetic.

  5. I don't know if we should or should not be worried, but I worry anyway... and try not to.

  6. Agreed. There are millions of sadly deluded people who are scary and dangerous, and Santorum is their prophet. I'm going to post something about him later today. He's vile.



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