Poor Wisconsin! In the budget cut/union busting battle, it seems like nobody has got an understanding word to spare about the desires of the other side. This seems un-Wisconsinite – the cheddar heads I know are kind and reasonable to a fault (if a tad un-ironic).
It’s an ugly disease – this uncaring objectifying the other side of a political/ideological debate. We’re used to meanness from Texas and Arizona – befitting the rattlesnakes that call those dry lands home. But Wisconsin is wet and verdant. Placid and cud-chewing. So where did this meanness come from?
Perhaps there were signs of this meanness when Wisconsin last year made it illegal to smoke tobacco in any hotel or motel room in the state. Basically this means that a tobacco-smoking person cannot rent a comfortable and safe indoor space, regardless of the weather or their personal circumstances.
It means that a family with young children whose grandparents are inveterate smokers has to lodge those grandparents in their house when the smokers come to visit.
It means that a business person who wants to show a property or project to an overseas investor who smokes has a needless temporary hurdle to mount, such as inviting the investor to stay with the business person and his family (see above).
It means that a homeless or traveling schizophrenic who medicates himself with nicotine cannot take shelter from the extremes of heat and cold for which the American Heartland is famous.
And for what? To know that you have taken a stand for good health? To know that no hotel worker is ever going to be exposed to even trace levels of tobacco smoke? To know that you have taken a strong stand – have a very public Zero Tolerance – for smoking tobacco? Because we all know tobacco smoke is that dangerous, don’t we? Doesn’t everyone know by now that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke?
About five years ago, a newcomer to my little Alaskan town stepped off the ferry and launched a “Clean Air” campaign at a time when the businesses in town were steadily going smoke-free anyway. He achieved an identity, a grant to live on and later a job as a quit-smoking counselor. He reminded me of the missionaries of yore who would step off the boat, take a look at the native people and say – “These people need (choose name of god and/or religion).
These missionaries went to great lengths to convince these native people that their souls were in danger and that a horrible future of eternal torment waited for them if they continued their profligate ways. These missionaries were willing to subject the native people to a harsh present, if the result was to rescue their immortal future.
And those who refused to repent were a contagion unto all the native people, and so it behooved everyone that the recalcitrant souls be cleansed or that they be made a public example of the wages of sin.
If you can accept that science is the religion of our time and replace the danger to the soul with the danger to the body, I think we’ve got a pretty good analogy.