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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Civil Liberties Up In Smoke

I heard on the news today that a recently proposed bill in New York State would ban smoking cigarettes in any vehicle containing children under 14.

I know I'm going to get flak for this one. Yes, I smoke cigarettes. Yes, I know they're bad for me. Yes, I know the studies show that second hand smoke is bad for others. No, I do not drive and blow plumes smoke into the back seat if there's a kid in the car because I have more brains than a chicken. I try to be considerate when smoking near other people, and if they're waving their hands around at the smoke or if they ask me to put the cigarette out, I usually do. I get it. Smoking is a vice. Smoking is a health hazard. We all know this. Nevertheless, the idea that politicians are poking around in my personal business and telling me where I can and can't smoke...first in bars and restaurants, then in offices and other public buildings, then outside, and now in my own car...chills me to the bone. What's next? Are they going to bust into my living room and tell me to stub that Marlboro out or else? Whatever happened to people being allowed to use good sense about what's right and wrong instead of our being punished like bad children by elected officials?

For me, this is not an issue about health. This is an issue about being told I am required be healthy and for that matter am also required to be responsible for the health of others. Everyone has gotten so busy worrying about being politically correct and "helping" our society to get on the supposed right track that we're starting to forget the importance of our own civil rights. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as written in the Declaration of Independence, is considered by many to be one of the most influential sentences in the history of the English language. That's because, in my humble and well-traveled opinion, there aren't very many places in this world where citizens have the right to such pursuit as dictated by their own founders. According to one of the most important documents ever put on paper, if it so happens that my definition of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is to sit in my car or on a park bench or on top of the space needle and smoke a pack of cigarettes, I have that right. But not anymore. Now we have politicians drafting bills that interfere with my pursuit. Their reasoning I guess is that if my pursuit of happiness interferes with somebody else's pursuit, and if enough people decide my method of pursuing happiness and liberty isn't important anymore, then tough nuts to me.

So I repeat: What's next?

Let's just suppose there's a non-coffee drinking Washington politician who thinks it's dangerous to drive with a cup of coffee in one hand. He warns that coffee-drinking drivers might hit a speed bump and spill that coffee all over the innocent child in the passenger seat or (egads!) onto one's own lap, threatening future fertility. And walking with hot coffee can be dangerous, too. You might trip and slop your caffeine all over a fellow walker. That's it! Coffee drinking under any circumstances when you're moving...illegal! According to the new law, we must all be stationary when drinking coffee, sitting quietly facing forward with ankles crossed. The to-go coffee cup drifts into the quaint and misty past, brethren to the Swinger camera and the chamber pot. 

This might sound ridiculous but I have to say that not being able to smoke outside in New York City sounds ridiculous to me, like something from a movie portraying a scary future. If I'd looked into a crystal ball 30 years ago and heard this would happen I wouldn't have believed it.

Every day people I encounter do things I find objectionable. They pass gas, they belch, they're loud and obnoxious, they tell stupid jokes, all of which I suppose I could say affect my mental health because it makes me crazy. However my reaction, as a free American, is to stay or walk away: my choice, my right. Just like it's their choice...and their right...to tell another joke or let their flatulence fly. We are supposedly free in this country to pursue a life that makes us happy, even if our behavior doesn't thrill the people around us and even if the legal behavior (because let us not forget, cigarettes are legal) is unhealthy. Now suddenly our politicians have become our protectors, saving us from ourselves as though we're kindergarteners who don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. Will somebody one day pass a bill restricting us to one slice of pizza because of the obesity problem? Will mothers get a ticket for giving their child a cookie because of rampant diabetes? And how long will it be, I wonder, before cops are knocking on my door to write me a ticket for smoking at my own kitchen counter?

This is a slippery slope, folks, and there's no sand in sight.

29 comments:

edsbath said...

I couldn't agree more! Every man for himself! Children too! Why just the other night I was getting drunk at the bar and realized I was running late and needed to get home and give the kid a good hot bath before bedtime. Of course, I had to observe the stupid speed limit and the stupid drunk driving laws, or I would be putting MY future at risk! I'm perfectly capable of having a few (legal) beers and pushing it up to 75 on the way home (no, I'm not going to cross the center line...I'm not an IDIOT!) All of these laws should be repealed and no more should be enacted! I'm tired of the government telling me I can't beat my dog, tired of worrying that if I get junior's bath water a little too hot, some goon squad is going to be taking a battering ram to my front door. What we need is a well armed militia to defend OUR constitutional rights to:
1. Drink and drive
2. Abuse our own animals
3. Abuse our own children
4. Obtain OUR choice of weapons
5. Crush all who oppose us

Kathleen Yasas said...

Like I said. I knew I was going to get flak for this.

Anonymous said...

Edsbath, give me a break! Oh, wait - I suppose I'll have to check with my local government agency to see if, 1) Is it legal for you to give me a break, 2) What fees are involved with you giving me a break, 3) The number of pages of forms I would need to complete in order for you to give me a break, and 4) what repercussions to the taxes I file for 2011 that you giving me a break will constitute.

Susie Reynolds Frair said...

And also if people are in a situation where they cannot move from someone smoking, they can use their Fredom of Speech & ask if the smoker would please not smoke in their presence.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Exactly! Thank you Susie!

Anonymous said...

or in the case of a 2 year old, the kid could just scream and throw a tantrum until mom figured out what was wrong.

edsbath said...

You don't want to be responsible for the health of others? I guess that puts you in the same category as the gas companies who want to frack, your signage notwithstanding.

Kathleen Yasas said...

There's a difference, Edsbath, between caring about the health of others and being responsible for it. I am responsible for my own health. You're responsible for yours. You wanna be responsible for the collective and travel like lemmings over the cliff? Go right ahead and find yourself another country. That's not where I live, at least not yet.

Anonymous said...

Squeaky=Glenn Beck lol

Kathleen Yasas said...

Yeah, that's me. Glenn Beck and Caligula all rolled into one.

*lights cigarette

edsbath said...

"..be responsible for the collective and travel like lemmings over the cliff.."?? I don't understand what you mean. We are fortunate that our society holds people responsible for the well being of others. And if, as you say, you have more brains than a chicken, and wouldn't smoke in a car with young kids in it anyway, why the fuss over a law that would prevent dumber people from inflicting damage that you innately recognize as irresponsible? Do you think laws prohibiting shooting people in the head should be repealed simply because you are of the opinion that you personally, and certainly most people, would not casually shoot someone in the head? Or drive drunk? "Excuse me ma'am....would you kindly not frack in my presence?"

aeba1a32-4a73-11e0-aec0-000bcdcb2996 said...

If government has the power to ban smoking in one's own car, it also has the power to force people to smoke in their cars. A nanny state is a slippery slope, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Our government is currently forcing people to smoke in their cars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan. We(sorry, it's a REPRESENTATIVE government)are trying to nanny the entire planet, by brute force if necessary. You can move to another country if you want, but chances are the US government will still be up your butt, possibly with a cruise missile. Why would ANYONE afraid of a nanny state vote for Obama?

Sandy M. said...

I am not a smoker but agree with you. What is next!

Anonymous said...

The next thing you know the Government will be insisting on putting our food and medicines inside safety packaging. It's as though they think there are crazy, malicious and negligent people everywhere! Who needs this sort of protection? And how much money is wasted on warning labels? Products could be sold for far less money if the government didn't insist on all these precautions. Don't you just HATE that handle you have to hold down on the lawn mower? And what about the electrical code? What a pain!! Why is the government telling us we need to spend $15 for an electrical outlet in the kitchen? Do they think any of us are stupid enough to touch an electrical cord when we have one hand in the dishwater? Or plug something in outside when we are standing in a puddle? I mean, come on...even your 2 year old knows that stuff. Don,t even get me started on car seats for kids....

Kathleen Yasas said...

Dear Anonymous: While your sarcasm is charming, you seem to have missed the point. I'm happy for you that you enjoy regulations of every kind. There seem to be plenty these days, and more to come. The Huffington Post reported recently that New York is considered to be the most "un-free" state. I'm also happy you can speak your mind per your first amendment rights. Let's hope that doesn't change, or do you think we need some regs there, too?

Anonymous said...

First amendment rights are a joke in this country. There are scores of people in prison for doing no more than speaking their mind. Get a little carried away on your soapbox and you will find yourself in a very small room for a very long time, under the foot of SAM (Special Administrative Measures), CIPA (Classified Information Procedures Act), The Patriot Act, and extraordinary rendition. But that's just ok, because the government has to protect us from the Evildoers in spite of the Constitution.

edsbath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loretta said...

Anonymous, honey, you've been watching too many Schwarzenneger movies. Or maybe "The Manchurian Candidate" swept you over the edge.

No one denies that the government has decreed some healthy, beneficial laws which prevent us dumb folks from smashing our heads in an untimely motorcycle debacle or hurtling unbuckled from a speeding car which encounters an obstacle.

The question is: Are some of the earnest do-gooding laws ridiculous? One cannot blindly accept legislation with the belief that the government is always right.

Right?

Anonymous said...

right. and the helmet law and the seatbelt law are two of the stupidest do-gooding laws imaginable, at least with regard to adult usage.

Amazed and fascinated said...

I feel like I've tuned into the middle of a Jerry Springer show - let me know when the chairs are to be tossed and a fist fight ensues. I'll be sure to "tune in."

Kathleen Yasas said...

It's been an exciting week at The Squeaky Pen!

edsbath said...

It's a war between the people who don't want to be governed by others and the people who don't want to be poisoned by others.

Anonymous said...

It's soothing to be called honey....thank you.

Loretta said...

Edsbath, it's a war between people who don't want to be told what to do in their private environments and the people who insist it's their business to tell others what to do.

Maybe those sanctimonious folks ought to focus their efforts on the corporate industrial poisons in our air, our water and our food instead of putting so much effort into chipping away at the civil rights of smokers. Even though cigarettes are completely legal, bewildered compliant smokers in New York have been herded from restaurants, bars, public buildings and now the whole outdoors. Only places left to smoke are 1) a car and 2) a home. Now the car smoking is getting regulated and all that's left is mandates of what you can do in your own home. Scary.

edsbath said...

Forbidden from poisoning children in one's own car! In a supposedly civilized country! What will the bastards take from us next?

Anonymous said...

Really...that law is about the civil rights of the kids under 14

Kathleen Yasas said...

A friend of mine lives in a town where there's a sign reading "Kids first!" She and her husband joke that they should add a line at the bottom: "...and parents dead last." No one's civil rights are protected if everyone's aren't.

Anonymous said...

Addicts are always right.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum