Everyone is always yapping these days about losing rights. It used to be when I was a mere boy and beardless youth that it was conservatives who were concerned about losing their freedoms. Conservatives led the march against fluoridation. They said that people should receive some sort of compensation for sending their kids to private school. And goddamn it, they won't stand for helmet laws or seatbelt laws or bottle bills.
"Don't make me do something that's good for me. I want the right to act stupidly!"
It's funny how so many people who identify themsleves as conservative had a hard time with equal rights for women or breaking down color barriers. Make them wear a helmet so their brain don't splatter on the sidewaltk though and thems fightin' words!
These days it's been many liberals who are concerned about their loss of rights through the Patriot Act and other Bush inspired legal actions. It's funny that not too many conservatives don't talk about the erosion of habeas corpus. They don't speak about warrantless searches. Nope, that kind of freedom loss doesn't seem to bother them. Old Rushie and his ilk don't allow talk about that.
Oh, but it's okay to out an undercover CIA agent because her husband embarassed the Regime. That freedom of speech is just fine.
The beauty of America is that one person's freedom is not necessarily important to another person. If your ox isn't being gored then so what? Right? Aren't we supposed to protect the Constitution and the public good?
The rant I wrote below probably confused some of my readers as I really support the rights of private clubs to participate in lawful activities and smoking for adults is lawful. I do think that public health board are acting in a hypocritical manner. Banning smoking should now lead to a prohibition of tobacco, booze, McDonald's fries, lap dances, corned beef sandwiches, and all candy.
I wonder if liberals and conservatives could find middle ground on those "freedoms."
I'm not much of a smoker. I've never tried cigarettes. I have a cigar a couple of times a year outside where it won't stink up the house. My father had quit smoking before I was born and my mother never smoked.
My wife doesn't smoke. My foster daughter doesn't and I hope my grand daughter never starts.
All of this is to say I'm not an advocate of smoking at all and yet I think Springfield's Public Health Council and the corresponding bodies in Holyoke, Chicopee and Agawam did something with which I can't agree: they all banned smoking in private clubs.
The argument I heard the other night was that the health dangers of smoking trumped the rights of individuals who are members of private clubs. Smoking creates severe health problems, the members of the Council all said. A ban would help protect club employees from second hand smoke as well.
Now I'm all in favor of seat belt laws. I think recycling bottles is just fine, too. A lot of people in the Commonwealth fought both measures despite the public good these laws created.
I think that laws that govern how one person's behavior can affect the public are mostly good for us. Yeah, I'm a liberal.
I do think, though, that laws that dictate private lawful behaviors cross a line.
I don't care what you do in your own house, as long it's legal. Don't tell me what to do in my house, either.
And private clubs should be treated in the same way.
Maybe now I'm a libertarian.
No one holds a gun to your head and tells you to be an Elk. If you're interested in joining you know that part of that experience might include smokers in the bar at the Lodge. Your membership is consent to activities such as smoking.
If you really don't like smoking, you probably wouldn't join and would seek another activity. There are plenty of ways to seek fellowship and do something positive for your community.
Adults can smoke. It's legal in certain places. No one at last week's meeting expressed any opposition to the idea that smoking has been banned from workplaces, bars, restaurants and other public areas. They just wanted to be allowed to smoke in their private members-only clubs.
Here's the great unsaid: our society includes behaviors that are dangerous and stupid, but are so ingrained they are legal. No one wants to debate the overall legality of smoking, knowing full well a prohibition would be a disaster.
So we must tolerate the habit. Kids shouldn't be allowed to smoke and taking it out of the public arena makes sense. Allowing in private areas makes sense, also.
The decision now politicizes the issue. It has become an argument of "rights."
Here is what I would have done if I had been a member of a Board of Health in one of these communities: I would have met with representatives of the various organizations and asked to run smoking education and other health programs at their locations.
I bet they would have agreed. Perhaps some would have considered going smoke free.
© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs