I wonder how many supporters of the recently enacted soda ban in New York City describe themselves as pro choice? Certainly Mayor Michael Bloomberg does. I think's that's pretty ironic.
Our society worships the right of people to be free to be "who you are," to "be yourself"…as long as being yourself doesn't involve a growing list of prohibited or restricted behaviors like smoking, not wearing a seatbelt in a car or a riding without a helmet on a motorcycle. And now, at least in the Big Apple, buying a supersized soda.
Yes, we want everyone to be safe and healthy despite themselves. Or as one woman at the recent Democratic National Convention magnificently summed it up when, confronted with the potential disconnect between being pro choice and supporting soda bans, she said: "We want people to be free to make good choices."
And she and Mayor Bloomberg will be happy to tell you what they are, too…
The "freedom to make good choices" comes uncomfortably close to "do what we tell you" for my tastes. It also assumes that everyone has the same priorities. Think about it: the assumption behind soda bans, helmet laws and smoking restrictions is that "good choices" are those that extend life and/or contribute to health, while "bad choices" threaten to cut life short and/or damage one's health.
But what if mere longevity or long-term good health is not my priority? What if I am willing to risk a shorter life or long-term health in exchange for some thrills today—dragging on Camels, riding a Harley with the wind blowing through my hair or chugging Maxi-sized Big Gulps?
Isn't that what individual liberty—being "free to be who I am"—is all about?
Now, I'm not saying I'm going to do any of those things (in fact, I don't do any of them). But I resent being told not just "you shouldn't" but "you can't."
I'm also concerned about where this will lead. After all, if you can be prohibited from actions that don't even directly affect anyone but yourself (like not wearing a seatbelt, say), then what's next?
Is a future "broccoli mandate" really all that far-fetched given that there already is a prototype in schools, where fruits and veggies must be served whether the students want them or not? What's to stop a Mayor Bloomberg or some other healthy living warrior from mandating that a serving of veggies must accompany any restaurant meal?
After all, it's a "good choice" and who can argue with that?