Weed, Guns, Porn, Cigarettes, and America

There’s this question that’s been nagging me lately:

Why do we spend so much time, in this country, explaining ourselves?

I know human beings are social creatures, and that needing some degree of social approval and acceptance is hardwired into our species, but have we taken it too far?

Okay, let’s narrow down the picture to see a little more detail about what I’m getting at.

Generally, I’m talking about those things that we, as a culture, have conditioned a social stigma into. Four come readily to mind:

Weed, cigarettes, guns, and porn.

(I’m sure you could name a few others, but these will work for the purposes of demonstrating my point, and illustrating my question.)

For each of these things/ social contrivances, we find ourselves – any of us who enjoy any of the things on that list – trying to justify our enjoyment of those things; whichever we happen to enjoy.

(It could be bad pop music or smooth Jazz, the specific thing isn’t relevant. Those are just the easiest four I could think of without having to do research. This is a blog, not a term paper or a job).

Now, I’ve said this here before – I don’t care what you enjoy in your life as long as it meets at least one basic criterion:

That it does not infringe on the rights or safety of another

That sounds like a low bar, but try driving the posted speed limit during rush hour and you’ll see just how unreachable a standard it can feel like sometimes.

Now, I make no special claims to patriotism, but I always thought that the above sentiment was about as close to what we generally believe, as Americans, as anything in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

I could be wrong, but I think it is a uniquely American thought to have, “As long as I’m not hurting anyone or taking away someone’s rights, leave me alone.”

I like to think that’s one of the reasons – perhaps not the main one but one nonetheless – that we kicked the Brits out and made a go of this grand experiment.

So I find that, lately, more and more I end up asking, “Who does it hurt? Why is this an issue? Why do you care what the fuck I do if it doesn’t actually affect you?”

Let’s return to my examples for a moment.

Weed. It’s not dangerous. The studies show it’s not a ‘gateway drug’. And if you are a burn out on weed, you’d be a burn out on anything else, sex, TV, booze, fitness, take your pick. Addiction isn’t about the substance, it’s about the isolation of the addict.

Even still, I have to ask, “Why does matter what I do as long as I’m not hurting someone or depriving someone of their rights?”

For a little more than a decade now, marijuana legalization activists have been pointing study after study about the lack of harm of this once common plant. And we’ve seen studies about its medical benefits, and the benefits of its non-psychoactive cousin: Hemp. It can be used for a hundred different things, is carbon sequestering, soil remediating, and sustainable. And all that is great.

But why isn’t it simply good enough – in America – to just want to get high? If you’re not hurting anyone, why does anyone else get to tell you what you do with/ put in your body?

(Disclaimer, I’m not a drug user presently for many reasons, most of them related to employment and school, and who has time really? I’m fucking busy.)

The same goes for owning guns.

I’m not going to get into the general debate about guns right now, but it occurs to me that the best and only argument necessary for owning a, or many guns is, “I like guns.”

Again, as long as you’re not hurting anyone or infringing on someone’s rights, I don’t see the problem.

Same for porn. Not hurting anyone, why do we have to justify it in our culture?

(A caveat here – this assumes that the industry is regulated in such a way as to keep the safety of its workers as its paramount concern.)

Cigarettes cause some people a little more angst, because of the added potential dangers to the users and to others, but, one can smoke cigarettes without harming others. One need only be considerate of one’s fellow human beings. And we don’t stop people from slowly killing themselves with alcohol, stress, or overwork, so why fuck with them about their smokes?

I think part of the problem is, in our quest for a more just and equitable world, some factions of our culture have gone way over board into extreme political correctness.

I’m not talking about common respect, dignity, and tact.

I’m talking about the policing of a person’s ideas to an extent that borders on thought crime.

(as an aside, I personally like when bigots, misogynists, and homophobes run their mouths, because: know your enemy.)

It’s one thing to have standards of decency and social conduct, (which I think we should have), it’s another thing entirely to try to enforce those standards on anyone’s private behaviors and thoughts.

As a culture, we’ve always wanted to have our say; to be heard. Heaven knows I am one of those “last word” motherfuckers myself. But when did we get to the point where we think we have the right or the ability to tell people what they should be thinking, or how they should be thinking it?

I don’t want to make this a screed about Political Correctness, so let me bring it back around to the original question.

It does seem like, for anything considered socially edgy, we have to come up with some politically correct rationale, some reason that other people can feel that they look good getting behind.

And I wonder, whatever happened to just liking something and wanting to do it, and that being a good enough reason thank you very much?

When did we have to start justifying things like they’re guilty pleasures?

When did we start feeling guilty about the things that give us pleasure?

When did, “Fuck you. I like it,” stop being an acceptable reason for doing anything?

Probably longer ago than I can remember…

…But it still pisses me off.

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About tessarnold2

I'm a writer, a student, and someone generally crazy enough to think other people will be interested in his deranged thoughts.
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