“It’s not going to get easier,” President Obama told reporters yesterday, speaking of the debt deal. “It’s going to get harder. So we might as well do it now: pull off the Band-Aid, eat our peas.”
The pea industry, naturally, was indignant. “We take President Obama’s comment on the need to ‘eat our peas’ as a reference to the First Lady’s push to get all Americans to eat a more healthy diet as part of the Let’s Move campaign,” noted the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.
“Eating peas has two clear benefits: they can help close the nutritional loopholes in your diet, and preparation isn’t taxing! If tasty and nutritious meals featuring peas are served more frequently in the White House and in the cafeterias of both Houses of Congress, it will contribute to a balanced diet, if not a balanced budget.”
Poor Michelle Obama. After all the effort she’s put in convincing us that eating peas is not an onerous task, the president has to go out and say a thing like this.
Maybe it couldn’t be helped.
Put simply, America doesn’t like vegetables. Generally we try, for the sake of the vegetable growers of America, not to say anything patently offensive about them. But the only vegetable we actively like is the potato, and it has just been blacklisted by the people who want us to eat spinach.
It is not so much that we won’t eat vegetables. We’ll do it. Broccoli, spinach, carrots — we’ll pull a face, but we’ll choke them down.
But there is something about vegetable evangelists that we find loathsome. Edwin Edwards, a Louisiana politician, once remarked that “the only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” That’s a piece of cake next to getting caught in bed with kale.
A furtive encounter with a salad on a bus may have cost John Kerry the presidency!
“I didn’t enjoy it!” politicians scream, trying to control the damage. ”I find kale unappetizingly limp!” But it’s too late.
Let them eat cake? Totally uncontroversial. Let them eat kale? Now you’ve got a problem.
Even calorie counts don’t deter us, it turns out.
We are fatter than ever: Colorado, the skinniest state today, would have been the fattest state in 1996. A 16-pound boy was just born in Texas. And we aren’t alarmed. We’re elated! “We grow things bigger!” we yell. “I bet that bodes well for the pumpkin crop!”
We are indignant about our eating in a way we are indignant about few other things. We sue McDonalds for making us fat, as though they were holding us hostage and forcing Quarter Pounders down our throats. We go into frenzies about our body image.
Michelle Obama’s fitness campaign can’t even be phrased as anything other than a polite suggestion. It’s not “Get up off the couch, Jabba the Hutt!” It’s not “Your body could be mistaken for the state of New Jersey! Go jogging!” It’s “Let’s move,” which narrowly beat out “Kindly, if you would be so inclined, could you maybe wiggle something to indicate that you are still alive.”
The trouble with Michelle’s campaign is how easily it’s become a metaphor for this administration as a whole. It’s Eat-Your-Peas politics. Finish those vegetables. Pull off the Band-Aid. Raise that debt ceiling!
Whatever the Dry Pea and Lentil Council have to say, these are unpleasant things that no one wants to do. “It’s good for you,” the Obamas urge. What do you know? Go back to your kale! The debt-ceiling vote goes beyond peas and verges dangerously on broccoli.
Vegetable politics are the politics of delayed gratification. And that’s the thing we do least well. Raise the debt limit? Get off the couch? The only exercise we get these days is kicking the can down the road, and that might be a metaphor. Clogged arteries are so theoretical, and this hamburger is so present.
Eat our peas? Make sensible cuts? Get going on reform?
“Let’s move!” President Obama urges.
Not a chance! Michelle’s been trying to get us to move for months, and we all know how that’s been turning out.