As Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” I take that to mean that no matter what the issue, voters tend to relate it to their personal lives.
Recently, most of our attention has been on the upcoming presidential election. After all, it’s a contest to see who will be the most powerful person on Earth. I’m guessing that more of us tuned in to the debate last Wednesday than went to the polls on Tuesday, so the question is what will have more of an effect on your life? Will it be President (insert name here), or a local proposition?
It’s easy to get caught up in the hyperbole of a national election, and I’m as guilty as anyone on that front. It’s just more fun to weigh in to the meatier issues of the day. Issues like the Obama presidency that is leading us down the road to Communism where death panels will send granny to an extermination camp in Boise and annual colonoscopies will be mandated for the family dog. Or, the Mitt Romney campaign, which is attempting a hostile corporate takeover of the country so he and his billionaire cronies can sit in their penthouses paying zero taxes while they trickle down on the rest of us. Or at least 47 percent of us.
The reality is that whoever wins the White House, whichever party controls Congress, my day isn’t going to change that much, and yours probably won’t either. However, if I still smoked my day would see a big change in Palmer. A friend of mine and business owner in that town is going to notice a big change, too. About 9 percent of her neighbors decided that she can no longer smoke in her own place of business.
Proposition 3 asked Palmer residents to decide if they were going to be able to smoke in public spaces and local business establishments. About 15 percent of registered voters voted, and well over half of them decided that smoking is no longer OK. Not that it ever really was OK, but now it’s official. No smoking in office buildings, parks or places of employment except in designated areas that are as far as possible from those of us without sin.
I say us because my wife and I stopped smoking about 11 years and many pounds ago. We’re both old enough to remember a time when ashtrays were a common sight in offices, restaurants and bars. I even remember ashtrays in my family doctor’s office. The point is, there was a time when smokers were not the pariah they are today.
Since we are now smoke free, we can look down our increasingly sensitive noses at those who choose to put chemically laced plant matter in their faces and light it on fire. We also have the legal right to make them stand outside in huddled, shivering little groups about 20 feet from our smokeless sanctuaries so we can point and “tsk tsk” at them as we go by. I think next year we should mandate a big red “S” be sewn on their tunics. I guess we’ll also have to start mandating tunics.
My wife and I have also quit drinking. We are a very exciting couple. Perhaps next year, along with tunics the big red S, we should issue a decree to close all the bars. What the heck, you can’t smoke in there anyway.
In the course of a year, alcohol, a legal drug, probably kills more people than heroine, crack or any other illegal drug. I’m not suggesting we keep folks from scurrying home with their favorite brain-numbing beverage, only that we close down the public venues.
This is a pretty big step so it has to be carefully worded. We need to inject words like liberty, freedom and mom into the argument. It could go something like this: “Our liberty is under assault from booze-addled mobs, staggering down our freedom loving sidewalks.” Or, “Don’t you think you should keep your mom from being accosted by bands of roaming saloonatics?”
How about this: “Our founding fathers wanted us to be free from tyranny and there is nothing more tyrannical than a public inebriate making you mildly uncomfortable.”
For good measure we could throw in “mom-liberty” at the end. We could call the movement Liberty and Freedom Fighters, or LAFF.
Maybe we could start putting drinkers in tunics with a big scarlet “A” on their chests. That “A” could serve double duty in as much as alcohol can lead to the more commonly referenced activity associated with that scarlet letter.
There is another old saw that goes something like your freedom to swing your fist ends about a quarter inch from my nose. I understand there is an argument to be made against secondhand smoke. I understand people in the workplace don’t always have the luxury of quitting and going elsewhere. I also know that smokers have taken a number of solidly placed shots to the nose in the past few years.
In a free society full of swinging fists, someone is going to end up with a bloody nose. We are not a risk-free society and it was never intended to be risk free. That means answers are not always cut and dried and individual freedoms will be bumping into each other. We use the rule of law to help sort this mess out. From time to time, it is up to all of us to decide where we want the legal lines to be drawn. Apparently, only 15 percent of us made that decision in Palmer. Now those who don’t smoke have pristine nostrils, but smokers are reaching for the tissue box.
Chuck Legge is a freelance political cartoonist who lives in Sutton. His political cartoons, “The World According to Chuck,” are printed in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and other newspapers around the state and nation.