A while ago (it was recently when this post was seeded, but I have poor time management skills and don’t make enough time to write), I was talking with one of my brothers, who happens to be a medic in the US Special Forces. Since it was so long ago, I can’t remember his exact words, but I do remember the surprise with which I listened to him vehemently express his disdain and disgust for overweight patients. I had a bit of conversation with him about it, but I was rather stunned and couldn’t put the words together to really express my thoughts.

Now, I’ve heard enough of other people’s experiences at this point to know intellectually that fat-shaming isn’t at all uncommon among our medical professionals. That instead of real investigation and consideration, fat people are often simply brushed off by being told that all their problems would just be solved if they’d lose that weight. In my head, I know this, because enough people have said it and it fits with how the rest of our culture handles weight that I don’t really have a reason to question the assertation.

But I’m not fat. Never have been, could be in the future but it seems pretty unlikely without some serious shift in my medical condition. When I gained the freshman whatever in college and moaned to my sister about it, her response was “What, so you don’t look anorexic anymore?” (Took me aback, rather, but I also felt reassured that at least I hadn’t now gained so much weight I’d have to Do Something About It, and Not Having To Do Something About Something is always a plus for the ADDer.) And because of this, I’d never had any occasion to really experience the effects of that prejudice.

So as I said, I was rather stunned to actually hear such in the open dismissal of an entire group of people just based on their physical appearance. I realised later that what my head had actually been shouting was simply, “No! Just no! Ok, so maybe they’re putting their health at risk, maybe there are things they could be doing differently, you can disagree with how they care for themselves all you want! But they still deserve basic respect, dammit, because they are still PEOPLE!”

And then abruptly I started thinking, how do I apply that in my own life? Because I don’t personally consider, say, Rush Limbaugh a person. If I saw a poisonous snake curl up for a nap on his chair, I would probably not warn him. I would probably turn the lights down and play soothing music to encourage the snake to stay asleep until he came in and sat on it. And that doesn’t technically jibe with the belief that people deserve basic respect simply for being fellow human beings, does it?

I can’t think of a good answer for that. Anything along the lines of “Well, you can extend respect until it’s lost…,” lends itself too easily to abuse – of course we can all decide for ourselves what lines we draw there, but once you start drawing those lines then more and more people cross the line from Fellow Human to Dangerous Other. It’s a slippery road to walk, is all I’m saying. Particularly since such a policy does not generally allow for a person to change and cross the line back to Fellow Human. Once a D.O., always a D.O.

But I’m also really not inclined to start thinking of Limbaugh, Palin, Bachman, Boehner, Cruz, et. al with anything resembling respect. Each time my co-worker turns on Fox radio in the afternoons I think fondly of that poisonous snake.

I haven’t a good answer for how to reconcile the two.