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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Guns, Tobacco, Fear & Control

“Where the rights of men are equal, every man must finally see the necessity of protecting the rights of others as the most effectual security for his own.”- Thomas Paine
Dissertation on First Principles of Government -1795

On a personal note…. I have one sister, twenty one years younger than me. This picture was taken two years ago in the D.R. – right about the time she told me a policeman came to her class, wearing his uniform, badge, and gun, to lecture the students about the dangers of tobacco. Of course the lesson was not un-biased or purely factual. Rather, it was about fear. They did not tell her ‘cigarettes can shorten your life or lead to illnesses’; they told her ‘tobacco and smoke are disgusting, immoral, and kill’. While I know that life kills, and fear can be an effective motivation for children, and teachers can exaggerate to make a point, to this day, I cannot fathom why a man with a gun is sent to schools to ‘teach’ and threaten children. Frankly, it has taken me two years to calm down enough just to write this piece…. In fact, a big part of the reason I started this blog two years ago was because I was so infuriated by my sister’s story and needed a place to voice my opinion and tell these tales. And, someone has to question how the anti-smoke people have influenced legislators to the point that they are employing our police to promote their agenda … WTF is happening?

I remember in high school a policeman came and lectured us about the dangers of drinking and driving: at least that made sense since the crime takes place on our roadways where innocent people can be hurt. But where is the crime in smoking? And why are the police talking to children about it? And why the gun?

On a positive note, my sister comes to my house and walks into my humidor just because she loves the smell. Thankfully, she is smart and free enough to think for herself; but, for how long? In Cuba they have signs everywhere insulting ‘capitalist pigs’ and the only people with guns are the cops and military; I suppose that is why my family came to this country. But, in America there are already advertisements insulting smokers (of all kinds), disparaging fat people, and basically equating anybody who is not ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ as immoral or inadequate. Yet, I can’t watch TV for half an hour without seeing erectile pill commercials or advertisements for pharmaceuticals to make us all happy and fill us with ‘energy’.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of our legislators/government and the degradation of our rights is only getting worse…. Today I read an AP article about an Alabama Botanist who was arrested because the wildflowers on her property were a nuisance. People actually complained about the annoyance of flower aromas!!!
As the son of refugees, I cannot forget the value of freedom, and the need to defend it: that is why I am a Certified Tobacconist. And, I have put every resource at my disposal towards defending my profession and helping others do the same. Ironically, at this rate, I will end up a Certified ‘drug dealer’ in the nanny state’s eyes…. and so will my plant, coffee, alcohol, and food loving friends. That cop who terrorized my 10 year old sister may very well arrest me for smoking a cigar on the sidewalk one day. In the meantime, real drug dealers who peddle anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, 5-hour energy drinks, and erection pills continue to live down the road from me in mansions I can’t even afford the taxes on. The America I love seems to exist only in my mind and heart now…. and within the four walls of every retail Tobacconist who is still allowed to smoke in their business and home. As I write this very personal blog, my last living grandparent lies on her death bed, incoherent and unaware that the America that embraced her inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is not so different than the country she fled; in this rare case I think that ignorance is bliss. But, the rest of us have no excuse.
My point is not simply to vent here… it is two-fold:

1. to compel you, my fellow Tobacconists and citizens, to get Certified and project your credibility. Be Proactive! Don’t be apathetic. Don’t ever give up. First we must educate ourselves, and then we go about teaching others (Tobacconists Are Teachers).
2. to remind everyone else that real freedom involves protecting others’ rights, not just the rights you like and/or use.

Disclaimers: I have cop friends and customers who I love; I think guns are awesome – when they are not killing or intimidating people; I love plants and flowers and their aromas; I love my sister and family, no matter what they think or feel; I have lots of friends who take the legal drugs mentioned in this article; I believe smoking is a human archetype and delicacy which will always be and should be enjoyed by a significant percentage of the population; I don’t like the use of chemicals or additives in tobacco or food; I eat meat and fish; however you define ‘health’, it is useless without freedom – and legislating ‘health’ is simply a way to control people; I drive like an old lady, have never had a dui/dwi, and have not had a moving violation in my adult life (’knock on wood’); I am only superstitious, ‘just in case’; I think people who sky dive and bungee jump are crazy and I fully support their right to do it – just like I support any person’s right to think, say, and do anything they want as long as they do not infringe on another person’s ability to do the same – that’s American!
Jorge Armenteros, CMT

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