Ugh. My hometown is considering a ban against smoking (read: smokers) in the downtown district. An editorial in the local paper highlights how a smoking ban would make our town more “family-friendly” for tourists. (Note: There’s already a law about smoking indoors, and a law about how far you must be from a business entrance to smoke, so it’s not like the whole town smells like an ashtray. or anything… besides the pervasive scent of weed that wafts across the entire state.)
I understand cigarette smoke can be an irritant, even an allergen, and a potential health hazard. But so can wearing essential oils, peanut butter, mosquitoes, or really ugly clothes. So can being in the presence of self-righteous, judgmental prigs. I’m frequently irritated by rude people, and almost daily by stupid people. Can we enact a law against stupid people?
We’ve become a society that wants everything that annoys us to be legislated, and enforced, by someone else.
We’re passive-aggressive. We’d rather call the cops than ask someone to put out a cigarette. That’s sad.
Can we enact a law against screaming toddlers in Walmart?
How about obnoxious Texas tourists on the ski slopes?
Or crappy California drivers on our lousy Colorado highways?
Personally, I’d like a law that prohibits people from sharing memes, emails, and internet tropes which have been proven untrue. Or enacts a fine against memes with glaring grammatical errors.
My hubby would like a law against commercials. Or at least a law prohibiting me from forgetting to fast-foward the commercials while we’re watching things on DVR.
My oldest son would like a law against dolls. All kinds of dolls. They creep him out.
But legislating for or against what we like or don’t like is NOT the purpose of our representative form of government. We’ve all got stuff we don’t like: pet peeves, irritants, personal health hazards. On the other hand, the yahoos who think they need to pack assault weapons into Target give me heartburn, so I see where these anti-smoking folks are coming from.
How do we balance the law that protects the people with the law that protects the rights of the people? This, I fear, is the question we will be answering in the next generation.
How do we find the balance of truth and power between safety issues and personal rights?
How do we balance civil rights with personal rights?
Religious freedom with personal freedom?
Freedom of expression with the potential for libel and slander?
So many questions, so few answers. Finding pragmatic solutions to these questions will require diplomacy, respect, mercy, kindness, and love for our fellow man. Characteristics most of those with the loudest voices these days seem to lack.