With help from local Democrats

Steve Hammer

This week marks a stunning victory in the government's war on freedom. Starting today, March 1, Marion County's anti-smoking ordinance goes into effect and one more layer of rights has been peeled back.

I'm no lawyer, but the way I read the new ordinance, it means that our county government wants small businesses to close and to keep people out of our bars and restaurants.

It means that the rights of extremists are more important than the rights of the people as a whole. It means that the health care lobby and the fundamentalist busybodies who think they should play God are represented in government, while ordinary people are not.

Why stop at an anti-smoking ordinance? It offends me greatly that there are thousands of masturbators out there who are going unpunished. We must have legislation passed at every level of government to protect people from the evils of masturbation.

As I've written before, people chomping on their gum is much more offensive to me than cigarette smoke. And some gum contributes to tooth decay, according to the surgeon general. Therefore, a ban on all gum chewing should be passed immediately.

The so-called "Life Savers" that are being sold in stores will not, in fact, save your life. Astonishingly enough, eat enough of them and your molars are packed with their evil remnants. And these things are being sold to our children, for Pete's sake!

They should be banned immediately.

Here's one thing I can't understand about our mayor and City-County Council. They're Democrats, officially, but once they get in office they start acting like Republicans. Mayor Peterson's first act in office was to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting violent videogames.

Thanks to our mayor, videogame violence has been completely eradicated. All the guns in Grand Theft Auto have been replaced with flowers. Meanwhile, real, live, actual crime is rising fast.

And, just like a Republican, our mayor is responding to the law enforcement crisis with a very Reaganesque strategy: gut the Police Department, throw it into jurisdictional confusion and demoralize its officers.

Thanks to Mayor Peterson, you can't buy a porno DVD after midnight or on Sunday. But you can commit sexual assault and get away with it, if you're lucky, because we don't have enough police officers to enforce the law.

But back to the smoking ban for a minute. It's one thing for the saltine cracker communities surrounding us to ban smoking. No sane person, and certainly no person of color, would ever step foot in Martinsville or Greenwood, anyway. They could legalize crystal meth, for all I care, as long as they stay in their stinkhole towns and out of my city.

But now our city is setting the standard for the state. And that standard is: restrict or ban anything that someone may, at some point, find objectionable. I expect that from someone like Bush, who has made no secret about wanting to eradicate freedom in our time. But from people who should know better, like our Democratic elected officials, such restrictions are a betrayal.

More than that, the smoking ban and other actions are driving mom-and-pop tobacco businesses into bankruptcy. Believe it or not, there are still some shops in Marion County that aren't owned by Wal-Mart or Target.

The owner of my local tobacco store is a great businesswoman and a personal friend. I've been buying smokes from her since her store opened in 1996 or so. She has the best selection and usually the best prices, because she knows how to take care of her customers.

But the new laws are making it harder and harder for her to keep her business open. For years, I've been kidding her about her being Republican. With these actions, I'm no longer proud to be a Democrat in Indiana.

Being an elected Democrat in Indiana means turning into a damned Republican. Look at our country right now. The very, very last thing this country needs is another Republican Party.

I supported the mayor in his 1999 campaign because I believed he would be a force for good in this city. I'm still waiting for him to act like a Democrat and to stop acting like the millionaire real-estate developer he was before becoming mayor.

He claims the smoking ban will help people quit smoking. You know what, Mr. Mayor? I need help shoveling the sidewalk in winter. I need help with these outrageous gas prices. I need help with insurance reform. I need some advice on romantic matters.

But I don't need help quitting smoking. Or masturbating. Or chewing gum. Or any of your big-brother feel-good schemes. To the extent that I have problems with any of those things, I can handle it myself. Literally.

We need an end to the war. We need campaign finance reform. We need to impeach the president and vice president. We need true racial justice and opportunity for all. We need affordable health care and education.

But we don't need you telling us whether to smoke or where we can do it.

Someday soon, and it won't be too long now, there is going to be a tidal wave of dissent in this country which will make the 1960s look like the 1950s. There are millions of people just like me who are pissed off at what our government, at every level, is doing.