Of Bongs and BP

Fight government regulation if you want, but don’t get your smoke signals crossed.
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Posted June 23, 2010 by E.R. BILLS in News

These days it seems like you can’t throw a rock in Aledo without hitting a proponent of free markets, laissez faire, and the notion that it’s every man, woman, and child for him- or herself. These folks want corporations unfettered, industries unbridled, and businesses “unbound,” governed only by the “survival of the most profitable” dictum, an economic variation of the Darwinian theory of evolution (which a lot of the same folks don’t believe in).

I get this but don’t agree with it, mainly because most of the life forms (including humans) that are trying to make a go of it on this tiny blue orb are suffering under this system (as is the blue orb itself). Exhibit one, of course, would be the busted fossil fuel spigot gushing up to 60,000 barrels of death into the Gulf of Mexico every day because the obscenely profitable oil and gas industry has been woefully under-regulated.

Putting aside, for a moment, the (considerable) merits of government regulation of corporations, I have another problem with the complaints coming from the “we have too much government” quarter: If you’re going to whine and complain about regulation and oversight, at least be consistent.

For example, the Shell gas station where I occasionally stop for a candy bar or newspaper was splashed across the front page of The Community News a couple of weeks back over a headline that read “Going … going … bong!” It seems a number of Aledo residents were fired up (pardon the pun) about my neighborhood convenience store stocking water pipes or “bongs” on its shelves, especially because it sits across the street from a complex that houses Vandagriff Elementary and Aledo Middle schools.

These concerned citizens let their dissatisfaction be known, and recently re-elected Mayor Kit Marshall wasted no time in scooping up this gem of a political football as deftly as if she had been a member of the 2009 state championship Bearcat football team. “It’s totally inappropriate to be selling those [bongs] in any store in Aledo,” Marshall said, “but most especially across from an elementary school.”

Schools superintendent Don Daniel got in on the action, too, noting that it “sets a poor example for our youngsters.”

Does this mean Aledo’s top education official believes the free market sets a poor example for our kids? Does this mean Mayor Marshall doesn’t believe in a free market? Say it isn’t so.

Under a pure free-market system, my neighborhood quick-stop would be free to sell bongs as they wished, but at their own peril. If enough customers were upset by this alleged faux pas, the store might lose business. Then again, it might not — in this neck of the woods, the bongs might sell out pretty quick.

In fact, some of the folks we regard as pillars of our community — builders, developers, entrepreneurs, etc. — were at least recreational potheads when I was in school with them at Aledo High School. And they turned out all right.

How could any of us legitimately criticize their spiritual (and perhaps actual) descendants for getting high? Especially since our community and our school system put enormous pressure on our kids to be narrow-minded, superficial, xenophobic, and conformist (that is, conservative and Republican).

As much as I complain, things could be worse. I could live in Farmers Branch, where instead of restricting citizenship economically, they flag you for your country of origin. Or I could live in Arlington, currently home to the biggest fossil-fuel pimp in American politics, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton.

What was he smoking when he apologized, on behalf of all the big- oil enablers, for President Obama’s “shakedown” of British Petroleum? Is that why they call him “Smoky Joe?” Had he been hitting a peace pipe before the BP hearings?

It’s almost a call to action. I feel compelled  to  go  down  to  my  neighborhood Shell station and summarily apologize for my community’s “shakedown” of their establishment.

But I won’t be buying a bong. I don’t smoke pot. I watch TV instead. I know the boob tube is a “gateway” drug, but it’s a better buzz, more mind-numbing and easier on my throat and lungs. Church is good too, especially if you’re really jones-ing for a toke. You know, the ol’ “opiate of the masses” fix. Also it’s more personal and lots of folks can do it together.

I tried marijuana a few times, but it didn’t do it for me. And I have to admit I went to church once, too — but I
didn’t inhale.


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