Memo For File CLI

Item: I notice it’s been an entire year since the “Don’t Touch My Junk” revolt against the TSA, which is now a whole decade old and has yet to stop a single terrorist attack. And in that year, I haven’t flown. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I hope to see many years come and go before I fly. Not because I’m afraid of heights, but because I don’t like being treated like a barnyard animal to be herded around, the situation’s become completely unraveled and completely absurd. Confiscating cupcakes, fer cryin’ out loud.

Item: The current crop of presidential candidates is receiving some dismal report cards on the subject of illegal immigration. We should expect to see these grades diminish even further over time, since it’s clear that our votes are being diluted by invaders who simply hop the fence and punch ballots. We don’t know when they do it, but very little is being done to stop them from it so it’s silly to argue that they aren’t. Especially when our politicians, and candidates for their offices, work so hard at pandering to the invaders when the people whose votes are supposed to count, clearly want the problem to be addressed more directly.

Item: I see warning signs everywhere that, to put it plainly, make me want to vomit. This [blank] uses [chemicals/materials] known to [regulatory entity] to cause [malady]. Warnings everywhere. The list of things I can’t do is long, and growing longer, but I’m not any safer and neither is anybody else. Can’t jaywalk. Can’t order beer to be delivered with my pizza. The ammunition downstairs is going to last a good long time, since here in California firearms are only for the designated range…which means I only shoot paper targets. Not empty wine jugs like I used to do with my Dad. As for the poor unfortunates who are kids today, they have to wear helmets to do everything. Don Surber points out that me getting fat is now a national security issue…and so is everything else. Safe, safe, safe — whatever we can do, is something someone hasn’t quite gotten around to stopping us from doing quite yet. Whatever rules haven’t been written, haven’t been written yet.

What do these three items tell me about our guiding social ethic? Two things.

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On a cosmetic level at least, it is very important to us that nothing bad ever happens to anybody, even if they richly deserve it. One of my favorite John Wayne quotes, which he likely never actually said, is “Life’s tough; it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” I don’t care if it’s apocryphal because it’s true, and don’t ask me how I know. Let’s just say I can vouch for it. Well, apparently someone doesn’t like that and is trying to undo it, to make life just as painless for stupid people as it is for smart people…which is not something that’s gonna happen.

Still & all, it is nice to see life valued.

Oh no wait, we can see that’s not really happening…because of the other thing we notice from the above items…notwithstanding the discussion to ensue about how effective these safety precautions might be, we see safety is not the most important thing. One of my most favorite things to observe & inquire is, on these commercial passenger jet trips I’m not taking, after I pass through the random screening and am safely ensconced into my seat, I will be required to power down my cell phone and any other electronic device. We’re not completely sure why that is, but it’s got to do with safety so we all just bow down and genuflect before the safety gods as we always do. Well hey…I’m seeing a burgeoning cottage industry crop up around diagnosing adults with learning disabilities…what if the pilot of my plane has a learning disability? The statistics, and the description of the symptoms, make it clear that this is a much bigger issue for my safety than any silly ol’ cell phone. Can I demand to be given this information? Can I switch planes? Maybe such a diagnosis should be a disqualification from applying for a single-engine or multi-engine pilot’s license.

You know the answer to this already. It’s a complete non-starter to talk about what the afflicted can be disqualified from doing. Heck, it’s a stretch for us to admit blind people shouldn’t drive cars. Now if you want to talk about what the diagnosed qualify for, we can drone on about that all day long.

So from this, I’m discerning that we have two rules in place — on which we never actually voted, but from which we’ll brook no deviation, we’ll tolerate no violation, and yes, we pass judgment on the character of our fellow citizens according to not only their compliance with these rules, but their enthusiasm for so complying. One, we don’t discriminate. Ever. If we do, we make sure we discriminate in the “right” direction. Two, human life is precious. It is so precious that we have to make sure everyone is out of danger, all the time, no matter what, and we seem bound and determined to keep writing more and more safety rules until everyone lives forever.

But here is the strange, weird, inexplicable thing about this guiding social ethic: We’re not that militant about the safety thing, because there is a decided elevation of Rule One above Rule Two. If we have to discriminate to save a life, all of a sudden our safety is about as important as yesterday morning’s used coffee grounds. And I also notice, thinking on it some more, that there is a noticeable and repeatedly-demonstrated “appearance of impropriety” aspect to Rule One that does not apply to Rule Two. Fulfilling the substance of Rule Two, is an objective made inferior to the fulfillment of the cosmetics of Rule One.

And so what I find immediately perplexing, here, is that vertical alignment between Rule One and Rule Two. Would it not make a great deal more sense, and manifest a more sincere respect for the values enshrined in the rules, if Rule Two were to be elevated in importance and passion above Rule One? Things the way they are, our message seems to be: You have an absolute right to stay alive forever, and once you’re alive you can enjoy the benefits of non-discrimination, just keep in mind that if we have to discriminate against someone else to keep you safe and alive, you’re screwed. What, then, is our goal? What is our vision? A level playing field or no playing field at all? It starts to look kind of like Animal Farm: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. Or a competitive sport taking place on such a level-playing-field, with no score kept, everyone gets a trophy for showing up, except if you are caught saying or doing something politically incorrect you get disqualified from the game and can’t go out for pizza afterward. There’s something phony about that; either everyone counts, or some people don’t, but you can’t have it both ways. Would it not make more sense to say: You have a right to exist, and since you’re here we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure you’re treated fairly — short of putting undue jeopardy on that other guy’s right to exist. That, it seems to me, would make better sense.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m a six-foot-tall straight white guy still possessing all twenty-one digits, but I think we’ve got it cockeyed, and since this is a matter far too important to be entrusted to the doltish voters, I’m not sure what can be done to fix it. I suppose it’s encouraging that we as a society have managed to maintain such strict control over three distinctly separate levels of priority: Non-discrimination, life is sacred, and everything else. That does require some sophistication. But even that, I’m afraid, is viewing the situation through rose-colored glasses.

A more cynical perspective would be that we aren’t interested in making anyone safe at all, we’re just concerned with ass-covering. And, as Surber opines, the people we put in positions of power just like to push others around. Maybe it’s a case of, a certain job will attract a certain personality type. These jobs have authority invested in them…so that’s the personality type they attract. Bullies.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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