Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thank God for Mississippi

So no sooner does Mayor Bloomberg in New York get behind a city ordinance that would ban the sale of sodas over the size of sixteen ounces than Mississippi comes back with a law that that would ban municipalities from enacting such bans. Mississippi, the state with the highest obesity rate in the nation--and high rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes to show for it--is taking a courageous stand against any legislative attempt at curtailing marketing techniques that foster obesity.

What, you ask, were they thinking? I know exactly what they were thinking: "I'll be damned if any sumbitch  gonna tell me what to eat." They were thinking from that lizard brain all Southerners have, located directly at the base of the skull, which bypasses the frontal lobe altogether and rises up in outrage at the mere suggestion that they might knuckle under to any edict, no matter how well meaning, from some dern Outsider. Hell, yeah, us folks in Mississippi are fat! So what? You folks in New York City eat fish bait on little bitty rice cakes!  

It is in the nature of Southerners to see threats to freedom everywhere--everywhere outside of our own immediate environs, that is. It is not in the nature of Southerners to perceive that their freedom may have already been compromised by advertising wizards and focus groups who are so fiendishly clever at coming up with more and better ways to cram more "mouth feel" and calories into that bag of Doritos or bucket of KFC. Southerners love guns; we do not excel at introspection.

Actually, I confess that I too sort of bridled at the thought of Mayor Bloomberg telling me I couldn't have a 32-ounce soda if I wanted it. One of those things is cheaper than four 16-ounce sodas at the movies, and when I go with my husband and kids we often get three or four straws and pass the Vat o' Coke back and forth. (Actually, I'd be fine with just one straw, but my kids think Mom has cooties.) We don't keep soda in our house, so this is one of those occasional treats--and who's to say we can't have it? Apparently a judge in New York thought the same thing, since he struck down the Bloomberg law. I forget the exact legal rationale, but it was something along the lines of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In a way, this little episode is the story of democracy in microcosm: a nation's struggle to discern and pursue the common good despite the determined resistance of its citizens to submit to anything of the sort. Oh well. As we say in Georgia: Thank God for Mississippi. If eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, then knee-jerk redneck contrarianism comes with the territory.

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