February 09 '08
Volume 610

Urban Lepers Ostracized In Our Society

You see them standing outside, sometimes alone, sometimes with one or two others, and sometimes their numbers are larger. They are defiant but orderly. Society has deemed them unfit and a danger to its greater good. We find their habit repugnant and unclean, but they refuse to change their lifestyle to meet our demands. Cold weather, hot weather, mild weather, rain or shine, outside is the only public environment where their behavior is acceptable. Pity these—they are smokers.

Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, was once considered chic and fashionable. Smoking helped settle ones nerves, so the military encouraged its use among servicemen during wartime. Hollywood icons smoked, as did all of filmdom. Businessmen smoked, and while smoking among the fairer sex was once risqué, it grew to become acceptable as the popularity of cigarette smoking grew. Juvenile delinquents smoked, but so did juveniles who were not delinquents.

Smoking was considered manly, and advertisements for cigarettes often portrayed men doing things such as riding horseback in Wyoming or Montana then pausing to light up a popular brand of cigarettes. Smoking was a form of sociableness whether found at a nightclub or a country club or the Elks club. Smokers smoked with little regard for persons who did not smoke and often were careless where the ashes fell or where burning stubs were crushed.

Until medical research pointed to tobacco as a possible cause for cancer, most smokers did not realize the risks associated with smoking. Even after written warnings by the Surgeon General of the United States were mandated on each pack, most ignored the message until the evidence overwhelmingly supported the earlier research. And today, the evidence still goes unheeded by some, in spite of more research linking heart disease to smoking.

Sociologists are better at explaining the differences between generations than I am, but I believe the political push to ban smoking from all public places, even in small towns such as Pontotoc, is directly related to a characteristic of the generation of Baby Boomers. I’ve heard enough speeches on trends and generational differences over the years to remember one of the defining aspects of a Boomer is the "it’s-all-about-me syndrome." And, it’s a characteristic I see again and again in those born between 1946 and 1964. These are the generation born from the time GIs returned home after World War II until shortly after the Kennedy assignation. Today, Baby Boomers are the ones in leadership positions in churches, schools, and in local governments.

What I can’t explain, for the life of me, is how America’s Greatest Generation failed so miserably to impart the values instilled in them, values that they have revered for a lifetime, to their own children. Maybe, they did their best, and the teaching didn’t take. Maybe, it’s an external factor such as exposure to DDT or too much fluoridated water. I’m sure smarter minds than mine have asked the same question with much the same results. Whatever, the reason, "boomers" are far different from their parents.

It has long been a part of Judeo-Christian thought that it’s better to work out ones differences with a brother or sister than to rely upon the courts. If that thought is still valid, then it has gone largely unheeded by the Baby Boomers. I dare say most lawyers would be out of work, were it not for a generation or two of lawsuit-happy souls.

Baby Boomers are far more "health conscious" than their parents, and since scientists have also linked second-hand smoke to cancer, boomers have taken measures and continue to take measures to protect themselves from the consequences of exposure to second-hand smoke. If a non-smoking section is good for a restaurant, a smoke-free restaurant is better. If designated smoking areas are good for a hospital, then to ban smoking anywhere on the grounds of the facility is better. If one business can be made smoke-free, why not legislate a smoke-free city?

Today, the hue and cry from towns and cities is to make all public places smoke free. This year a legislator in our fair state introduced a bill to prohibit restaurants from serving obese people. Already, school districts are mandating the removal of soft drinks and candy from vending machines and replacing yesterday’s junk food with healthier choices. Tomorrow, the call may be to refuse public transportation to the obese by reasoning it costs more to transport a fat person than a thin person. Even a good idea can be taken too far.

There’s nothing wrong in an individual or a group of individuals making good health decisions that affect ones lifestyle, but when those choices adversely affect others to the point of ostracizing them or disallowing their right to the pursuit of happiness, perhaps it’s time to rein in the selfishness that began it all.

Meanwhile, when I see a smoker shivering in the cold outside their place of employment or vying for shelter from the rain while trying to grab a few drags from a cigarette, I’ll pause to consider how they may be our new-age urban lepers, but at least they don’t yet have to shout "unclean" when others approach.

Sunflower Jack Wisconsin Visitor

He arrived in good condition, though that’s not always the case with the U.S. mail. I was prepared for the fact that his legs were missing, as I had received his picture a few days earlier. However, that’s to be expected with most hand puppets.

Sunflower Jack belongs to a little girl named Sarah who attends Extended Love Child Development Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Her mother, Julie Remiker, is Director of Retail Technology for the Midwest/ Southeast Region of SUPERVALU. All the children in Sarah’s class made hand puppets and named them, as part of a project to learn about places around the globe or wherever the hand puppets journeyed. Persons receiving a hand puppet from Sarah’s class were asked to make a few photographs of their family and the hand puppet, along with some fun facts about where the puppet had been.

Sunflower Jack and I bonded almost immediately. After all, I have worked in a lot of Sunflower Food Stores in my career, and my company car has a license plate from Sunflower County. Thus, I thought it would be good to make pictures of Sunflower Jack visiting as many Sunflower-themed places as possible in a week of my travels.

The following is a copy of the letter enclosed with more than a dozen photographs when I returned Sunflower Jack to his owner.

"To Sarah and friends:"

"Sunflower Jack recently traveled to Pontotoc, Mississippi, to visit for a few days with Wayne Carter, who works for SUPERVALU down in the South. Sunflower Jack enjoyed meeting Mr. Wayne’s granddaughters, Merilese and Katherine Adams and a "granddog," named Zoey."

"Since Mr. Wayne travels a lot, Sunflower Jack tagged along for a few days. On Monday he had his picture taken in Hattiesburg, MS, with the football stadium of the University of Southern Mississippi in the background. Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, Brett Favre, once played football for the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss."

"The next day Sunflower Jack visited two supermarkets in Columbus, MS, and was amused to see his name on each store. He met Steve Townsend and his son Clint, owners of the two stores."

"Sunflower Jack asked to have his picture made beside the Sunflower County sign on Highway 82, near Indianola, MS. The wind was blowing so hard at the time that it crossed Jack’s eyes. They have since returned to normal."

"On Wednesday, Sunflower Jack and Mr. Wayne traveled from Greenville, MS to Vivian Louisiana, passing through a part of Arkansas. In Eudora, AR, Sunflower Jack couldn’t resist another photo opportunity in front of the local Sunflower Store."

"In Monroe, Louisiana, we joined Bob McGehee, a friend of Sunlower Jack’s from Atlanta, Georgia, who accompanied us to Vivian, which is north of Shreveport, Louisiana. After our business in Vivian, we drove about five miles to the Texas state line and made more pictures."

"Jack, Mr. Bob, and Mr. Wayne spent Wednesday night in Monroe, and ate dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. There, Sunflower Jack had his picture taken while cutting a piece of bread."

"Jack accompanied Mr. Wayne to his office in Indianola, Thursday morning. After thanking Mr. Wayne for a fun week traveling in four states, Jack slipped himself in an envelope for his return trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin."

"Jack learned a lot of geography on his trip to Mississippi and found that folks who live in the South are just as nice as folks who live in his neck of the woods. Sunflower Jack hopes to see a lot more of our country in the next few months."

"Thanks for letting Sunflower Jack visit with me,"

I don’t have Sunflower Jack’s itinerary, so I don’t know what excellent adventure he’s on this week, but I’ve been promised an update of his travels once the class project is completed in May, which will be here before we know it.

Bodock Beau Zen Of Sarcasm

Ken Gaillard shared the following bits of wisdom via email.

  1. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
  2. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
  3. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
  4. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
  5. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
  6. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
  7. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes
  8. If at first you don't succeed, sky diving is probably not for you.
  9. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
  10. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.
  11. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
  12. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
  13. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
  14. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
  15. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
  16. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
  17. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.


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