Monday, February 03, 2003

On a Lighter Note

Gene Healy provides a knee-slappingly funny deconstruction of smoking bans, as well as a pants-wettingly clever rejoinder to his critics. The short version: Smoking is cool. Dweebs and sissies who can’t handle the smoky atmosphere and stinky clothes lobby for laws that make it easier for them to hang out with cool people.

I, like Gene, am one of those non-smokers who has tried and failed to pick up the habit -- but who still recognizes the coolness of smoking. Its self-destructiveness, its “air of futility and tragedy” as Gene puts it, does not make smoking uncool -- on the contrary, the danger is precisely the allure. The people who would redefine smoking as “uncool” remind me of the elementary school teachers who tried to convince us that “Reading Is Cool!” and “Math Is Cool!” What a crock. Reading and math are useful, indispensable in fact, and (for some) interesting. But reading is not cool unless it’s Ken Kesey or J. D. Salinger; math is not cool unless you’re taking book. Point being, “cool” is not a universal word for anything good or desirable. It’s a specific attribute of things that, fairly often, are fun laced with some degree of danger. Trying to convince people otherwise is a good way to identify yourself as, not merely a dweeb or sissy, but someone who doesn’t even quite understand modern American slang.

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