Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

When I was a kid we had, as the Dixie Chicks sing, "Wide open to make big mistakes."

And, boy, did I make a lot of mistakes. They were all minor, though. A few of my friends made major, fatal mistakes, almost always because they did something incredibly stupid, like changing a tire on an interstate without pulling over far enough. I've got little scars all over me – face, arms, legs, hands, fingers, chest, back. They were caused by razors, knives, shrapnel from exploding aluminum cans, pencils, mini-bike wrecks, cats, cars, and once, the floor, which hit me in the forehead. If I ever had an angel's face, it's long since turned into a mug that scares kids.

I've decided life is precious, but not priceless. If it was priceless, we wouldn't die.

One of the main problems with "government" is that it acts like life is priceless (at least at home; abroad is another story), and as such, tries to make it so safe it takes all the fun out of it. It wants to turn people into babies, stuck in a crib all their lives (probably while wearing a seat belt and a helmet), looking over the top railing and thinking, "Might be a little dangerous at times, but it sure does look like fun out there."

Government can't protect you from yourself. It has one set of laws, mostly stupid, and life has another set, which everyone learns, and if they don't, they end up winning Darwin awards, like the drunken guy whose last words were, "Hey, everybody look at this!" And then he tried to swallow a rather large live fish, which didn't make it all the way down. The fish didn't survive, either.

Someday, mark my words, the government will pass a law trying to outlaw broken hearts. Probably it'll force people to take anti-depressants, the way it forces Ritalin down kids' throats when they get antsy sitting in school.

The more government laws that exist, the more diminished your life is. Czeslaw Milosz wrote a book, The Captive Mind, about what happens to people's minds under totalitarianism. Theirs becomes a world of pure Orwellian double-think.

One of the purposes of parents is to pass on their knowledge to kids. The "knowledge" that government passes on is mostly worthless. "All people and cultures are's not your fault, but someone else's...the country and the government are the same thing...the government can protect you." All double-plus-ungood double-think untruths.

When I was a kid we had a 50-gallon barrel in the backyard to burn trash. My parents told me, "Don't burn any spray cans in it. They'll explode."

And they did, too, with a huge blast and a mushroom cloud 15-foot-tall. I know this because I blew up a few hundred spray cans. Since my parents warned me what would happen, the first time I stood around the corner of the house to protect myself.

Kaboom! From then on, I put every spray can I could find in the trash. When I fished them out I found some impressive vents in them, always along the seam. Obviously, my mother's Lemon Pledge furniture wax cans were good for something more than my mom spraying the contents a quarter-inch-deep on top of the TV.

The government and the schools didn't tell me about those spray cans. It's not their purpose, anyway. If they tried to take the place of parents the schools wouldn't have time to teach kids to read. Oh, yeah...forget I said that.

Burning trash was outlawed sometime in my teens, ostensibly to protect the environment. Instead, everything was carted to a landfill which is now about 500 feet tall. If I was to burn trash today I'd get a ticket at the very least. Might even be arrested. Who knows? But a 300-foot-tall landfill, one that will outlast the pyramids, is better?

I don't remember when I decided the main purpose of "government" was to take all the fun out of life. I think it was in high school, most of which I daydreamed my way through. It was enough to put anyone off on the wonders of government interference in anyone's life. It sure did it to me.

I feel a bit sorry for kids today. Those days of exploding spray cans are over for them. I'll bet almost none of them even know what it's like to make a big pile of fall leaves and burn them. It was a great smell, one I always associate with Halloween.

Recently I've been seeing lots of kids zipping down the sidewalk on those little motorized scooters they stand on. Soon, I guarantee you, they will be outlawed. Apparently the State is run by a variation of Gresham's Law: "Bad laws drive out the good."

When I was in my early teens the only thing we had that was motorized were mini-bikes, the kind made out of steel bars and powered by a lawnmower engine. I used to ride mine down the street to the path by the railroad. God forbid anyone try to ride one down the street today, even if they are heading to a dirt path. The police would probably Tazer them.

I never wore a helmet, either. They didn't exist, unless I wanted to wear a football helmet. The only injury I ever got was when the throttle came off in my hand. I did a somersault over the handlebars and cut my left knee. Three stitches. That's one scar. After that escapade, I made sure everything was tight on the bike.

Then there's the horizontal scar I have on the ribs on my right side, made by a razor I didn't know was in my shirt pocket. But I learned to make sure there's nothing sharp in my pocket before I wrestled with a friend. What law could have protected me from that?

Every scar I have has a story to it, about violations of the laws of life. Every one of those scars is minor. I haven't gotten a scar for decades. I had those wide open spaces to make those minor mistakes. I got those stories when I was younger, and learned how those laws work: be careful with sharp instruments, and certainly don't land face first on the floor.

A lot of government laws, on the other hand, are about protecting you from getting those little scars at the beginning, by eradicating those wide open spaces. Unfortunately, those who avoid getting the little scars at the beginning end up, courtesy of the government, with little tiny spaces in which to live and major scars later on: crime, unending war, wealth-robbing inflation, crushing taxes, regulations everywhere, political correctness that should be called by its correct name: thought-crime.

I'm sure those government laws do save a few scars, and a few people's lives, at the beginning. But in the long run, the amount of people saved is a drop in a lake compared to the lives lost.

Personally, I'll take the wide open spaces and the little scars, and pass on the tiny little spaces and the major scars. I'll take the freedom over the non-existent security. I'll take the liberty that gives me a dozen tiny scars all over me, as opposed to the slavery that costs me my freedom, my wealth, and my life.

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