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Culturally Disadvantaged

I don’t read paper newspapers any more. I used to subscribe, but I got tired of the hassle and expense and with the internet, there is so much more available, so much faster, and in so much more detail that I finally gave up. The problem is that I tend to focus on legislative issues this time of year and I have my bookmarks set to the legislature sections of the on-line sources I check regularly. While that is good for me when I’m concentrating on monitoring the legislature, it is a rather narrow focus.

I’ve also mentioned (here for example) that I don’t watch American football. I realize that is near heresy in America, but I just can’t deal with the format. The game itself is fine, I just can’t stand the packaging. Anyway, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl.

(I will pause here for the gasps of disbelief to subside.)

And since I haven’t had time to watch TV this week, I didn’t find out about the Super Bowl halftime goings-on until yesterday after I had posted my entry. Wow. I missed the Great Breast Escape. I feel deprived. My personal and cultural growth may have been stunted. I’ve been unable to weigh in with timely witty comments. I am the laughingstock of other bloggers. My self esteem and reputation have suffered irreparable harm. Surely I should not have to suffer like this. I want to make sure it never happens again. And, because I don’t want anyone else to suffer in the future, I’m contacting my representative to have him introduce a bill in the legislature to make it mandatory for all Kansans to watch the Super Bowl. I think a misdemeanor for the first offense, felony for subsequent offenses, with a referral to the Justice Department upon conviction, for investigation for un-American activities. And in a sub-section of the law, willfully preventing a minor from watching the Super Bowl would be classified as child abuse. Hey, we have to start somewhere building a sense of self-esteem and patriotism in our friends and neighbors and especially in their children, don’t we?

Well, no we don’t. And although this is even sillier than my Butter Police rant from yesterday, this is the way well-meaning, good-intentioned busy-bodies think: Someone is being harmed, we should do something about it, we can do something about it, let’s pass a law. The problem is that a lot of these ideas seem good on the surface. (In reference to the Georgia “no smoking in closed cars with children law) It is hard to argue for children riding around in smoke-filled vehicles. The problems are almost always in the enforcement. Would the 3 inches I used to crack my window when driving and smoking (with or without Rat Jr. in the car) be sufficient for the purposes of the law? (I know it makes the car damn cold in the winter and provides more than enough ventilation to suck the second-hand smoke out of vehicle, but is there a way to measure the amount of second-hand smoke in an open car reaching a passenger?) And at what level would the smoke be considered acceptable? 4 inches, 5 inches? wide open? All windows wide open? What if in an open convertible, the air flow pattern takes the smoke into the passenger’s face? At what point do the automobile emissions and diesel smoke blowing in through the open windows become more of a health hazard than the cigarette smoke we are trying to protect Billy and Suzy from in the first place. And you know there are nicotine junkies out there who would, in the dead of winter, crank all the windows open, put Jr. in two parkas, a sleeping bag, and three quilts and just smoke like a chimney anyway. (Putting Jr. in two parkas, a sleeping bag, and three quilts is actually a good idea anyway, as it muffles the little rug rat screams and lets you concentrate on driving. Or so I’m told…)

The point is that we can’t protect everyone from everything. Sensible people don’t coop their kid up in a car that has enough smoke in it to look like any van from a Cheech and Chong movie. (That, of course, begs the question of whether sensible people smoke in the first place.) But not all people are sensible. The mindset of the people that want to mind my business is built on the idea of human perfectibility. If we just keep working on it, eventually humans will be more considerate, healthier, less violent, etc, etc. etc. These people take their idea of what people should be (which is rather surprisingly often very much like themselves) and try to convince me that I should be like them. And when that doesn’t work (did I mention my contrarian streak?) they try to tax, regulate, limit or outlaw the behavior they don’t like in an effort to make me a better person.

My problem with this mindset is that 1) I don’t necessarily believe I need to be a better person, 2) if I do think I need to be a better person, I usually don’t agree with what “they” think being a better person would entail, and 3) I definitely don’t believe in the perfectability of humans.

I think that last one is the big one. Let’s assume for a moment that making people be “better people” through pressure, threats and legal coercion was a good thing to do. Let’s also assume (play along, here) that we could all agree on what “better people” and their behavior would look like. If humanity is not inherently perfectable, then the whole effort to make people be “better” is just an exercise in forcing your preferences and style on me. I wholeheartedly reject that idea. It seems to run counter to the idea of my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So, if that means we should put up with the occasional in-bred hick tooling around town, smoking a pack of Lucky Strikes with the windows rolled up and Jim Bob, Jr. in the car, well, that’s ok by me. (Don’t write nasty mail. I am not in any way, shape, or form trying to imply that all Georgians smoke Luckies…) I think that is a small price to pay for the government staying out of my life, and yours as well.

(Disclaimer: It was a joke. Not all Georgians are in-bred hicks. And yes, I realize there is another slippery-slope argument here that goes the other way: If you are ok with “abusing” (not my first choice of word, but the one “they” would certainly choose for its emotional baggage) children with smoke, is it ok to spank them with your hand? If that’s ok, what about with a belt or a hairbrush? If that’s ok, what about whipping them with a stick? If that’s ok, what about beating them regularly because it’s good for them? And so on. And no, I’m not going to tackle that argument tonight)

Truth in Advertising Disclaimer: I have often included notes about my personal involvement in the things I write so my readers can judge the extent to which my personal biases might be involved. So here it is for this story: I am a cigarette, cigar, and pipe-smoking, gun-loving, fat middle-aged white guy. Make of it what you will.

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