The latest conservative meme is a spin-off of the National Rifle Association’s infamous 1970s slogan, “I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”, with different foods replacing the word ‘gun’. The most common variation refers to “burgers and fries”, but as Sarah Palin demonstrated last year, cookies also apply.
For reasons that fall beyond comprehension, many conservatives view public health as a threat to their liberties and freedoms. Mention calorie postings on menus and prepare to be labeled “a food Nazi” (a term that always make me cringe, no matter how many times I hear it). Suggest a ban on trans fats and, well, consider yourself responsible for the downfall of the United States. If you want to get Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs going, bring up Meatless Mondays.
In fact, almost every time a sound public health measure is brought up, conservatives trot out “Nanny State” complaints, even when these measures simply consist of educational campaigns or information dissemination that aims to help consumers make better choices. After all, calorie counts do not prevent anyone from ordering to their heart’s discontent. Similarly, trans fats bans do not forbid foods, but rather remove an ingredient which has been shown time and time again to wreck all aspects of human health, and that can be replaced with less-offensive substitutes without affecting flavor. Much like the tooth fairy, the Nanny State is an imaginary concept. Despite what many conservatives think, offering a healthful option, while still keeping the less healthful option available, is simply about prioritizing the health of a society.
Curiously, the same folks who throw these “Nanny state! Stay out of my life!” tantrums over sound and reasonable policies like removing flavored milk from school lunchrooms are the same ones who are quick to tell women what they can and can not do with their own bodies, declare what couples can and can not get married, and forbid certain topics from being discussed in schools. As much as conservatives may appear to be “laissez faire” when it comes to issues of nutrition and health, they sure go out of their way to protect Big Food and Big Agriculture (Monsanto owes some of of its legal victories to Republican politicians).
Real progress can not occur unless policies and laws are enacted, which reflect — and, in some cases, precede — a collective shift in consciousness. This nation’s nutrition crisis has awakened many of its citizens, who will only increasingly continue to demand that government take measures to help foster an environment of wellness. Banning trans fats, artificial dyes, and genetically modified organisms is not “nanny”-ing; it is the correct response to well-documented threats to the physical and environmental health of a nation.