Spurn the Tyranny of the Majority
Depression Era 'Welcome'
Works Progress Administration
'No Smoking' Logo
Anyone over 30, including former President George (H.W.) Bush, can look back to a time in America when people enjoyed a kinder, gentler society.
Before and during World War II, and for some years after, people, in general, had a better outlook than we have today. And, while the bromide holds that every generation sees succeeding generations going to rack and ruin, the differences in views are undeniable.
WPA Worker's Good Deed
It would be simple to fill this space with illustrations of how attitudes have changed. My earliest memory in this regard, for example, is of a pre-World War II WPA (Works Progress Administration) worker who was sweeping the gutter outside a grocery store. He dropped his broom to help a small boy -- me -- who had dropped and broken a bottle of milk on the way out of the store (on Fairview Street in Yonkers, New York.). He sure wasn't thinking of himself when he got the very relieved boy a new bottle from the store owner -- no small thing in the waning days of the Great Depression.
Too many people these days would look the other way under the same circumstances.
Ex-Smokers Often Worst Offenders
There's a general tendency toward mean-spiritedness today as illustrated by the current outlook on smokers. It's only been in recent decades that so many have taken on a holier-than-thou attitude on the subject. Ex-smokers are sometimes the worst offenders. I took up smoking when I was 8 years old and enjoyed -- yes, enjoyed -- smoking for more than 40 years before quitting. Quitting, however, doesn't give one the right to criticize those who still smoke.
Majority Punishing the Minority
It's bad enough that nonsmokers take advantage of their numbers to punish the minority by inordinately raising smokers' taxes, but it's downright mean-spirited of them to seek exorbitant financial payoffs that unjustly hurt not just smokers but also manufacturers, farmers, stockholders and tobacco-dependent communities.
While cigarettes have been called "coffin nails" since the 1800's, they are legal.
So, fresh from their success against cigarette manufacturers, what does the majority do now for an encore? After all, they (including the White House) are already hounding gun manufacturers, blaming them for every killing involving a gun and looking for more big bucks.
The Shotgun Approach?
Will they now try to fill government coffers by going after banks (for usury), insurance companies (for overcharging and redlining), lawyers (for unnecessary litigation), farmers and chemical companies (for killing us with unhealthy substances), food companies (for feeding us sugar, fats and salts that lead to diabetes, heart disease, etc.), and doctors (for overcharging and unnecessary operations, as well as malpractice)?
By way of disclaimer, I unabashedly disclose that I have a financial interest in tobacco, as well as health, food, guns and innumerable other things.
Extorting money from those we disagree with is not the answer. I say laissez-faire is the best policy; what goes around comes around; que sera sera. Lighten up folks!
Wouldn't it be better if we drop that "me first" attitude and replace it with "All for one, and one for all?"
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Dec. 12, 1999.