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Attrition of joy

January 18, 2014

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense. For list of subscribing radio stations, click here.]

Gallup took a poll last week asking Americans this question: "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" As in previous polls, the biggest problem people see is the government.

Not unemployment, not Muslim terrorists, not health care—the friggin' government.

The poll offers a simple message for Washington if they were only willing to hear it: get out of our way and we can solve the other problems on our own. Fox News, MSNBC, and radio talk shows can debate how and why government control is growing so rampantly, but you get a better feel for how it ruins your life by listing the everyday aspects of day-to-day existence where joy has been drained and irritation magnified.

For instance, have you bought a light bulb this year? The incandescent bulbs by which we used to read are gone. You can still get 60-watt incandescents (for the time being) but if you're over fifty that's probably not bright enough. The 100-watt bulbs disappeared last year and the 75-watt bulbs are gone as of January 1. The light bulb ban came from the same place as those government-mandated low-flow toilets everybody hates: busybodies in positions of power who think they're smart—smart enough to boss the rest of us.

Young people have no idea what they've lost. My children have a clue because I'm their father but my grandchildren will never know that large chunks of their individual liberty were stolen before they were born. When I was a kid I visited Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with my parents. Dad and I walked in the water almost all the way around the island at the Lower Falls. We also walked under the bigger Upper Falls to the point where I was scared half to death. If you visit Tahquamenon today you won't be allowed anywhere near a place where you could walk under the Upper Falls. It's fenced off. "Too dangerous," say the government bureaucrats. Also, they have big ugly signs telling people not to walk in the water at the Lower Falls. When I took my daughters there as little girls, we took our shoes off and left them right there at the base of one of those signs, sending a message of our own. Then I challenged my daughters, four and seven at the time, to walk all the way around the island in the water.

Like I said, my children have a clue because I'm their father.

When my daughters go to Tahquamenon Falls today, they can look at that island and know what it's like to wade in the rapids and climb small waterfalls and sit underneath them where the falling water makes a transparent wall that hides you from the world. How long before there's nobody left who remembers those simple pleasures? And why do we let the government steal these moments of joy?

(Incidentally, have you seen the hullabaloo about Giselle Bunchen sitting on an ATV with her baby? People are accusing her of child endangerment. Those worrywarts would've had a cow watching my four-year-old daughter climb up a cliff at Tahquamenon Falls. She came out at the feet of a group of Japanese tourists standing on a viewing platform snapping photos. They couldn't believe their eyes when my little blonde-haired waif came climbing up at their feet, scampered over the viewing fence, and calmly waited for her sister and father to catch up.)

There's a cider mill here in Grand Rapids I've visited my whole life—it's called Robinette's. They used to have the cider press sitting right there in the middle of their store. When you wanted a gallon of cider they would take a jug, stick the hose into it, and the machine would press the apple juice into the jug. It doesn't get any fresher than that. But that's no longer allowed—a few years ago the government decided raw cider was dangerous and wrote convoluted regulations that basically outlawed it. Now cider mills have to treat the cider, either by boiling it or zapping it with ultraviolet light, which ruins that wonderful fresh-from-the-apple taste. Same thing with milk. Raw milk has taste, beneficial bacteria, and nutritional value that is destroyed by pasteurization but the federal government has literally gone to war against it, to the point where they send SWAT teams after Amish people for selling it.

Just down the road from Robinette's Orchards, there's a small park on a spring-fed lake—Versluis Park. When my daughters were young I'd park the car in back of the strip mall that stretches along one side of the lake, drag my sailboard down the bank to the water, load the girls aboard, and paddle them to the sandy beach for the day. Occasionally I would leave them for a while and sail a bit. It's a perfect little lake for swimming and sailboarding. Then the government decided the lake was dangerous, constructed a ten-foot-tall fence around the park, instituted a permit system to get in, hired lifeguards to harass visitors, strung up line to mark a swimming area that doesn't even reach deep water—so it's basically a "wading area" not a swimming area—and pretty much outlawed everything my daughters and I used to do.

Why do we let them get away with this crap?

If I went back in time and told my long-dead grandparents about this stuff, they would be aghast. Somehow, while we were sleeping, watching TV, and visiting Disneyland, we lost the right to enjoy basic things like swimming in the water, choosing the kind of light we prefer, deciding what kind of toilet we want to sit on, and drinking raw cider & milk—stuff that human beings have counted among the simple joys of life for thousands of years.

It would be sad no matter where it happened—it's sad and tragic that it happened in this country, which greets newcomers with the Statue of Liberty.

That's... today’s dose of common sense.

"Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices—today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it." — Kevyn Aucoin

"There are three species of government: republican, monarchical, and despotic." — Charles de Secondat

"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty." — Thomas Jefferson


From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       


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