A Dumb Question

First, a confession: I'm a smoker… I smoke. That's a "choice" - sometimes I wonder why the people who fight hardest for abortion choice seem the very first people to forget that people "choose" to smoke. Of course, not all choices are equal: choosing to murder isn't OK… hmm, but sometimes it is, just as long as you don't choose to die in your own way. Maybe it's OK when someone else makes that decision for you - by the same logic, if an unborn baby is part of a woman's body, should a woman then "choose" death for part of herself? Before I get pro-choice people up in arms (oh, there's not much "choice" left in armaments either… oops, I stand corrected) I consider myself pro-choice all the way… more on that some other time, now that I've managed to offend almost everyone with a formed opinion. Wish I could help that and speak my conscience at the same time, but I'm only human… at least, I sincerely try. Humans are the one species with the capacity to ensure the extinction of all life on earth: what a bizarre way for humanity to make progress. It's embarrassing to admit membership to the species sometimes, even as a smoker: people are OK, but the exceptional idiot relishes power, unfortunately.

Now, the dumb question: some dumb questions deserve asking, and someone has to ask. Why, as a smoker, do I feel that I should not speak up for myself - as a smoker? I think most smokers feel that way, as I have, and I find pathos aplenty in that fact: such is the state of our liberties that the downtrodden (yes, and I do mean downtrodden: socially, economically, psychologically, and thanks to government, even commercially) are unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves? Smokers are not an "OK" minority; the dogs of behavioral righteousness hound us everywhere. Rental properties, employers, airlines, restaurants, and other businesses have little basis left upon which to discriminate: unless you smoke. People need to discriminate: once, we called that "freedom of association." I'm trying to think of another form of discrimination that might currently be required by law: readers? Please post a comment if you will; I can't think of another at the moment. In a smoke-free America, freedom from smoke will be the only "freedom" we'll have.

Suppose an American Muslim or Jew, an African American, Hispanic or Asian, a lesbian or gay, or a handicapped or disabled person, dares to speak out for himself/herself or on behalf of a minority they belong to: Will that person face accusations of selfishness, or a lack of respect for the social majority; will he understand that he should not speak on his own behalf? It's plain to me as a smoker that personal choices I make for myself face a tougher battle than choices I want to impersonally impose on others: "danger, democracy at work; thick skull required"? (Warning: thin skull here; tread at your own risk.) I like minorities: I belong to at least one, and in a democracy there's safety in numbers. No, I'm not a believer in democracy: I'm too liberal, too conservative, and too disillusioned with the spectrum of disinformation to play that game. "Government-be-gone" works for me.

Why do Americans - and no doubt, many others - find themselves in such intrusive and inconsiderate societies? Perhaps more than any other single reason, it's because we're afraid to speak for ourselves: we wait for someone else to speak for us; we even elect "representatives" - I wish that was a joke - we wait for the right moment, a safe place, the convenient opportunity. Some people have good reasons for fearing to speak: loss of job, revoked privileges or benefits, imprisonment or loss of life. If I dare not speak when I have much to lose, will I feel freer to do so when all I have left to lose is life itself?

God, friends, fellows, countrymen: help me find courage to speak, and honor the liberty that I wish to preserve. Prefer me to take the small risk of losing much now, so I never face the likelihood of losing little but my life for having spoken my conscience. I admire those who have taken a courageous stand for smokers enough to stand with them as best I am able. No matter what grievance society holds against me, I desire to face any God or any jury as a citizen in good standing, as long as the benefit of a doubt remains of my guilt: if the law cannot be declared guilty and I am innocent, my conscience bears record, and I hold nothing more sacred than conscience, and no judge more supreme.

No law, no God, no government has the authority to deprive anyone of freedom of conscience unless freedom is deemed a privilege; or unless the law, the God, or the government intends to claim precedence over conscience: I cannot accept that, in good conscience. I cannot chain my voice without enslaving myself: without liberty to speak and freedom to obey my conscience, death holds no more unpleasant surprises than reincarnation. (Watch out, world. Next time I may get into a good head start program; I haven't been held back far enough to quit struggling in this life yet… good try, though.)

We can play at being equal all we want, but if you are fit to judge for me and dictate my behavior, am I equally free to judge for you and dictate your behavior? If we accept liberties on a sliding scale, how can we pretend to view each other as equals? The gloves and the mask come off if we're boxing in my ring: am I free to choose whether I shall box in yours? No level playing fields may apply outside of non-smoking territory, I know. After 30 years, I haven't smoked long enough to make me *that* unhealthy. No fuming allowed here, OK? Thank you very much for not flaming. Smoking has not been proven to cause stupidity… there's an assignment for any Nanny-be-good out there who's lacking a purpose in life. Just read the warning label before abusing good intentions: I see no virtue in banning anything, but if I did, fascism would be #1 on my list. (Ban = a way to ensure that the worst aspects of the banned activity hit the fan, while the best suffocate.)

I do not know what judge I may face in the end, but if that judge cannot take counsel with my conscience, what honest witness might he take counsel with? Who reads my motives, knows my heart, watches my every action? My conscience will not convict me falsely, or acquit me when I am guilty. Conscience may be just and merciful at the same time; conscience can acquit on some counts and condemn on others, and I will know that it is just when it speaks. If some walk amongst us with no conscience, and it seems there are those who do: could a better argument testify to the importance of treasuring conscience beyond all else, than the actions of people without conscience? I can bow before no God, obey no government, when conscience tells me to do otherwise: conscience may lead me to bend or compromise, but when conscience commands me to silence it it's dead already, I know that. Maybe my conscience just got spirit to mouth resuscitation. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but I find the tunnel dark and lonely, and the light still distant.

Many non-smokers have spoken on smokers' behalf: how well does the smoker's silence express thanks for that kind of courage beyond the call of habit? Those people deserve more than a little credit; they deserve reinforcements: that means us, fellow smokers. I'm guilty of silence: it was easier to speak out on other issues; I took the easy way out, and I'm sorry. A funny thing happened: finally, conscience called me to account, and I'm reporting for distress signal duty, however little I relish the prospect of being the butt of a popular prejudice. Why would anyone think it OK to attempt a hostile makeover of another person's personal lifestyle? No wonder armchair busybodies rely on government to do their dirty work: granted, dirty deeds are one thing government excels at. I guess government gets good press, and anarchists get bad press, because the press likes to get the dirt, or scoop the poop. Now I see where the expression "get the scoop" originated.

Lately I'm "seeing" disturbing voices on the internet; voices that croon a tune like this: "We respect smokers: we don't want to take your freedom to smoke, we just want to regulate you a little." Hold, you voices: friends may plead with me to quit, or ask me to think of my children, my old age, my lungs, or my pets. Well, friends don't let each other regulate and drive "public policy." If smokers fall into the same trap that has gun owners in its jaws, we're done for. Friends love me, friends respect me, friends may even find ways to accommodate me: friends don't ask to regulate me just a little, decide for me just "here and there," or claim more right to breathe the air than I can… there's still enough breathable air to go around, or we're in trouble - and it's not due to cigarette smoke. I'm capable of being considerate without force of law… are you?

Why can't a smoker ask for a modicum of respect instead of the virtual lack of freedom smokers get these days? Why make a smoker's bad situation worse with regulations that will make our lives more miserable and leave us even more dependent on welfare if we're unfortunate enough to outlive whatever petty savings your insidious regulations haven't previously stolen? Drive smokers into the black market to support a nicotine habit: that's becoming a tradition. What's next, huh? Alcohol, chocolate, coffee, Twinkies, salted peanuts? Who's in the next car of the express train to social purification camps? Who's clapping as that train goes by, or telling smokers reassuring lies on the way to the final public health solution? Freedom means ifs, ands, or butts are allowed; or butt out of my lifestyle, no more dumb questions asked. Let's not pretend to be friends when we can't.

If I can't choose my own pollution, whose pollution do you expect me to choose? Fumes from truck drivers, porch grillers, laundry-doers, forest fires, woodstoves, or from the town incinerator - are those secondhand pollutants OK? Maybe more laws will save me from those pollutants, after they save me from myself; I wonder how the new regulations will impact non-smokers: Anything to curb smoking, eh? How very sad… meet you all in the lifestyle control gulag. Or just say no to the thugs that want to manage our choices while you're free to. The canaries in the liberties coal mine are choking… and not from cigarette smoke. Canaries die, but let them serve as a warning as they were meant to, or ignore the warning. Even canaries and smokers merit respect; deny it at your own risk.

The freedom game reminds me of "truth or dare" - your turn will come, your moment of truth: will you refuse to speak for yourself, or find the courage to speak before fear comes knocking on your door? An ounce of attention is worth a pound of endure, I daresay. I'm a smoker, and I reserve the right to pitch for myself: If I don't, who should? Why sit out the game quietly, when the score determines whether freedom wins or loses? Count me in… sorry if I arrived a bit late, but sometimes I throw a heck of a curve: and I'm game.

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