You’ve come a long way Peggy…
”What can you say about a fifty-something old girl who went nuts? That she had a father figure obsession with Ronald Reagan. And she believed in God-directed dolphins who deliver little Cuban boys to our shores. That she loved Mozart and Bach and the Pope and firefighters with their bulging biceps, rubber boots, and red suspenders that make her go all humid in her nether regions. And the Beatles. And writing utterly bizarre columns for the Wall Street Journal that make Paul Gigot scratch his head and wonder what he had gotten himself into….”
Okay. Today Peggy takes the cause of those huddled masses yearning to…well…actually not exactly breathe free. Smokers. Peggy is crusading for smokers. Because, you see, smokers represent great conservative values. Really.
Within blocks of where the smokers stood in front of the office building on Madison Avenue the other day, there were people who last night bought five rocks of crack cocaine. There were people who watch child porn. There were people who drive by with the sound up so you can hear the lyrics of the song they’re listening to, which is about how women are ho’s who should be shot. Talk about air pollution. There were people who gorge on food, people who drink too much, people who perform abortions in the eighth month of pregnancy–the eighth month, so late that the child could almost come out and shake his little fist and say “I wish you had not killed me!”
Within blocks of where the smokers stood there were thousands of purveyors of and sharers in all the mutations and permutations of human woe, sin, malfeasance, messiness and degradation.
And they all get to stay inside. They all get to sit at their desks.
It’s the smokers we ostracize.
I think it is an insufficiently commented-upon irony that cigarette prohibition and the public shaming it entails is the work of modern liberals. They’re supposed to be the ones who are nonjudgmental, who live and let live, but they approach smoking like Carry Nation with her ax. Conservatives on the other hand let you smoke. They acknowledge sin and accept imperfection. Also most of them are culturally inclined toward courtesy of the old-fashioned sort.
If you tried to light up near a left-wing big-city attorney, she would cut off your hand the way Christopher chopped off Ralphie’s the other night on “The Sopranos.” But if you are a smoker and you go visit a nice little unsophisticated Baptist lady in a suburb of Tuscaloosa, she will not only allow you to smoke, she will scurry into the dining room to find the china ashtray she put away 10 years ago under the folded table cloths. She would do this so you could have a nice place to put your ashes. She wouldn’t dream of making you uncomfortable. That would be impolite and inhospitable.
Modern liberals are not culturally inclined toward courtesy. They are inclined toward knowing what’s good for you and passing ordinances to make sure you get the picture. The first Thank You For Not Smoking sign I ever saw was in 1976, on the desk of Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis. I thought: I have seen the future, and it is puritanical.
For those keeping score at home:
Conservatives/smokers = accepting, nonjudgemental, genteel, courteous, polite, hospitable.
Liberals/non-smokers = kiddy-porn watching, crack-smoking, drunken, obese, abortionist Puritans.
What she wants to really get at though, is Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:
Which gets me to Michael Bloomberg. New York is still suffering from 9/11, threatened by huge budget deficits, struggling with Wall Street’s downturn, facing draconian tax increases including a brand new commuter tax–that’ll certainly encourage new businesses to come here!–and trying to come to contract agreement with big unions. Our realistic and no-nonsense mayor has surveyed the scene, pondered the landscape, and come up with his answer: Ban all smoking in bars.
In bars, where the people we force out of our business offices seek refuge! In bars, where half of us plan to spend our last hours after Osama tries to take out Times Square. In bars, the last public place you can go to be a dropout, a nonconformist, refusenik, a time waster, a bohemian, a hider from reality, a bum, a rebel, a bore, a heathen. The last public place in which you can really wallow in your own and others’ human messiness. The last place where you can still take part in that great American tradition, leaving the teeming marching soldiers of capitalism outside to go inside, quit the race, retreat and have a drink and fire up a Marlboro and . . . think, fantasize, daydream, listen to Steely Dan or Sinatra, revel in your loser-tude, play the Drunken Misery Scene in the movie of your life, meet a girl, meet a guy, meet a girl who’s a guy. The last public place you could go to turn on, tune in, drop out and light up
For Mr. Bloomberg now, it is Bloomberg Has Decreed. Mr. Bloomberg doesn’t allow smoking in his east side townhouse, Mr. Bloomberg will not allow it anywhere in New York. Those nasty working-class folk who still suck on cancer sticks while swilling Buds will be put down. Bloomberg Decrees.
What an idiot. What a billionaire snob bullyboy
and finally there is this:
A short word on smokers. They are people who’ve made a deal. They are old-fashioned, and it’s an old-fashioned deal. Their sense of life is essentially conservative: They know it is short, they know part of how you say thank you for it is to really feel it and enjoy it, and they know this life isn’t the most transcendent and important one you’ll be living. Smokers are disproportionately Catholic, did you know that? They know that eventually something will kill them. They accept death and illness as part of the equation. They love smoking so much, it so enhances their enjoyment of each day, that they’ll gamble. Some of them, they know, will die in a car accident next year, so it won’t matter if they smoked; some will die of old age at 97; some will get emphysema or lung cancer at 50 and pay the price. Fine. You buys your smokes and takes your chances.
This is a hardy and, as I said, old-fashioned approach to life. It is not modern. Modern people think that if they’re tidy, floss and eat fennel they’ll never die, and if they get sick they’ll clone themselves and go get reborn. Smokers are more stoic and sacramental. They don’t want to be cloned, they want to go to heaven and see grandma.I made up the part about how they’re disproportionately Catholic but I bet it’s true and in any case why shouldn’t I assert phony facts? The other side does.
There are so many bizarre statements in this piece that I could stay up all night taking them on one by one (like I have time for that). But taken as a whole, it so downright…weird, I’m not sure what to say. I guess I’ll have to take Peggy at her word that people who smoke cigarettes are just exercising good old fashioned conservative American values like self determination and smoke ’em if you got ’em and if you die, oh well. But those who choose to do drugs, or have an affair, or not bring a child to term may want to ask her how they can get be a part of Peggy’s Great American Wagontrain of Conservative Values where they can live and let live and if their ticket gets punched, well, it was a hell of a ride. Someone should ask Peggy that, but in the meantime, someone should ask her what she’s been smoking…