Read this full article at OrlandoSentinel.com
As we clink long-stemmed, fluted toasts to 2018, let’s recall that twelve ounces of champagne has about six grams—nearly 25 percent of recommended daily allotments— of sugar: less than a can of soda but a lot more than a near-zero-sugar lager. If the end of 2018 provides a moment to reflect on anything, it’s on the sugar high we’ve been floating in. Tax cuts and wild swings in equity markets have injected trillions of dollars into the US economy. Corporations have seen profits soar and speculators’ trades have outperformed fundamentals. Wages across the board are increasing and there’s a job for just about everybody (immigrants not excluded) who wants one. More dollars in the economy means we are all consuming: celebrating with champagne: celebrating sugar, practically for sugar’s sake.
Anybody who remembers being four years old remembers sneak-consuming sugar cubes from the tea set at their grandparents’ place, the resulting maelstrom of energy that sent the attending adults into their own apoplexy, wooden spoon paddlings, and the eventual tablespoon of “cough medicine” that restored normalcy in the home. Maybe “anybody” is just me, but anybody who can remember 2018 has lived their own version of this.
Red-hot highs beget bull-moose tears that beget some awfully low lows that beget more tears.
A sugar high is an exuberance built on an unsustainable infusion of energy. It burns hot, and when it’s not all used up, it flames out: it’s stored as fat. A sugar high ignores the need to consume complex protein, charge synapses, and build muscle. The love handles and hangovers that accompany Auld Lang Syne need more than a couple January-First Aleves. Trillion dollar deficits, Big-Sugar fueled red tides, and an increasing wealth-gulf between champagne-spillers and beer-guzzlers will require stronger anesthetics than most of us can get our ObamaCare to cover.
Perhaps the most apt word to describe 2018 is “volatile”: the same mood swings induced by sugar consumption have manifest themselves in the culture—political and otherwise. The Oval Office has been a huge source of that volatility. Sugar (we might assume) induced tantrums have transformed traditional interactions with politicians, with the press, with other nations’ leaders, with corporate executives, with the judiciary, with special investigators, with the Federal Reserve, with private citizens, with his own advisers, and even with the dead. A different approach to politics—bereft of respect for tradition—has dizzied the institutions meant to hold our national temper in check. The guide rails of civility—of basic human decency—that once emanated from a President’s bully pulpit have been sugar-transformed, a strange chemical reaction, into something better resembling the launchpad on the Hulk-coaster at Universal.
“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Anger has been the baseline in 2018. That caustic sugar sits atop every trigger; without moral guidance, heartlessly stunning insults are shot as though from bump stocks into classrooms, chapels, and social media chats. Those moments, like many on this roller coaster, intersect with weightlessness and moments of saccharine respite. The biggest beneficiaries of volatility, of course, are the charlatans and the speculators: those who pretend to be businessmen: those who buy and sell sugar as if it were an asset instead of a commodity.
My grandfather, in efforts to impress us, in those years when I was huffing sugar cubes, would sometimes make Rice-Krispy Treats. To convince us of how much effort he’d expended in that easiest of confections to make, he would playfully dust his nose and cheeks with powdered sugar as proof of his work. Sugar, even then, even when serving as a prop for a sweet man’s energy expenditure, stood as a gooey, tasty, sheet-panned totem to falsehood. We laughingly saw through the puckish charade.
We knew the sugar was just for looks.
Champagne and glitter and tuxedoes make for great New Year’s photos. They, like resolutions to reduce sugar intake, look good against a solid backdrop. Against a backdrop like 2018, even with the fastest iPhone camera shutters, we are left reeling in a blur of sugar-obscured frustration. 2019 offers plenty of opportunity to bring our sugar-high under control. Congress and the Supreme Court and the Fed and NATO and Special Counsels and the most basic forces of human decency are poised to intervene and bring normalcy back to our family.
It will require more than a continuing resolution and supplements to trim the fat we’ve stored up; we will need a comprehensive routine. Short of that, I can testify, a wooden spoon works wonders.