By Ed Vasicek
How does Elmer find me? I can go for years without running into specific friends at the grocery store or the home improve-ment center. But I run into Elmer like clockwork. He waved to summon my attention in the supermarket parking lot. He was smiling, until he began to whine.
“People are crazy!” Elmer griped, without bothering to greet me. “Did you hear about the mayor of New York trying to ban large soda pops? Talk about ‘Big Brother.’ Last I heard a judge stopped it. Glad there is at least one judge out there with sense.”
“Yep, it is pretty bad,” I agreed. I enjoy agreeing with Elmer; it is a rare treat.
“That’s crazy, the government regulating us like we are children,” he added. “It’s a free country. If I want to drink a liter of coke at one sitting, that’s my right!”
“Yeah, I am with you. I do agree that we Americans need to eat better, but to try to force, coerce or manipulate people to eat better is not the role of government. I like what Michelle Obama has pushed — balanced, low-fat, low-sugar meals. The schools are serving healthier food because of it, but parents can always pack their kids’ lunch if they don’t like what the school offers.”
“I don’t even like the Michelle Obama thing,” Elmer smirked. “The government should stay out of the whole picture. My grandparents lived into their nineties, and they ate greasy bacon and sausage and fried eggs for breakfast every day. Gramps smoked cigars and he and grama weighed in at just under 300 lbs each. Them health fanatic people don’t know what they are talking about.”
Elmer and I had waded through this conversation in the past, so I had the sense to resist the temptation. Although I felt I could refute his logic, I chose to let things pass.
“Elmer,” I commented, “Think about this: a lot of parents could care less what their kids eat. Your grandparents made their kids eat green vegetable every day and drink lots of milk. But did you hear about that guy that was allegedly giving alcoholic drinks to twin two year-olds?”
“Yeah, I read about that. Well, for those kinds of extreme things – if the guy really did it – the authorities should step in,” Elmer acquiesced.
“That’s the problem, Elmer. Because parents are not monitoring what their kids eat – or because they are out to please their kids – the schools and the government feel an obligation to do so. Whether by neglect or spoiling, the youngsters are developing conditions and habits that will afflict them for the rest of their lives. Whether the government should take this role is another issue.”
“When you have all these single-parent families, and when you factor poverty into the equation, children can end up as children of the state by default. As families disintegrate, America becomes more socialistic as fallout. If you think about it, both socialism and communism are instances of the government becoming your parents.”
Sometimes people say my mouth is so big, I can whisper in my own ear. Criticism not withstanding, I continued:
“For the last thirty years or so, we were able to rely upon grandparents to offer some stability to these youngsters, but now more of the older crowd also has a track record of relational instability. Grama and grampa ain’t what they used to be. Maybe things will work out somehow, but bigger, nanny-like government is probably the future. I’m not happy about that!”
“Well, Ed,” Elmer commented, “You are sure long-winded today. You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.”
“Yep, maybe I’ll hush up and relax with a cup of coffee,” I responded. “Want to join me?”
Elmer didn’t bother to say “Goodbye” as he whisked himself away.
Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.