Friday, October 17, 2008

Land of the Free?

During a recent trip to Europe I couldn’t help but notice the number of people engaging in life threatening activities. No matter where we went people were taking their lives in their own hands, risking their safety and well-being with no one protecting them from the perils they faced. How could the government and law enforcement just sit back and watch these people commit unspeakable acts like riding a bicycle without a helmet or, *gasp*, drink beer with alcohol content higher than 6%? The opportunity to live on the edge is so incredible overseas there is no need to do crazy things like sky dive or bungee jump. Who needs extreme sports when you can risk life and limb eating at a restaurant that doesn’t use latex gloves? If I wanted to drop a hairdryer into the bathtub there was no warning against that. Not one of the many coffees consumed advised me of the possibility of scalding. Essentially my ten days in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Bruges served as a reminder of the everyday freedoms that we in the United States somehow lost through the years.

Laws in the United States often focus on protecting us from ourselves, assuming that people are too stupid to make sound decisions on their own. Rather than provide some education on the dangers of an activity or expect the populous to have an ounce of common sense, our lawmakers and courts have formed a land where we can’t get a good, scalding hot cup of coffee, run barefoot through a park, or get a juicy, rare hamburger. Common Sense dictates that coffee might burn your mouth, broken glass could be stepped on while running barefoot, and eating undercooked meat could cause illness. People should be permitted to make their own decisions on such trivial matters based upon the amount of personal risk they are willing to take on. Will there be people who make bad decisions, take on more risk, and end up hurt or dead? Yes. But maybe letting Darwinism do its job and weeding out some of the idiots among us isn’t a bad thing.

We know that bike helmets can prevent brain injury but sometimes you just want to feel the wind rushing through your hair during a good bike ride. Shouldn’t this be a personal decision? Shouldn’t parents determine whether their children should wear a bicycle helmet, sit in a car booster seat until the age of 10, or have railings on the edge of their beds? Yes, each of these safety measures has proven benefits but what if a parent can’t afford these items? They should be able to make the decision about the amount of risk they are willing for their child to take. In Amsterdam, where the bicycle is the preferred method of transportation, I witnessed several women biking through the city with more than one child accompanying them on the ride. These children were not wearing helmets in fancy trailers behind the bicycles equipped with mechanisms to disconnect the trailer from the bicycle in case of a fall. Nope, these women were riding with one or two children in little wooden contraptions built on the front of their bikes, another metal seat attached to the handlebar, and an infant strapped to their chests in a carrier. The kids were having the times of their lives, the mother was getting a heck of a workout, and they were avoiding car transportation for their simple need to get from here to there. Think about it, these women would be arrested for neglect in the United States and have their children taken from them. Is that freedom?

Even without official laws, today’s companies and small businesses protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. One of my favorite things in the world is a hamburger mooing right back at me and most places won’t serve it for the fear of giving me food poisoning. If I’m willing to take the risk, give me the damn cheeseburger! This is the same for my love of coffee, extra hot. The coffee in Europe is to die for and one major reason is the nuclear thermal temperature; the coffees were piping hot and delicious since baristas were not protecting themselves from stupid lawsuits. There are even restaurants that refuse to serve over easy or sunny side up eggs because they might get you sick. Leaving my house might make me sick too, should I live in a bubble instead of living life?

What makes these dumb laws protecting us from ourselves so infuriating is how little attention is given to real dangers that each of us are unable to control. Our right to bear arms makes the topic of limiting access to guns a hot topic of debate. If laws provide any indication as to what our government sees as our biggest threats, fireworks are banned in more places then firearms. It is easier to go out and buy a gun than it is to get un-pasteurized milk, grain alcohol, a hot cup of coffee, or a freaking rare cheeseburger. Guns have certainly been the cause of death for more people then raw milk, but I could get a gun at the local sporting goods store but cannot transport raw milk cheese into the country or across state lines. About 300 people got sick from raw milk cheese in 2001 yet it is somehow treated as a bigger health threat against our health than a revolver or rifle. We can make the decision whether we want to ingest these banned food/drink products, but for most people murdered or killed in accidents the decision to have a gun draw on them was not theirs to make.
What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate
balance between freedom "to" and freedom "from."
- Marilyn vos Savant, in Parade
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the United States and the life that I have. What I don’t enjoy is being babysat by the government and lawyers who spend more time protecting us from unimportant things and less time focusing on the real dangers facing each of us everyday. Attempts to save us from germs, disease, and accidents are keeping us from enjoying some of the finer pleasures in life and freedoms while Europeans eat, drink, and are merry. Lawmakers should focus on crime, global threats, economic stability, and ensuring our water supply is safe and air is clean enough to breathe and stop limiting personal, enjoyable freedoms.


6 comments:

Serafina said...

Isn't that the truth?! Don't even get me started on trying to find good quality raw milk. The first time I ever tasted it was when I was visiting my husband, when we were still dating, and he handed me a glass and said "Here, try this." *Queue angelic singing and the skies parting to reveal heaven* I have never tasted raw milk but I instinctively knew that's what real milk ought to taste like. It was the most amazing thing I've ever had! And now I can't find any that's within a reasonable driving distance from me in Arizona. Thanks Uncle Sam! *sarcasm*

And you're spot on about Europe. God, I had a freaking blast when I used to live there! I rather miss it, but the taxes are a bit much. LOL! Awesome post!! :)

husband said...

While I do favor your thoughts on Darwinism, I do appreciate the efforts of the FDA. They do a good job keeping our beef supply in good shape allowing for those yummy rare hamburgers. I think the raw milk issue comes from the risk that large operations have introduced into the milk supply. You wouldn't want to get your raw milk products from a congolmerate that would poison thousands of people. But the law doesn't allow for flexibility that would allow small organic operations to transport those products... on the other hand, I don't know how far I'd be comfortable with a raw milk product travelling before I ate it. :-) At any rate, I will agree that the laws could use some revisions...

LucyinStLou said...

Europe sounds like a dangerous place indeed. I'm so glad you made it home safely. I hear they also encourage lots of free thinking and intellectualism too. Scary. :)

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Husband, would this be that same FDA that claims aspartame has no issues and people couldn't possibly be allergic to it? Or the same FDA that continues to pump chemicals into us because they might get us sick someday but won't give us a little food poisoning now?

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Serafina, I cannot begin to express how jealous I am at your time living overseas. Someday...

Explosive Bombchelle said...

LucyinStLou, I'm lucky I made it home alive (mostly because I wanted to stay forever!)

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