A recent New Yorker magazine cover shows a man and woman in a dark alley recoiling in fear and shame as if caught in an illicit act. A large cup with a straw leaps from their hands. It took me a minute to catch on. Then I understood: They’ve been discovered violating New York Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the sale of soft drinks that exceed 16 fluid ounces with more than 50 calories. When the liberal New Yorker makes fun of the Nanny State, you know that the Nanny State has gone too far.
About the same time, a columnist for the Kansas City Star praised Bloomberg for the same ban.
“We should be rooting for Bloomberg’s downsizing plan to succeed, and hope that other leaders have the guts to copy it,” wrote the columnist. “Seriously, nobody needs a 32-ounce soda. If you’re worried about staying hydrated — an advantage that the soft drink industry touts for its products — there’s a stuff called water. It’s really pretty good.”
Ah, the pieties of the virtuous. I rarely touch a soft drink – my preferences lie in the realm of martinis – but this sort of admonition almost tempts me to dash to the convenience store and order a 120-ounce root beer float. In response to the sanctimonious glorification of water, I raise the motto of the Free State Brewing Co.: “Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well.”
The Star columnist went on to say that mayors all over the country have embarked on “very public weight loss” regimens. Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who admits to a weakness for barbecue and soul food, is competing with Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Heeter to see who can lose the most weight. Mayors of Newark, N.J., Oklahoma City, Boston and other cities have gone public with their appeals to downsize, apparently inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign. Politicians used to kiss babies to win office. Next thing you know, they’ll appeal for our votes on the basis of their slender waists.
Not that long ago, a prodigious belly was a sign of prosperity, success. A lean man was considered mean and untrustworthy. President William Howard Taft weighed 335 pounds when he left the White House. By the way, wouldn’t it be nice if our weight-watching politicians would cut back on their taxing and spending habits too?
We live in strange times. Half the country wants the government to solve all its problems, the other half wants the government to get off its back. My guess is that Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative won’t work. Remember what happened during Prohibition? Booze became more glamorous. The same thing will happen in response to the Bloomberg ban. Scofflaws will gather in speak-easies to quaff soft drinks sweetened by high fructose corn syrup, lured by the thrill of transgression.
But if busybodies like Mayor Bloomberg are determined to save us from ourselves, why stop at a ban on soft drinks? How about a ban on loud, inane cell phone talk in public and thumping car speakers that make the ground shake? How about a ban on body piercing and “sagging,” the practice of wearing pants about the knees? Humanity could be much improved by a general ban on incivility and bad taste. I’d be all in favor of a ban like that.