Autumn Leaves, Freedom Leaves

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The smell of burning leaves always makes me happy.  It’s a pleasant smell and brings back childhood memories.  Therefore, it must be outlawed.


My earliest years on this blue planet were under the Eisenhower administration.  Every autumn, we would rake leaves into piles and then burn those piles.  I’d get to jump into them before burning.  We’d rake them to the street, get the hose ready, and light a match.  Mom might make hot chocolate.  Usually, there were piles of burning leaves along the whole block.  It was almost a neighborhood get-together as well as a family thing.


In those Eisenhower years we also had a saying, “What are you gonna do, make a federal case out of it?”  Someone did make a federal case out of leaf burning in 2008, right where I live.


Leaf-burning had already been severely restricted, per city ordinance.  You could only do it on two specified days in the week, only during certain times of the year, and only in proper containers rather than in the street.  Well, someone said the smoke bothered her.  She literally made a federal case out of it.  She sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


The Feds came and talked to City Hall.  The city realized it had been lax in enforcement.  People were burning leaves just about any time they felt like it; it was anarchy.  So the city promised to enforce its own laws better.


“Not good enough,” said the Feds.  Here is their syllogism sequence: susceptibility to the odor or smoke of burnt leaves is a disability; the ADA requires “reasonable” accommodations for those with disabilities; other cities outlaw leaf-burning altogether and somehow survive; therefore it is reasonable to outlaw leaf-burning altogether; therefore it is required to outlaw leaf-burning altogether.


Get it?  If anyone with an inhaler in the house gripes, anything reasonable becomes a legal requirement.  On you.  And you thought ADA was about wheelchairs.


It doesn’t stop there.  In the Eisenhower years, trash was trash.  It didn’t come with adjectives or varieties.  What you took to the end of your driveway was hauled away, period.  Now, I count at least six varieties of trash.

  • Normal, they-haul-it-away garbage.
  • Recyclables.
  • Yard waste.
  • Household construction material.
  • Appliances.
  • Hazardous waste.

And that last category itself has sub-categories: electronics, oil, etc.  I think the new fluorescent light bulbs fall into one of these sub-categories.  I’m not even sure what they all are.  To get rid of old computers, for example, you have to find out who to call, call them, find out when you can bring your computer to them, and then take your computer to them on the appointed day and time.  They don’t come and get it.  A blind date is easier.


So instead of just lighting one match to burn your leaves, you must put them into bags.  It might take 10 or 20 bags or more, who cares.  And not just any bags.  You must purchase special bags made specifically for yard waste.  And it is collected only on special days, not normal trash pick-up days.  Lord help you if you put yard waste out on a regular trash day.


England, for example, is using anti-terrorism laws and surveillance technology to make sure people are separating trash correctly.  Failure to separate trash properly will lead to criminal records.  And before they even begin to collect your trash, you’ll need to tell them all the prescription medication you, and everyone in your household, takes.


My wife has some animals (small, furry ones).  Animals produce waste.  My wife has them do their thing in hay.  Then she puts it all in a trash bag (it fits in a single, small bag) and puts it in the regular trash.


The garbage man saw the hay and thought it looked like yard waste.  In the regular trash!  He could lose his license, and therefore his job, if he puts yard waste in the garbage truck.  So he left it with us.  The wife called the trash company and found that she did everything exactly right; that’s where little, furry animal droppings go – in regular trash.  But every time she did it like she was supposed to, the garbage man left it with us so he wouldn’t lose his job.


It took nearly as many calls to the garbage company as it took to stop getting billed by the phone company after we were no longer that phone company’s customer.  One time a manager came by to personally pick up the little bag left by his truck driver.  Yet still, the only “solution” seems to be for my wife to put a sign on the bag saying “It’s OK; it’s not yard waste – you will not be fired for hauling this off.”  And hope the garbage man takes the sign seriously.


Is separating trash unbearable?  No.  But bagging up leaves, separating trash, hauling it off ourselves at appointed times, phone calls, etc. are not the only things we have to do all day.  We might, for example, be busy finding our child’s birth certificate so she can play soccer at school.  Or collecting her medical records from her pediatrician so she can attend school at all (and hoping she’s had the right dozen or so required vaccinations).  Or getting a building permit (to include three copies of all blueprints and wiring plans, before any work is started) to finish our basement.


I did not even ask how a pile of burning leaves in my back yard affects interstate commerce.  But I’m sure the Feds got involved for good, legal and Constitutional reasons.


And here is my point: where is the outrage?  I hear outrage over the Patriot Act, for example.  I hear outrage when Gitmo detainees have their US government-provided Korans (or is it “Qurans”?) touched by the ungloved hands of infidels.  I hear outrage that some states require citizens to provide ID before voting.  But I don’t hear outrage about all the little things normal Americans are forced to do every damn day.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had either an incoming or outgoing overseas call with al Qaida.  Nor do I know anyone who has.  But almost everyone I know has burned leaves at some time, registered their child for school, or made a home improvement we’d rather not let our assessor know about.  I showed more ID and documentation to get my driver’s license than Barack Obama did to run for President.  I’ve provided more medical records to my kids’ schools than Joe Biden did to run for Vice President.


And Joe the Plumber had his tax, child-support and unemployment records searched more for asking a simple question than Bill Ayers did for taking credit for bombing the Pentagon.


The freedoms we keep hearing the outrage over somehow have almost zero impact on normal, Joe-the-Plumber type Americans.  But the water-torture or death-by-a-thousand-cuts rules, regulations and paperwork that we do have to put up with (e.g., Joe’s tax lien, Joe’s plumber’s license) we are supposed to accept cheerfully as our patriotic duty.


I heard of a Chinese immigrant who, after trying to get all the proper permits to stay in business, finally went back to China by choice, saying, “In China, they just shoot you.”


The people who deride the Eisenhower years as constrained, confined and conforming are the very ones who are now doing the constraining, confining and conforming.  A person who questioned the evil of communism in 1955 was called an open-minded intellectual.  A person who questions Anthropogenic Global Warming now is called a denier and in need of psychiatric care.


When the “pro-choice” crowd does not allow us the choice of  what kind of light-bulb to read by, I begin to think maybe they are not really “pro-choice” in the way a reasonable person would interpret that term.


We can now get abortions at any point in pregnancy, free.  If you don’t know how to use a condom, just ask your public school teacher.  We can buy pornography just about anywhere.  Sodomy is a Constitutional right.  A park bench is a good enough address for voter registration.


But I need a Firearms Owner ID card to buy a firearm or even bullets.  In some municipalities I can’t buy them at all.  I need to produce a birth certificate for my kid to play soccer.  The Boy Scouts are sued and denied access to public facilities because they don’t let openly gay adult men take 12-year-old boys camping.  A preacher, priest or rabbi cannot give an invocation at a public high school graduation ceremony.


I’m no social conservative.  I’ve bought porn before.  I drink.  I gamble.  I’m none too religious.  I did things in my youth that could compete with Barack Obama’s youth.  But something is not computing.


If these things that used to be called “sins” are now free to do, then shouldn’t just about everything be?  But except for “sinning”, almost nothing is.  For wholesome things like children playing soccer, building a tree house, finishing a basement, or school football teams praying together, you need documentation including birth certificates or a building permit, if it’s not outlawed altogether.  Pity the poor sap who wants to start a business and employ people.


Something is wrong here.  And it doesn’t take a prude to notice it.


The freedom that is being lost is not that of enemy combatants, perverts, or communists.  It is the freedom of moms and dads and kids and entrepreneurs.


A priest, a rabbi and a preacher walk into a bar.  But they better not come to your public school.