Sticking Up for Society’s Most Unloved
We’ll never win a popularity contest, that’s for certain. We’re OK with that. To us, it’s more important to do what’s right than to be liked and admired and affirmed. That’s why we feel comfortable sticking up for society’s downtrodden, the friendless, powerless folks who bear the daily aspersions and derision of those who think them inferior. We love all our brothers and sisters. Even the ones no one else does.
Let us hereby celebrate smokers and litterbugs, two groups of people that consistently suffer unfair, unkind, and unhelpful criticisms.
The Los Angeles Times recently ran an editorial declaring that employers looking for job applicants who don’t smoke are making a big mistake. The paper thinks that avoiding smokers is a lamentable and unwarranted intrusion into an applicant’s private life. We agree! Employers with an eye on the bottom line – and is there another kind? – figure smokers will cost them more in the long run, what with increased healthcare costs allegedly linked to cigarette use. This is ludicrous. Sure, smoking is still the top cause of premature death in the United States – but death from texting while driving and not wearing a seat belt is also a serious problem. What’s next? A policy to hire only people who walk to work?
Give smokers a break. They work almost as hard and as long as everyone else, except for those tiny slices of time when they take the elevator down to the lobby and smoke outside on the sidewalk. It’s called a “cigarette break,” and it’s a time-honored tradition.
Another venerable tradition is to blithely flick your cigarette butt onto the nearest paved surface when you no longer wish to inhale the delicious tobacco smoke. Some prudes would call this “littering.” They don’t understand that not having to be responsible for your butts is one of the things that make smoking cool. We should all be so unconcerned with consequences, so untroubled by what comes next. That’s a sign of living in the present, of being fully engaged in the moment, the now.
The rugged individualism one detects in smokers, the impulse to dance to the beat of your own internal drummer rather than the officially sanctioned “science” of lung cancer, is a quality we should applaud. In this way smokers are like litterers: Neither group gives a flying hoot about what others think is “right.” They’re confident enough to make up their own mind. That’s admirable.
Litterbugs are a valuable gauge. They help the average person determine how good of an American he is. When you’re walking in a park, for example, and in your path you come across, say, a hamburger wrapper and an empty plastic water bottle, the incorrect (and vaguely Socialist) thing to do is pick it up, as though it’s your problem. Refusing to dispose of someone else’s litter demonstrates to your fellow citizens that you subscribe to the doctrine of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, essential traits of the successful American. If someone asks why you are not picking up litter directly in your path, you should say, “Because it’s not mine.” If you are in the presence of someone who understands the way the world really works, they will thank you.
Are littering and smoking righteous activities that will make the world a better place? Let’s put it this way: Smoking is still legal (in many places). And littering, while not exactly legal, is a victimless crime that almost never warrants punishment, unless it’s a really big deal, like spilling millions of gallons of crude oil in a marine conservation area.
So let’s all take a deep breath, find reserves of compassion beneath our conditioned reaction to trash and carbon monoxide clouds, and start treating litterbugs and smokers with same atta-boy spirit we show toward all our fellow Americans. They have much to teach us.