Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Liberal Dichotomy

With all the hub-bub over the recent passage of California's proposition 8, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of my sister during the last holiday season.

No Smoking

The conversation started innocently enough, the group was talking of sundry things when 'Elle' said that she would be glad when the new law banning smoking in bars took effect in the upcoming year.

Now, I'm an ex-smoker, but unlike many reformed smokers I am not militant about people not smoking. Further, I have a bit of a philosophical opposition to...well, let's say government involvement into many things. I don't know what prompted me to open my mouth to make Elle's statement the beginning point of the nights' fireworks, but I did indeed open it.

I asked why she thought it was necessary to pass a law banning smoking in bars. She said that it would be nice to go to a bar and not come home smelling of smoke. I then said that there were plenty of bars that were already voluntarily non-smoking establishments and asked why she needed to ban smoking in every bar. She said that people who don't smoke would like to go to all the bars. I then said if there were that many people who wanted to go to non-smoking bars then there would be, because of the laws of economics, more non-smoking bars already.

Ban it all

At this point she changed tack on me and brought out the liberal argument that smoking is unhealthy and should be banned. Now this immediately threw my nanny-state alarm into overdrive and of course got me a bit worked up. I said there are a lot of things that are unhealthy, but that people should have a personal choice as to what risks they are willing to take. She said that of course it's a free country, but smokers add to the cost of health care for everybody. This prompted a small sidetrack of the argument (yes it had turned to that by this time) where we debated the costs of private businesses (insurance companies and hospitals) and their correlation to limiting personal freedoms. (That itself is a good subject for a future post)

Back on topic we went back and forth about several subjects that are unhealthy and/or risky. Seatbelt laws, motorcycle helmet laws, bicycle helmet laws - she's all for them. I asked if she was in favor of laws against unhealthy food. Sure thing, she is. I asked if she ever ate unhealthy foods. Yes, she says, and she would still be willing to ban them.


Elle's 'ban everything' attitude flabbergasted me. Never had I run into somebody who was so willing to give up her freedoms. Normally, such people are more than happy to ban things they don't like, but not those freedoms that they do like. I needed to up the ante and try to make a point that hit her where it hurt.

I must at this time reveal that Elle is gay. Her homosexuality doesn't 'bother' me, I'm not anti-gay. She just is, and I accept it, just as I accept that my sister is gay. The reference to her sexual preference is brought up only as a point of argument and not as a judgement. Elle and I had this argument because she is a liberal, not because she is gay.

So I asked Elle how a person who's sexual orientation put them in a class of people who so recently had themselves been discriminated against, marginalized and in essence been banned by the masses, how could she so willingly wish to restrict the lives of others. She got a bit defensive on that point, and said that homosexuality was not unhealthy.

Unhealthy lifestyle

Of course it is, I said. Gays of both sexes are statistically more likely to engage in high risk behaviors than hetero's. Gays have more one night stands, more overall sex partners, more unprotected sex, more sex with strangers and more multiple sex partners than straights. Gays are also more likely to contract a STD, become a victim of domestic violence and gays have a higher rate of suicide.

This is when the argument ended, she stormed away after calling me a homophobic nazi.

The Dichotomy

So, how is it that liberals can harp on and on about the freedom of choice, as long as it's the choices that they are for? Heck, I support people's freedoms, even when I don't agree with what they choose to do with them.

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