Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News wrote a column on Feb. 7 (that I can’t seem to find online) titled “Two discouraging snapshots of society.” In it, he reminds readers early that he is an optimist, so when something shockingly negative comes along, it draws his attention away from the good things just enough to make him write about it.
The story goes that out of 206 new Dallas County police applicants, only five were deemed fit for duty after a series of physical, psychological and polygraphic-al test. That’s around 25 percent of the original applicants, and 167 of those failed the physical fitness test: 21 push-ups, 29 sit-ups, a 15.5-inch vertical jump, and a 1.5-mile run in less than 16 minutes, 28 seconds.
While Blow would like to see the bright side of the situation, he’s been unable to do so as this trend seems to span across the nation’s police forces and even into our military.
One of my friends completed his officer training for the Marines a couple years ago before he was stationed elsewhere. While he was still living in Waco it was his responsibility to work with future recruits as a kind of go-to/trainer. One day, I walked out of the gym and found him sitting quite comfortably alone on a camping chair across the street. I walked over to talk to him as a moderately overweight male in thick black glasses came huffing a puffing around the corner toward us. As he passed by, my friend called out a finishing time of around 11 minutes, and the recruit dropped his hands to his knees to catch his breath. Of course, he was only the first finisher.
I tell this story not as a way to insult anyone in the police or armed forces, but to elaborate on Blow’s point.
Oh, we have glimpses of the problem. We know the kid who got mixed up in drugs or bailed on high school. We know the lard butt who excels only at videogames and potato chips.
But maybe it’s time for us to wake up to just how pervasive those problems are.
The military fitness report concluded that more early-childhood education is the key to turning things around.
I’m sure that’s one step in the process.
But maybe the starting point is a little more alarm and a little less optimism.
We Americans like to ignore things that are uncomfortable to address. Needing to be “politically correct” in the process doesn’t help. Something like physical fitness isn’t just what the movie stars do to stay skinny; it’s sort of a prerequisite to being a mammal in a world where couches, Doritos and cars have taken over how we live.