Your way of life is threatened.
When most people say this they are talking both out of their own asses and in their own interests, but we mean it this time.
We remember hearing this line shouted from every television for months after September 2001. We lived in New York City then and took the thickest part of that bat to the backs of our heads, but Al Queda didn’t then, and doesn’t now, pose a threat to our “way of life.” They threaten our buildings, they threaten our peace of mind, they even threaten our lives – but not our “way of life.” The real threats to a “way of life” always come in silently and are coded in the language of beneficence.
Our way of life, well annunciated by philosophers like Locke, Jefferson, Galeano and Dylan, understands that freedom and liberty should trump fundamentalisms of any stripe. We tolerate any hairbrained mythologies and mad-hatted ideas that exist amongst our fellow travelers – so long as they don’t try and foist them upon others. That is, by definition, our “way of life” and it seems that every time it is threatened, it is threatened from within.
The threats generally come from folks who got religion of one sort or another and attained enough fiscal or electoral strength to decide that they can tell the philistines how to behave. They become so happy with their own self-deceptions, or terrified by their own boogymen, that they feel the need to force-feed us the “good news.” These are the true terrorists who must be pushed back into their caves. These are the lamebrains who threaten our civilization, and finally, those forces have found us here in Guatemala.
This time the evangelists are coming in the form of health zealots who have decided that, here too, smokers should be pilloried and spanked in the town square. Smokers, those evil creatures of the night, should be taught a lesson. Writ short, the powers that be have chosen to ban puffing in pubs.
That’s cool for gyms, office buildings, museums, even hospitals – but no smoking in bars? Come on!
When have you ever gone to a bar for your health? Going to a bar, getting soused and lighting up, is a personal decision to aid the spirit through mortification of the flesh. Bars exist as temples that allow us access to that primal, reptilian, irrational brain that knows certain truths – like, Hitler Bad / Gandhi Good. Like Closeness to Amigos, Good / Proximity to Douchebags, Bad. During the daytime, with our forebrains running the show rationality and good decisions allow us to abide idiots who say shit like, “Well, dogs liked Hitler.” Or, “Look, the guy’s a complete douchebag, but I’ve gotta work with him so I may as well learn to live with it.”
That stuff is fine for working hours, when sobriety and propriety are the rules by which we live, but at night – in a bar – with a smoke in one hand and a beer in the other – we can finally let all that right thinking fall away like unwanted pants in a brothel – and the last thing we need is some pious do-gooders invading our sacred space of debauchery.
And, really, all the arguments against smoking in bars are hollow. Sure, you’ll hear a fatuous non-smoker bellowing away with his fresh, pink lungs that this is all about protecting the workers and reducing the dangers of second hand smoke. But that’s bullshit, really. Any politician in this country who really gave a rat’s ass about worker safety or pollution could save more lives by regulating the chicken-bus industry. Just one of those crazy bastards driving a camioneta horks out more carbon monoxide and threatens more lives in a day that I could in a lifetime of non-stop, Olympic caliber, chain smoking in a nursery.
Be honest, you puritanical non-smokers, this has no more to do with saving lives than it does with flying to the moon on a broomstick. It’s really about you not liking smoke and not wanting your sweater to be stinky the next morning.
And, if you want to make the argument that the majority of us like it this way, then just once, find yourself in a bar when the secret smoking lamp is lit after the doors are closed. Watch with revelation as 90% of the customers spark up at the same time.
This is just dreadful. This creeping piety in the public sphere is, and I’ll say it again, a fundamental threat to our way of LIFE. And, once again, it’s coming from the inside and it’s wearing a grin. It’s coming from people who think they know how to live your life better than you do. They don’t. Light up and shine bright.
MJT and JPR