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 thesethey 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. Ive heard enough speeches on trends and generational differences over the years to remember one of the defining aspects of a Boomer is the "its-all-about-me syndrome." And, its 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 cant explain, for the life of me, is how Americas 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 didnt take. Maybe, its an external factor such as exposure to DDT or too much fluoridated water. Im 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 its 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 yesterdays 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.
Theres 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 its 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, Ill pause to consider how they may be our new-age urban lepers, but at least they dont yet have to shout "unclean" when others approach.
Sunflower Jack Wisconsin Visitor
He arrived in good condition, though thats 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, thats 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 Sarahs 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 Sarahs 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. Waynes 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 Jacks 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 couldnt resist another photo opportunity in front of the local Sunflower Store."
"In Monroe, Louisiana, we joined Bob McGehee, a friend of Sunlower Jacks 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 dont have Sunflower Jacks itinerary, so I dont know what excellent adventure hes on this week, but Ive 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.
Copyright © 2000 - 2008 RRN RRN Online.