Everybody just get off Regina Benjamin’s back
First we had to debate Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's proclamation that she's a "wise Latina." What, we'd rather have a dumb Latina? Oh, I forgot. The people creating the ruckus would rather not have a Latina at all.
Now major news networks are scouring pictures of surgeon general nominee Regina Benjamin, speculating on her weight and dress size and asking whether a person who appears to be overweight should be surgeon general.
Isn't it great that we live in an age when the content of your closet matters more than the credentials on your resume?
I'm ready to pop popcorn for Benjamin's confirmation hearing - no butter, of course, in case I'm ever nominated for anything.
"Dr. Benjamin, are you too fat to be surgeon general?"
I don't know which Senate Health Committee member is going to ask that question, but it better be a skinny one lest, "Senator, are you too fat to serve on this committee" be Benjamin's quick response.
The funniest thing - funny in the sense of odd, because this isn't at all humorous - is the assumption that overweight equals unhealthy. It doesn't, any more than heroin chic equals fit.
But because we have an undisputed obesity epidemic, critics say Benjamin's appearance matters. Which is nonsense. Heck, the job hardly matters. The surgeon general sets no policy and draws little attention.
Can you name any of George W. Bush's surgeons general? Any of the four, be he acting or otherwise? How many can you even recall in your adult life, other than C. Everett Koop and Joycelyn Elders?
By all accounts, Benjamin is a skilled doctor devoted to improving health-care access for the poor and in rural areas. She's served on the board of the American Medical Association. She rebuilt her tiny Alabama clinic after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it.
And she's forthright about the struggles in her own family with preventable diseases. According to the Huffington Post, her father died with diabetes and high blood pressure, her brother of HIV. Her mother died of lung cancer because "she wanted to smoke just like her twin brother," who's now on oxygen.
So is the problem really a few extra pounds or is it that Benjamin might back abortion rights? Or is it just that women nominated to national positions make easy targets?
I'll rule out the first option. You decide which of the other two is the real issue folks are having with Benjamin.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.