Authors Note: I wrote this rant almost two weeks ago and it’s just been sitting in a folder on my desk top. Why? I couldn’t decide on a name for it. Hell, I couldn’t even decide whether or not to post it at all. I’m not as versed as most on the state of affairs in the world. I’m not really into politics. I’m not as educated as some in the ways of government. I have no idea why the economy is bad or what needs to be done to fix it. These are just some of the things in the world that I feel strongly about. Some of the other “average joes” in the world will hopefully agree with me. So without further ado and no more delay…
You must login to vote
“You see, according to Cocteau's plan, I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think; I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, ‘Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?’ I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing ‘I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener’.” Dennis Leary as Edgar Friendly in Demolition Man
I read the “Majestic” today. What’s got me thinking is something I read in Linnie’s column.
“Some people seem to think that they should be protected from being offended. To go off on a tangent, I think most times when someone says “freedom from” they really mean “protection from,” and that has nothing to do with freedom.”
I agree whole-heartedly with this statement. The part that I feel the need to rant about is the very first part. “Some people seem to think that they should be protected from being offended.” Why stop there though? I mean, there is an ever growing group of Americans who feel like they should be protected not only from being offended, but from any number of other things that don’t fit into their view of what life should be. I’ve got all kinds of examples, so fasten your seat belt…
What is the deal with the anti-smoking fanatics lately? All I see on television, on the rare occasions when I watch it, are these commercials urging people to either quit smoking or lobbying for a smoke-free America. Seriously? These people want to make smoking illegal? Why? Of course, the answer is that smoking is unhealthy, and one of the leading causes of death in America is cancer caused by smoking. However, why would a bunch of non-smokers band together to ask the government to tell those of us that do smoke that we can’t anymore because it’s bad for us? Personally, every time I see one of those things it makes me want to light up and chain smoke a pack or three just for spite. If I quit smoking it will be because I want to, not because I’m told to. It doesn’t stop there though. There is a regulation floating through the higher echelons of the military to ban smoking on all military installations and to possibly make it against regulation to smoke at all in the military, even in your own home or during your off time. At what point did we go from “by the people, for the people” to a country where the government is deciding what is best for us. Smoking is bad for me so we should make it illegal? Is the decision whether or not to smoke a choice that the government should step in and make for me? I’m all for taking non-smokers into consideration and making sure they don’t have to breathe my smoke. Hell, as much as I hate it, I can understand why California passed the law banning smoking in bars. If a non-smoker wants to go to the bar than they should be able to do so without breathing in a bunch of smoke, but that’s why they used to have a smoking section, so that the rest of the bar was smoke free. The icing on the cake for me with the smoking issue is another commercial that I saw. The woman was a non-smoker who chose to be a stand-up comedian. She spent so much time in smoky comedy clubs and bars that she developed lung cancer even though she never smoked, and this was supposed to be an advertisement for a “Smoke-Free California” I guess. Notice that I said she “chose” to be a stand-up comedian. She was an older lady so if she had been doing it her whole life, she started before all of the controversy over smoking really blew up. She knew what she was getting into. She knew she would be surrounded by smoke and people smoking all the time. Yet now, instead of taking responsibility for her choice, she wants to blame all the people smoking in the bars she performed at for her cancer. Does anyone just own what they do anymore instead of making excuses or passing the buck?
Speaking of choices that the government should or should not make for you, let me speak a little bit on the seat belt/helmet laws. Let me pose a question, should the government tell us that we must wear a seat belt while driving or a helmet while riding a motorcycle? For me, the answer is no. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with a law that makes it mandatory to put your children into a seat belt or to make them wear a helmet. Some parents are idiots and children don’t know any better. However, once you reach the age of 18, should it not be your choice? I wear my seat belt whenever I get into a car and I don’t ride motorcycles, but that’s my personal choice. If another person doesn’t want to wear a seat belt why should they have to? If that person wants to take the chance of being thrown through the windshield or if a motorcyclist wants risk cracking his head open if he has a wreak then I say it’s their choice. Who are they hurting?
Take a look at Television. How many censors do we have for television programming? The American people demand that we have them, but why? If there is a show on TV that you don’t like, or find distasteful what do you do? Do you ask someone else to change the channel? No, you damn well pick up the remote and switch to another station. So why then can that same concept not be applied to all forms of media to include TV? I remember when I was in college. I was working as a Guest Service Manager (GSM) at the Hastings in my home town. For those of you not familiar with Hastings, imagine a Barns and Noble, Blockbuster, Warehouse Music, coffee house, and a Hot Topic all in the same store. The Hastings that I worked at was one of the few stores in the entire chain that didn’t have an “adult” section. Why did we not have one? Because some of the people in the community decided to push their morals on the rest of us and the store manager decided to just get rid of it as opposed to fighting the issue. The adult section of the other stores was in a closed off portion of the movie department with a big sign proclaiming what it was and saying that you had to be 18 or accompanied by an adult to enter. That wasn’t good enough according to the group that wanted it gone. They said, “What if our children wander in there and see that stuff?” You know what I say to that, be a parent and keep an eye on your kids in the store! Is it too much to ask for parents to be responsible for their children? I don’t think so but apparently it is. So instead of Mom and Dad keeping track of their children, they want someone to step in and take away whatever it is they don’t want their kids to see so they don’t have to. It’s the same principle with smoking or wearing a seat belt/helmet. People won’t be responsible for their actions, so they ask the government to step in so they don’t have to be. Do I want kids seeing things they should not? Of course not, after all, I have a daughter myself. I would not want her wandering in the adult section of a movie store. How do I stop this? By simply being a father to my daughter and making sure that she doesn’t go in there.
Here’s another Hastings story. A woman came up to the counter with an arm load of merchandise from different sections of the store. She flopped all of it down on the desk in front of me and said,
“I want all of this stuff off the selves, NOW!”
I was taken aback by the aggressiveness that she approached me with. I started looking through the items she had brought to me. There were three books by Anne Rice. It was her “Sleeping Beauty” series. On the cover of each was a classical oil painting of nude women. You know the ones I mean? All of the women were very round and pale. I also saw a board game called “F#@K It”. The symbols were there and everything. Apparently it was a drinking game of some sort. There was a Bart Simpson toy that proclaimed on the box that if you squeeze his stomach he would say some of his classics. The one she pointed to later was the one that said, “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you.” She had a copy of “Sex for Dummies” and a tiny little miniature book like we sell up at the counter that was an extremely abridged version of the “Kama Sutra”. I don’t remember everything, I know there was a t-shirt that something about being the baddest monkey in the jungle and maybe a few other things that were certainly rated PG but nothing I would normally sweat over. After looking over the things she had brought me I told her that I didn’t understand what why she was so upset. She gave me the most judgmental look I’ve ever seen in my life and asked me in an incredulous voice:
“You mean to tell me that you’re not offended by this pornography and profanity?”
I explained to her that we didn’t sell pornography at our Hastings. She held up one of the Anne Rice books and said,
“What do you call this!?”
I was dumbfounded. She went on to tell me that if I didn’t take the stuff off of the shelves right that second that the store would not only lose her business, but the business of the entire Church of Christ community. You see, my home town has a large congregation for the Church of Christ. There are 4 or 5 of them within the city limits. Not to mention, Harding University. Harding is a private college that is funded by the Church of Christ. Before I go further, let me state that I am not stereotyping every member of the Church of Christ. I’m simply stating facts about what has happened in my home town. Now, getting back to the story, I told the lady in my best hail-fellow-well-met voice that I had no control over what went on the shelves and what didn’t. I told her that all of that stuff came the Hastings headquarters and that if she would like to log a complaint I would provide her with a phone number to call. I had my best professional smile…bright and empty. She told me that that was not good enough. Then she leaned close to me and said,
“I don’t want my children seeing this stuff, and you just remember why Books-a-Million is not here anymore.”
Then she leaned back and gave me a smug smile like that was supposed to scare me. Needless to say, I was not impressed, but I knew what she was referring to. Before Hastings bought the building that it was housed in, Books-a-Million was there. Before that the building was a Wal-Mart. When Wal-Mart decided to build a Supercenter across the street, they leased it to Books-a-Million. Books-a-Million had an adult section and the Church of Christ community in my town raised a huge fuss about it. After a few months, the fuss died down and Books-a-Million mysteriously closed down and shortly after that, Hastings moved into the building. The general consensus was that they had finally gotten enough complaints that they had shut down. When I first started at Hastings, I asked the general manager of the store why Books-a-Million left. He told me that despite what the “bible-thumpers” thought, that was his phrase and not mine, the reason Books-a-Million left was because they lost their lease with Wal-Mart. That’s how Hastings was able to buy the property.
So I told this lady that. By the time I got done explaining what had happened to Books-a-Million the smug smile had dropped of her face and she seemed to lose all the self-righteous indignation of just a few minutes before. You see folks, it’s not just the government that wants to impose its own since of morality on us. The lady didn’t want her kids seeing the thing she brought to me, but instead of paying attention to what her kids were looking at while she had them in the store, she wanted me to take the things she found unsuitable for kids off the shelves so she wouldn’t have to.
Don’t mistake me. I’m not telling you to lobby for a porn section in every book store, to go and start smoking if you don’t, or to speed around in whatever vehicle you own without the use of safety equipment. I’m simply saying that you should have the right to choose whether you want to do these things or not. Personally, I wear my seat belt in a vehicle and I’m trying to quit smoking. All of these things are good ideas. I just don’t think the government should force them on us. You should be free to smoke wherever you wish as long as you are courteous to non-smokers. It should be you who decides whether or not you are going to wear a seat belt or a helmet when you drive your car or motorcycle. So I ask, why is it not our choice? And I answer, because we decided we didn’t want the choice anymore. We voted all of these restrictions to our freedom into being. We decided that we wanted the government to be our parents instead of us being adults and making our own choices. We gave the government the authority to tell us what we can and cannot do. Why did we do it? So we would have someone to blame if the choice was wrong.
Let’s take look into the future, shall we? If we continue down the path we have started, what will it be like in America in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? There’s really no way to tell, but if we don’t start taking responsibility for our actions and keeping the government out of our day to day decisions then I think I’ve got a pretty good idea…
John Spartan: “You, get me a Marlboro.”
Alfredo Garci: “Yes sir, right away sir. Huh-what’s a-a Marlboro?”
Spartan: “It’s a cigarette, any cigarette.”
Lenina Huxley: “Smoking is not good for you, and it’s been deemed that anything not good for you is bad, hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat…
Spartan: “You’re shitting me…”
Machine on the wall: “John Spartan you are fined one credit for a violation of the verbal morality statute.”
Spartan: “What the hell is that?”
Machine on the wall: “John Spartan you are fined one credit…”
Huxley: “Bad language, child play, gasoline, uneducational toys, and anything spicy. Abortion is also illegal, but then again so is pregnancy if you don’t have a license.” Demolition Man
Is this what we want? Are we going to sacrifice our freedom so we don’t have to think for ourselves? I hope not.
'But I don't want to go among mad people,' said Alice. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the cat. 'We're all mad here.'