“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Since Thanksgiving will soon be upon us I thought I’d make a list of “little” freedoms. Not big freedoms like guns, religion, and speech. Even the smallest of freedoms make life better and serve as the canary in the coal mine.
- Coffee escaped the fate of cigarettes. There was a time when coffee was on the informal list of things that were “officially bad”; that list started with heroin and wound up with coffee and cigarettes in a near tie. Cigarettes got hammered. Coffee did not. I’m not sure why. Perhaps Starbucks put lattes in the hands of snobs and Marlboro didn’t. I simply assumed the cigarette banners would go after coffee next; no coffee in offices, anti-coffee billboards, special taxes, second hand caffeine, etc… It never happened. Sadly they kept beating smokers until the poor bastards are bloody pariahs. (Mea culpa: Initially I was in favor of mandatory non-smoking zones in certain restaurants. It became the slippery slope that it led to no-smoking everywhere, just plain hassling a populace, and punitive taxation of an unpopular group. I regret my initial naiveté and won’t make that mistake again.) I don’t buy the logic that consenting adults must stand outside in a blizzard lest someone hypothetically sniff the fumes and immediately develop nuclear double secret suable lung cancer. Airline flights and pre-schools made sense but smoking is now verboten in machine shops, monster truck rallies, bait stops, biker bars, and strip clubs. They went too far! Suppose I ride helmetless to dive bar called “Grizzlie’s Shithole” and slam tequila shots like an animal while getting a lapdance and gambling the rent money. We’ve got laws that say that smoking is banned and immoral even in that environment? I wish I’d defended smokers better. Shame on me. But I did learn my lesson; incrementalism worked on smokers so if a politician tries to get between me and my coffee I’m going DEFCON4 on the son of a bitch instantly.
- Summer vacation. The only reason kids aren’t complete zombies is summer vacation. Every year some technocrat decides that parking captive children in classrooms should be an un-interrupted money flow. So much easier for everyone except the kids. Educrats don’t care if they rip the soul from a childhood. I do. Thank God we’ve got enough humanity to parole kids in the summer sun.
- Getting a car license with no formal training whatsoever. I sucked when I learned to drive. My parents, who tried hard, were lousy teachers. I, though meaning well, was a terrible student. Yet I eventually got a license without a single stinking class. I’ve now driven so far and in so many situations that those initial shaky days are like dim memories of another dimension. (Note: as an adult I’ve voluntarily taken classes in motorcycle driving. Because I wanted to ride well; not because I was a captive meal ticket. See: Summer vacation.)
- Accelerators. Nearly every car out there can go faster than the fastest posted speed limit. Have you considered how much this pisses control freaks off? Thank your lucky stars that Ralf Nader and his minions haven’t bolted a governor on your Buick. And don’t think they haven’t considered it.
- Motorcycles. The car you drive probably has side impact air bags, anti-lock brakes, automatic transmission, and possibly traction control software. If you drive it without the seatbelt about a thousand alarms will go off. In that world, motorcycles are anachronistic. Your car’s door locks engage automatically. I ride without a door. Thank God they haven’t outlawed motorcycles yet. I wear a helmet but some states let you make that choice too; which is a good thing.
- Chainsaws. Take a good look at a chainsaw. Holy crap, it’s a death machine! It’s designed to cut, tear, and rend. It (like a gun) will gleefully destroy whatever you apply it to; be it oak or leg. OSHA must have fits just thinking about them. I’m glad that they haven’t regulated saws out of existence.
- Beer. In 1919 the 18th amendment outlawed liquor. Bootlegging went from a tax dodge to real crime. By 1929 organized crime was rocking and rolling; that’s the year Al Capone’s men machine gunned their competition in the Valentines Day Massacre. (Update: Check out Carpe Diem for a nifty historic political cartoon.) By 1933 the nation had come to it’s senses and the 21st amendment ended prohibition. Hmm… Fourteen years from implementing a flawed stupid policy to rectifying their colossal misjudgment. Not too shabby. Apparently depression era voters learned from failed policies better than current ones. (Modern day attempts to change course invariably get shafted by some self-righteous tool.) Kudos to depression era prohibitionists who started with a honest and clear constitutional amendment. Kudos to voters who fixed the mess (mostly) with another constitutional amendment. The lesson doo-gooders learned is to obfuscate. Now prohibitionists slide in low and under the radar. They do it well. For example; which constitutional amendment outlaws pot? Nor do they really want to ban stuff…just maximize the hassles they dish out; thats why cigarette smokers are hounded with regulation and taxed like slaves but not outlawed.)
- Metric. In 1975 the Metric Conversion Act was signed. America’s central governing authority ordered us to go metric like our vastly superior European counterparts. The American people inexplicably told the government to buzz off! Yes, metric is superior for just about any purpose but I’m delighted to live in a world where the American people just wouldn’t budge on something as simple as quarts versus liters. How amusingly archaic of us!
- Hunting. How many Americans hunt? A damn army of them! I didn’t notice a nice clean national number so I picked some random states; Michigan = 686,000, Texas = 650,000, Colorado = 375,000, Minnesota = 500,000. Rhode Island, which is smaller than some back yards in Texas, has the lowest number with 8,250 deer hunters. Pennsylvania tops the list with 1,300,000 (!) deer hunters. That means every State in America has hordes of privately funded, entirely volunteer folks who will get off the couch and schlep around the cold wet woods earnestly endeavoring to shoot, gut, and eat a 150 pound wild animal. Millions, yes millions, of Americans choose to handle the smelly, repulsive, arduous work of gutting a deer, work hard to do it, and own at least one lethal weapon. Huzzah! It’s a miracle that hunters can live in the same world where post modernist hipsters are deconstructing the Simpsons at Starbucks. Whenever some city based chowderhead is trying to foist green energy regulation and expensive subsidized light rail mass transit on my deeply rural lifestyle I remember that we descend on the forest en masse and hunt. Me and hundreds of thousands of my neighbors, engaging in a difficult, lethal, athletic, and yet frequently spiritual act of self-reliance! We don’t just talk the talk; we are out there gunning for Bambi. Society still has a backbone. God bless America!
On that happy note I’ll end my list.