Last time I spoke about the way our society, by in large, is reactionary in its response to tragedy. We make laws during the "knee-jerk" period of hate and anger that comes after these horrible events occur, and we don't take the time to calm down and rationally think about what we are doing. When you make laws from blood lust and revenge, nothing good can happen.
Unfortunately, many of you took my column as an anti-gun piece. I assure you, that was not my intention. I am actually very liberal when it comes to freedoms, and I believe that the Constitution should be sacrosanct -- held in high esteem above all else. I also happen to believe in a laissez-faire attitude towards the populace in general, and to prove it I've compiled a list of the most egregious instances of government sticking its nose in where it doesn't belong from the past 30 years or so.
The seat belt alarm
Any of you who have had the privilege to drive or ride in a car that was manufactured in the last ten years or so knows about the seat belt chime. When you start up the vehicle, a light appears on the dash that indicates the driver does not have his or her safety belt buckled. Along with this light, there is an alarm that rings. It usually comes in the form of a "dinging" sound, similar to the sound when keys are left in the ignition. This alarm rings until the driver buckles his or her belt. In some of the older model cars, this chime ceases after five minutes or so but on the newer vehicles the alarm will not stop ringing until the seatbelt is buckled. In addition, some of the newest cars have added this alarm to the passenger side safety belt as well. No one can argue that seat belts aren't one of the most important safety innovations in the last 100 years, but I shouldn't be forced to wear one if I don't want to.
As many of you know, I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Thanks to the disease, I developed spinal compression fractures, and have lost almost three inches from my original height. I was always short, but now I am noticeably smaller than most. This doesn't present a problem until I get into my vehicle. When I start the car and I am forced to buckle up for a 30-second trip around the block, the seat belt acts like a guillotine and nearly decapitates me by the time I arrive. I either have to put my left arm over the belt, effectively defeating its purpose, or I must constantly pull the belt downward to prevent a red line from developing on my neck. On arrival, it's difficult to explain why I look like I have just been strangled.
Of course, I'm sure many of you right now are saying, "just put the stupid seat belt on." That might be a solution, except with my prosthetic shoulder, putting on the belt can range from annoying to fairly painful. Even so, the point of the matter is that if I buy a car and I want to drive without my seatbelt, so what? It doesn't hurt anyone but me, and if I'm stupid enough to do it all the time, then I deserve the consequences. It's not like drunk driving, where someone else will be hurt, it's just me, and that's it. I hate that I have to choose between a pain in my ears and a pain in my shoulder.
The bike helmet law
When I was young, my friends and I would ride our bikes for hours on end, sometimes not coming home until dusk. We rode everywhere, and some of the stunts we attempted while on our bikes were dangerous, I'll admit. Jumping off curbs and driveways was commonplace, and we frequently raced at speeds in excess of 20 mph. All the time we were doing this, though, none of us wore a helmet. In fact, our parents probably couldn't have bought one for us if they tried. The only bikers who wore helmets in those days were professional racers, and that was more of an aerodynamic thing than a safety precaution.
Well, I'm happy to report that I'm still alive, and none of my friends ever suffered from the lack of wearing a helmet. Now, again, I'm not saying that wearing a bike helmet isn't a smart idea - it is. It's just that being forced to wear one by our government is, yet again, an attempt by those in charge to legislate common sense. It doesn't work -- stupid people are always going to find a way to hurt themselves, whether it's covering themselves with meat and swimming with sharks or lighting themselves on fire and jumping into a tank of gasoline. If I, as an adult, don't want to wear a goofy looking bicycle helmet then so be it - I get to deal with the consequences. In this instance, yet again, it affects no one but me. Even in the case of my own children -- if I send them out without helmets, then I shouldn't be called a criminal; I should be called a bad parent. It's the height of irony to require bicycle helmets for children, yet we let them jump on trampolines and become cheerleaders all day long without forcing any protective gear at all. For some reason it seems congress has forgotten that there were generations of children before the current one that did survive well into adulthood.
Every single anti-obesity/healthy food law ever made
In modern times, it began in New Jersey back in 1992. The government told Jersey residents that they couldn't eat their eggs runny because they just might possibly maybe catch salmonella. The law mandated that eggs had to be cooked to 140 degrees, and that meant no more runny yolks -- one of the best things in the world to go with buttered toast. Of course, common sense eventually prevailed and the law was repealed, allowing millions of Jerseyans to go back to eating their favorite breakfast the way that they liked.
Manhattan's current mayor seems to have a penchant for attempting to curtail the eating habits of his constituents. Bloomberg is the poster-boy for ridiculous attempts to legislate healthy eating. He has attempted to and/or successfully banned salt, trans-fat, donations of food to the homeless, and most recently, sugary drinks over 16oz. A judge who had a modicum of common sense, thankfully, struck down his latest anti-soda crusade. Despite this, real soon all you will be able to eat once you cross the city line will be a celery sticks, sesame seeds, filtered water direct from Norwegian glaciers, and wheat grass flavored tofu (without salt). You heard it here first.
I hope I don't have to explain the ridiculousness of attempting to legislate healthy eating. If nothing else, let's consider the futility of enforcing this law inside private domiciles. It's a farce, people, and just another attempt at a nanny state. Yet again, if I want to hurt my own body eating delicious, greasy, salty, foods and wash them down with gallons upon gallons of sweet, bubbly, ambrosia, then I damn well should be able to. It only hurts me, and if I want to hurt myself, who the hell is the government to tell me I can't do what I want with my own body? In addition, if my kids can't have pizza and hot dogs, then what's the point of being a kid?
You can see that some in our government truly wish to legislate every single aspect of our lives. The sobering part is that it's all a game of numbers -- the more laws like these are put to the vote, the more chance some will slip through. One day soon, you may look up as you don your bulletproof vest and Kevlar helmet and realize that you forgot to fill your state-provided water bottle before leaving your foam-covered house to work your shift at the government food factory. The bottom line is you can't legislate intelligent choices -- someone can only make stupid decisions for so long until it finally catches up with them. I think I remember Darwin mentioning something about it...