Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
Michael Bloomberg proposed ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces old in NYC restaurants and delis has admirable intentions. Increasing sugar intake is a big deal. It’s one of the factors driving obesity in this country. It’s also driving the malady that will kill millions of Americans as they age and cripple the healthcare system: diabetes. A disease that can cause blindness, high-blood pressure, kidney failure and a host of other medical problems that will be perpetual and costly for healthcare professionals to treat. But it’s not cancer. And unlike cancer, this disease is avoidable to most people with proper nutrition.
But like any procrastinator, particularly America’s modus operandi on just about any issue, alarm bells are only the action point where you start hitting the snooze button. Ignoring the warnings and, instead, waiting for the actual crisis to explode to act (see November’s Fiscal Debt Cliff).
Plus you can’t save someone from a force they don’t see as a villain yet. And high sugar intake isn’t an enemy yet. Because, 1) sugar tastes good 2) obesity and diabetes are not “today” problems and 3) people believe there are pills and surgeries that seem like quicker and easier fixes than using self restraint or foresight.
All those make dealing with the problem with sugar and obesity hard. Already up against those, here’s where Bloomberg has really made a mistake: in America, telling someone “no” to anything through government endorsement or supposed legislation is essentially a dare to certain people in the public to reflexively yell back, “yes!” No matter what. Remember The First Lady’s initiatives to get kids to eat healthier foods? In a press photo op, she’s pictured with kids talking about healthy foods they could eat.
What seemed to be nutritious education apparently turned out to be communism.
The mere idea of asking people to make healthier food choices prompted Sarah Palin to run to a school with a plate of cookies to teach a lesson – eat all the sugary foods you want kids! Don’t deny yourselves! (A message that I’m sure resonates with kids). As a responsible adult, Palin could have still made her point (don’t ban cookies and sugary foods) by stressing cookies are okay in moderation or part of a healthier diet. Instead she sent the message that denying or refusing any choice is the road to authoritarian or socialism.
Her example is extreme (and stupid) but the basic premise is shared by a lot of Americans. Bloomberg is older than me, but we both grew up with the Soviet Union. And in growing up, I didn’t understand what Communism was, but from TV messages and depictions of Communist lifestyle, the biggest threat of communism (besides nuclear weapons) was having a state imposing rules that took away your choices. For instance, there was an ad from Wendy’s Hamburgers in the 80s that touted its custom-order hamburgers by depicting McDonalds and other burger chain as the fashion show in Communist Russia. Different fashion models would walk onto the runway, wearing the same outfit – even though the announcer presented each model clothes as different clothes styles (Evening Wear, Swimwear, etc.). The subtle message. Lack of choice is un-American. It’s an idea that is well ingrained into the American psyche. Any threat to choice is a threat to America.
Bloomberg means well. But when it comes to Americans and our fierce defense of the idea of choice. “No” means “yes.” Even when it’s clearly trying to save us from ourselves.