Blech. I woke up this morning with the unpleasant taste of patriotism in my mouth thanks to Monday’s sanctimonious post about the Olympics, so I immediately started looking for something more palatable to write about today. Thankfully, Correspondents James Herbert and Diana Poulsen came through for me with three stories generously spiced with my favourite palate-cleansers: jaw-dropping confusion and unadulterated rage. So let’s not waste your time, or mine:
Oh, the Sexy, Sexy French
It’s a well-known stereotype masquerading as fact that France is the Land of Love. Leaving aside all those other uncomfortable cliches about cheese and cowardice, the French are widely portrayed as romantic, exotic and fashionable, even when they’re parading around their stylish apartments in the nude, painting impressionist art on the kitchen table, eating baguettes by the yard, and shagging one another raw. I’m not saying all French people are tormented artists with a bread fascination, but the French aren’t doing an awful lot to curb the popular opinions about their obsession with all things to do with the bête avec deux dos.
You know how I know? Check this out.
For those of you whose capacity for analytic reason is severely impaired, what you’re seeing here is a laughably thinly-veiled analogy between cigarette addiction and disgusting Old Man-Boy, Old Man-Girl oral copulation. According to the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association (NSR), the progenitors of this questionable campaign, the best possible way to illustrate to young people the dangers of smoking addiction is to compare it to being coerced into blowjobs by creepy Uncle Tim.
“The first cigarette is often viewed as a rite of passage toward the adult world and an emancipation…The campaign seeks to reverse that impression and make people aware that smoking isn’t a defiance of authority, but instead a sign of submission and naiveté — a behavioral, psychological and physical submission to an addictive drug that will control their acts, dirty their bodies and cost them dearly.”
That is hands-down the best excuse to make a blowjob reference I have ever heard. It even sounds legit, from a certain point of view. They aren’t wrong in what they’re saying: cigarettes are insidious and pervasive, not to mention damaging to your health. And hey – if you can make an oral sex joke at the same time, c’est la vie.
But some people are taking issue with the somewhat tasteless nature of the ads, not the least of whom is French president Nicolas “Let’s Ban Shit” Sarkozy. Members of his cabinet, including Secretary of State for Family Affairs Nadine Morano, are joining forces with the Association of French Families in filing an official complaint against the NSR for what they’re calling a “public outrage of decency”. The move to ban the ads is underway after numerous business owners asked to display the posters have expressed, to put it lightly, considerable resistance.
Of course the cigarette industry is hitting back, as they always do. One spokesperson for the French affiliate of British American Tobacco complained the ads paint employees of the tobacco industry as rapists or paedophiles, which I find funny, because I find myself agreeing more and more with the message of the ads. At the end of the day, isn’t most of capitalist culture doing everything possible to poison us in every conceivable way while we’re busily sucking on the filtered end of their big corporate assets?
As much as I understand the backlash against this kind of advertising (anybody else remember the Hitler AIDS ads of last year?), it sends me into a fit of the giggling crazies when I stop and consider the fact that it’s the French of all nations who have a problem with this – the French, whose major defining stereotypical characteristics include berets, striped shirts, bi-gender moustaches, thin cigarettes and free sex.
Ironique, n’est pas?
Californians Love Them Some Firepower
Maybe it’s a function of having Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzennegger as the Guy In Charge in the sunny west-coast state; lord knows that guy has a curiously innate interest in big-ass weapons. Maybe it’s the rampant gang violence, maybe it’s just a question of having too much money and too little sense, which would also go a long way towards explaining the boob jobs, liposuction and prevalence of Hummers on the streets. In any case, the people of California are adamant about their right to do Whatever The Hell They Want – this time, in the guise of the long-suffering Second Amendment.
The aptly-titled “Bay Area Open Carry Movement” has been proudly displaying their impressive arsenals on their persons all over the San Francisco area in an effort to – get this – raise awareness about gun laws. The current laws hold that it’s legal for you to carry your sidearm (and I say “your” instead of “a” because my experience in the ‘States leads me to believe that just about everybody south of the border owns at least one hand-cannon) in plain sight as long as it’s not loaded. You can carry ammunition too, as long as it’s not actually in the gun. Apparently the thrust of this demonstration is borne of a growing concern in the gun-owning community that California’s concealed weapon licenses are too difficult to secure.
One proud cowboy, university student David LaTour who has been sporting his Springfield XD 9mm on his belt for months, digs the idea of the open-carry concept because of the “visual deterrent”.
Another advocate, San Diego native Nathan Wolanyk, claims the display is designed to educate people who might be unaware of the open-carry law, and who – inexplicably – have associated negative connotations with gun owners.
“If all you see are guns in the media used in a violent manner, that’s your perception of guns…[w]hen we’re out in public with them, we’re interacting with the public in a very nice manner. We’re showing that these are tools that are used for self defense.”
Oh, I do love my neighbours to the south.
First of all, what kind of “visual deterrent” is it to carry an unloaded weapon? You could have a goddamn Dirty Harry Colt .357 dangling from your belt, and if everybody knows there’s no iron in those chambers, you might as well be carrying a Super Soaker. Hell, at least the Super Soaker could be loaded with urine. And sure, you could stand around loading it from the equally-legal bandolier you’re wearing, but by the time you do that, the fellow with the illegal concealed Saturday Night Special has already aerated your skull and is making off with your big shiny penis extension, which kind of undercuts the whole “self defense” angle too.
And as far as guns being tools? The only tool I’m seeing in this equation is Nathan Wolanyk. A tool is something you use to create something else, or fix it, or anything that isn’t wanton destruction. The argument can be made that a rifle is a “hunting tool”, but hand weapons have one function: to injure or kill other people. Guns serve no other function. All the rhetoric about guns as “tools” just makes me shake my head and wonder how long it will be before these NRA nutters start trying to find practical, everyday uses for their little death-dealers. It’s small wonder “the media” only portrays guns used in a violent manner: as of this writing I’ve never seen anybody reshingle a house or feed a poor person or cure a disease using a Beretta. Unless the cure for that disease is death, in which case I’d have to cop to that.
I’m not going to stand on a pedestal this time, folks. You come to your own conclusions on this one. But for my part I think Californians should stop playing dress-up with empty pistols, because at the end of the day they just look silly.
Meanwhile in Utah
Riddle me this Batman. How desperate does a pregnant woman have to be to avoid child birth when she’s willing to pay some bruiser $150 to beat the shit out of her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage? The answer, I think, is “pretty goddamn desperate.” Here in Canada the response to a news story like that would be “holy unnecessary violence, Batman – why didn’t she go to a registered professional to have an abortion?”
The answer is twofold. First, she was seven months into the pregnancy, at which point not even Canadian doctors will perform an abortion unless there are severely mitigating factors. Second, she has the unfortunate luck to live in Utah. Thanks to the case of this desperate seventeen year-old, the local government has decided to pass a bill that ensures any instances in which a woman could be suspected of intentionally terminating her pregnancy will hold her culpable for – wait for it – murder charges.
Oh yeah, you heard me right.
According to the article Diana sent along, the bill will criminalize any action a woman takes to incite a miscarriage that isn’t directly supervised by a medical professional, with penalties to rise as high as life in prison.
Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, has this to say:
“…[A] ll of the other states’ feticide laws are directed to third party attackers…[and] were passed in response to a pregnant woman who has been beaten up by a husband or boyfriend. Utah’s law is directed to the woman herself and that’s what makes it different and dangerous.”
Well, that’s saying an awful lot. The problem special interest groups are having with the law as it stands is its broad nature: it cites “reckless” behaviour as good enough reason to book a woman for losing a fetus, but it doesn’t go very far in defining what constitutes reckless behaviour. Yeah, I suppose a case could be made against those lovely bastions of humanity who like to binge drink and use cocaine while carrying a kid, but what about the woman who didn’t put on her seatbelt and then got thrown through a windshield? While you can’t really forget to not drink a bottle of Jack Daniels, you can certainly forget to don a seatbelt for a ten second car ride – I do it all the time – but ten seconds is all it takes to have some jackhole t-bone you in the middle of an intersection. The resulting trauma kills your unborn, and you get to go to prison for murder. What the hell?
Take it even a step farther, Paltrow says. What about the woman who stays with her abusive husband because she’s unable to get out? It was her “choice” to stay – the new bill says that’s reckless. While you’re good and goddamn right it’s dangerous to stay with a crazy son-of-a-bitch husband, I’ve known enough abused women to be sold on the Battered Woman Syndrome as a completely genuine psychological condition, so where does the law draw the line there?
The problem with these wonderful overreaching laws we’re so fond of in Western culture is they turn each and every case into a unique playground for legal acrobatics, to say nothing of resurrecting the old theoretical argument about when exactly life begins, essentially bringing the abortion fight to the realm of miscarriages. Oh, and did I mention no fewer than three Democratic senators in Utah supported this bill – all of them women? All they’re waiting on is a signature from the governor to go ahead with this plan.
Now, I’m going to tread carefully here, because the last time I made angry statements in support of women’s rights, I got called a racist (yeah, I was puzzled too). But I’ll be totally honest – this law doesn’t look good on the Pro Life movement. Leaving aside all the obvious examples of hypocrisy with those people (don’t murder fetuses, murder abortion doctors!) this law seems to be sticking the icy speculum of the state even farther into the nether regions of the women of Utah.
I’ve had friends who have miscarried. It is, in a word, devastating. Imagine if it was accidental or otherwise not your fault – you trip and fall down the stairs, or you get the shit kicked out of you by your evil husband, and you lose your child. And then the state gets up in your face claiming you meant to do it – you deliberately threw yourself down a flight of stairs, or you asked your abusive husband to play drunken belly-punch. Hell may hath no fury like a woman’s scorn, but even that pales in comparison to what you’re going to get if you tell a woman – any woman – that she meant to kill her baby if she didn’t.
And you’ll deserve every bit of it, you evil bastards.
What Did We Learn?
I’m starting to wonder what we learn from these stories, my friends. It certainly paints a dim picture of humanity in my eyes. In a world where we have to compare cigarettes to sexual abuse to convince kids that smoking is a bad idea; in a world where people are so attached to their weapons they’re willing to carry neutered versions just to prop up their ego; in a world where women are told what to do and what not to do with their bodies (still), it’s hard to find the good some days. But yet I take heart.
Why? Because people like James and Diana send me these stories to report on. Because you keep coming back to read them, and by and large you agree they’re unadulteratedly fucked. And because maybe there are enough of us who genuinely care about these issues to make a difference.
And then I remember Tiger Woods is still inexplicably a news item, and get pissed off all over again, so I go searching for the nearest bottle of whiskey and my next story.
Soldier on, dear readers.