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Big Pop


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Forces Of Foolery Are At It Again With Crusade Against Big Pop

JOE SOUCHERAY

In a rare moment of compassion I am willing to acknowledge something on behalf of young people. Being a kid isn't as easy as it used to be.

First Big Tobacco was out to get the kids. Joe Camel lurked behind every tree and leered down from every billboard.

Now it is Big Pop. Yes, that's the latest concern expressed by the Legislature. A couple of the usual DFL suspects, Sen. Becky Lourey and Rep. Gene Pelowski, are very worried that too much pop will ruin kids' teeth and turn them into fat slobs. Lourey and Pelowski not only want to stop the sale of pop in schools, but they want the machines visible and accessible only to teachers. You can't make up stuff like this.

It gets worse. The politicians are joined by the Minnesota Dental Association, which urged Lourey and Pelowski to sponsor the bill. They haven't reached the point yet where they need Mike Ciresi's services, but that day is coming. The evil corporate bosses at Big Pop probably have secret documents that show how they have manipulated sugar content to keep the kids hooked.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't vote for candidates in the hope that they are going to tackle the challenging issues like Big Pop. I vote for them on the off chance that they might reduce government just significantly enough that they wouldn't have time to worry about Big Pop. But I lose. We have so many legislators with so much time who meet so often that it was inevitable they would get around to Big Pop. Big Beef is next, then Big Candy and maybe even Big Pants or Big Hair.

In the meantime, these poor kids might as well be orchids raised in a hothouse. They are told they are not physically fit. They are told they are too fat. They are warned that pop will rot their teeth. They are suspended from school if they happen to brandish a nail clipper. They have been made keenly aware of their feelings. They can't argue, but they can experience conflict resolution. They can't keep score. There are no wrong answers. Put on your helmet. Put down that snowball.

No wonder every once in a while a kid just freaks out and blows something up.

The Minnesota School Board Association and various school principals probably want to join the bandwagon against Big Pop, but they can't. They point out that sales from Big Pop pay for such important activities as field trips. Also, the Big Pop lobby will fight for Big Pop.

It is amazing that a combination of legislation and government schooling can train a child to assume helplessness. The likes of Pelowski and Lourey, for example, seem to be shamelessly promoting the idea that if you rot your teeth from too much pop, it is not your fault; it is the fault of the pop itself, or its presence, or, better yet, its presence there by virtue of the corporate structure behind Big Pop.

I called Lourey, but her voice-mail system was full. And Pelowski was in a meeting. Maybe people who read the Big Pop stories in the newspapers are going to rebel against this ridiculous nonsense. But I doubt it.

There isn't a child in this state who has received one minute's worth of straight talk on cigarettes: Hey, kid, you don't have to smoke. The executives at Marlboro are not going to come to your door and force you to light up.

And now, no child in Minnesota will receive a minute's worth of the straight talk on pop: Hey, kid, you don't have to drink pop, and no executive from Coke is going to show up at your door and force you to drink the stuff. It's your call, just like smoking.

What you have to ask yourself is why Lourey and Pelowski would take on that which is clearly not their business. The only reason I can come up with is that this kind of thing has precisely become their business. And nothing is better for that kind of business than guaranteeing generation after generation of customers dependent on the state to absolve them of every responsibility.

This new business of the state doesn't have an official name, but we might as well give it one. They are in the parent-replacement business.

Columnist Joe Soucheray can be reached at jsoucheray@pioneerpress.com or (651) 228-5474. He can be heard 2 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KSTP-AM 1500.


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