2012-04-29 P-D OpEd: “Leonard Pitts: The scarlet I”

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Leonard Pitts Jr. writes a column for The Miami Herald which also appears in the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although this was the subject of the previous mogasp blog, Mr. Pitts’ insights make his excerpted article worth reproducing here. (To read the original in full, please click on the title below.)

Leonard Pitts: The scarlet I
Leonard Pitts Jr. • lpitts@miamiherald.com | Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2012 12:00 am

John Raese, Republican candidate in 2012 for U.S. senator from West Virginia.

John Raese is feeling persecuted.
         Raese, a West Virginia businessman running for the Senate, declared in a recent speech that he doesn’t want the government telling him what to do “because I’m an American.” Specifically, he lamented that he is required to place a “huge sticker” on his buildings declaring them smoke-free environments.
         “Remember Hitler used to put Star of David on everybody’s lapel, remember that? Same thing,” he said.
         For the record, the Nazis did not require the Star of David on “everybody’s” lapel. Only Jews were forced to sew the symbol on their clothing under penalty of being fined, imprisoned or shot. But maybe we should just be grateful Raese did not compare smoker’s lounges to concentration camps — or some tobacco junkie hiding in the toilet to sneak a smoke to Anne Frank, hiding out for her life.
         Predictably, Raese has come under fire from Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has refused to back down. “I’m not apologizing to anybody or any organization,” he told the Charleston Daily Mail. He went on to say, “I am not going to be intimidated by a bunch of bull__.”
         Requiring him to put up no-smoking signs, is, he reiterated, “very similar” to requiring Jews to wear yellow stars. “It might be smoking today, it might be Big Macs tomorrow, then Coca-Colas the next day, then Jack Daniel’s, then we’re in trouble.”
         Yes, he actually said that. …..
         Raese made his asinine remark in furtherance of his belief in small government. It is an ideology whose adherents habitually squander whatever appeal it might otherwise hold through extremist statements such as these. Surely reasonable people can debate the proper size and role of government. But one begins to believe people like Raese seek not small government, but no government. And that, putting it mildly, is bizarre.
         Worse, he compounds the sin by committing this act of violence against memory, this vandalism of simple respect. At one fell swoop, he manages to illustrate both American political extremism and American incapacity of reverence.
         He is hardly unique. ….. But anyone who understands what happened when Hitler was Hitler cannot help but decry such a monumental trivialization of atrocity. The crimes of the Nazi regime were singular, unprecedented in their sheer awfulness. Because of this, thoughtful observers draw Nazi parallels carefully and rarely if at all. And then there are the John Raeses of the world.
         For what it’s worth, the experience of a Jew in the Holocaust and a smoker in America are comparable in only one regard: the death toll. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews in 12 years. Cigarettes kill that many Americans every 13 and a half. Of course, a smoker has a choice. A Jew had none.
         And the idea of equating the two is ridiculous, offensive and unworthy of serious people. That should go without saying.
         The key word there being, ‘should.”

The above excerpt is 487 words. The original article is 643 words

8 responses to “2012-04-29 P-D OpEd: “Leonard Pitts: The scarlet I”

  1. As I pointed out in a previous blog, Hitler first passed smoking bans, before he went after the Jews, When the government can deny an owner,(business or not) the right to use a legal product on their own property or to allow their guests to do the same their is no limit to government control.. Plus the author shows his prejudice in his comment “some tobacco junkie hiding in the toilet to sneak a smoke”. That is the real goal of tobacco control, to make smokers look and feel like second class citizens with no rights even on their own property!

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp reply: And as I’ve responded repeatedly, there are limits on the use of every legal product, i.e. you’re not entitle to harm others with them.

    • MoGASP, and I have repeatedly pointed out that if you enter a smoking allowed establishment you are not an innocent victim but a willing participant.
      “Violenti non fit injura”

      Here it is in a medical dictionary.

      Here’s Wiki’s take.

      In a free society it is up to the individual to decide . . . So the real question is do we still live in a free society or do we want to.

      Marshall P Keith

      mogasp reply: Living in a “free society” doesn’t mean it’s a society “free of rules,” not when viewed by the current definition of a civilized society, which I believe America to be. You can’t seem to grasp that using a cigarette is no different from using a pencil: neither can be used to harm others, e.g. by exposing others to your smoking or attempting to poke someone’s eye out with your pencil./em>

      • mogasp, again with the pencil analogy? More akin to a fist, If I punch you on your own property it is battery, however if we enter a boxing ring where we both know it is permitted different story, have you ever known a place where stabbing someone in the eye was permitted? Would you frequent such a place?

        Marshall P Keith

        mogasp reply: There’s never any willingness to accept a perfectly reasonable analogy. You reply with distortions, e.g. a boxing ring!

  2. I’m always been bothered by the 6 million number. The number who died in the holocaust was between 11-17 million people (why just mention Jews?).

    mogasp comment: Jews made up the majority of those who died but I agree that other minorities who perished shouldn’t be forgotten. Those who urge that the Holocaust shouldn’t be forgotten do recognize other similar atrocities have occurred since.

  3. I allow smoking in my adult business. I have a sign on the door that states that I permit smoking in my business. These are my rights. I have a right to allow you to enter or not. You have a right to enter or not. If I tell you to leave, you leave. It does not require a reason. If you do not leave, I charge you with trespassing. This is America. You have the same right in your property. I will defend that right for all property owners, smoking or not.

    mogasp reply: And if your business is required to be smoke-free by state or local ordinance, it is your right to break the law and suffer the consequences.

    • “mogasp reply: And if your business is required to be smoke-free by state or local ordinance, it is your right to break the law and suffer the consequences.”

      Mogasp, we are talking about rights here, rights are defined by the constitution and it’s amendments. Property rights are mentioned more than any other such as the 5th and 14th amendments. . . . “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”. Smoking bans are a regulatory taking. You yourself have defined a private business “public space”. Please show where in the constitution where you derive the imaginary right to smoke free air and how your imaginary rights usurp those of the owner of the property.

      Marshall P Keith

      mogasp reply: I’m not a constitutional scholar but you hold yourself to be one. If you believe your position to be supported by the U.S. Constitution then why don’t you and your allies challenge these laws in a court of law? Why hasn’t the tobacco lobby or the tobacco companies taken such action? They certainly have all the resources to do so. Frankly, I’m not convinced that you have a case.

  4. Dave Kuneman

    Tobacco Companies no longer care about smoking bans because they have found they do not cut smoking rates, nor consumption of their products… and, further, they agreed to stop supporting smokers’ rights in the 1998 Tobacco Settlement.

    mogasp comment: Maybe. But tobacco companies are still very aggressively and successfully defending themselves in court against individual lawsuits from smokers harmed by addiction to tobacco. That was according to an in-depth article I read a year or two ago.

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