When and where does choice end?

As with any new year there are new laws going in to effect around the globe.  Today I managed to stumble across an article on CBC News that was posted through Twitter by @SocialPsych called, aptly enough, “Spain’s tough anti-smoking law takes effect.” As someone who smoked for many years, but thankfully quit about 7 years ago, I am always intrigued to see the social trends in smoking, and even more so I am interested to see how governments, especially outside of the United States, handle it.  When I was in the US Navy and had the chance to travel the world, I found that the acceptance of smoking was quite common.  Anyone and everyone, and for that matter just about anywhere, was smoking.  Of course, so was I so it was very convenient.  Now, as a non-smoker and a father of a small child, I am more aware of smoking and of course have my own dislikes revolving around it.  Like most non-smokers, I hate walking in to a building and having to walk through a cloud of smoke as the smokers congregate outside of the door to “burn one” for a minute.  I also dislike going to restaurants where smoking is still allowed; there’s just nothing enjoyable about eating my food while breathing in smoke.  Even being in a line somewhere with a person or two smoking around me can really cause me some irritation, especially when I have my wife and son with me.  But with all of that being said, I think I have a hard time agreeing with the government trying to control things in a manner such as Spain.

While I think we all agree that smoking is unhealthy, and lays an undue burden on those that are non-smokers, I’m not sure that the government, any government, stepping in and banning it makes much sense.  If it is found to be such a nuisance and health hazard, shouldn’t it just be made illegal?  If not, then I think there should be slightly better choices made for how to deal with smokers and associated problems.  As one commenter said on the aforementioned article explains, it might be a better idea to impose certain penalties for being a smoker instead of trying to outright ban it.  A reasonable penalty could include something such as higher insurance rates, even when on a group policy; this should be considerably higher, and there should definitely be testing yearly to verify.  What about restaurants, parks, and other public facilities?  I think it should be the choice of those that own the business as to whether or not they allow smoking, and as human beings with an independent brain we should be able to make our own choice as to whether or not we are comfortable in that environment.  This is of course with one caveat: places that allow smoking should be required to post visibly and publicly that they allow smoking.  This would be either on the outside of the facility, or on the sign.  This would save those of us who don’t want to patron a place like that from even having to park and get out to determine if they allow smoking or not.  If their business suffers because of allowing smoking, then they would need to make the conscious decision whether or not to continue to allow smoking in the facility.

Obviously I don’t believe that smoking is a good decision, but nonetheless a decision it still is.  While governments have the responsibility to make sure that the financial burden falls on the correct parties, and that people follow laws, I’m just not sure that I can personally support the idea of taking away a decision from someone on something that is considered legal.  As I said before, if it is truly considered to be as dangerous as we all know it is, outlaw it completely and put it in the same category as any other drug.  Otherwise discourage it, educate on it, place warnings on packages, and penalize for it as a poor health decision, but don’t try to control it if it is still a choice.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…both sides of the coin?

The topic of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) is, needless to say, quite an emotionally charged and strongly opinionated one and has been since its inception.  As it is in the process of being repealed there are multiple articles on news channels, Twitter, and across the Blogosphere.  As someone who served, who is heterosexual (metro-sexual if you ask anyone that knows me, but that’s a whole other story), and who was close friends with plenty of other service members who were homosexual I tend to have my own perspective.

I believe that everyone has the right to believe what they choose, and to live in whatever fashion that they choose.  This includes sexual preference.  One of the things that the United States military defends is that very right, so it would seem nonsensical to expect that people that this right is there to support would not want to defend that right for themselves and others.  It should also be understood that sexual preference does not make you weak, and does not make you any less of a patriot.  Unfortunately, this is in many cases the same type of thought process that abounded when it came to females serving their country.  As we know, history repeats itself.  The biggest question is whether or not we learn from the past and continue to grow, develop, and move forward?

So what is the other side of the coin?  As I think back to my time in the military, I can take a look at the perspective of some of the hesitation, and potentially some of the thought process from an objective viewpoint.  There will always be those people, male and female, who will attempt to use their race, sex, age, religion, etc., et al. to benefit themselves, while asking for equality.  I experienced this as I saw females that voluntarily joined the US Navy and would demand equality while refusing to do the same work simply because they were female (yes, it really does happen), or who truly could not do the job because of physical limitations.  Of course, this was not the case across the board but was certainly evident in a minority of the population on the ship.  I have to believe that this is a potential setback for the thinking about DADT as well.

Another thing that could potentially cause some hesitation for acceptance could be due to the living situation.  I can’t necessarily speak for the Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force but in the Navy you live together in extremely close quarters and for many the thought of having someone of the same sex look at you in a sexual manner could be uncomfortable.  Most people consider their living space an area for decompressing, where they should be able to be (as much as possible) comfortable, especially in a place where you have very little comfortable, personal space.  This isn’t to imply that homosexual members of the service don’t look at heterosexual members now, but for many ignorance is perhaps bliss.  Unfortunately it would seem that there are those that have the misconception that because someone is homosexual they can’t control themselves, their attraction, and sexual urges and therefore will attack someone they find attractive like a wild cat on an injured baby gazelle.  As most of us know, this is no more true than the fact that the average heterosexual male can’t control his sexual attraction in the same manner.

From a purely logical stand point, the only thing that should ultimately change with the repeal of DADT is the open knowledge of sexual preference of those who are comfortable enough to share that information.  In my own experience, those that were comfortable in their sexuality would generally share that with those that they were close with, even with DADT in effect.  For those that are in the proverbial closet, I don’t believe that DADT being removed will necessarily change anything.  This act may make some heterosexual service members uncomfortable if perhaps they are uncomfortable confronting what was already unsaid but known, but if that is the case I’m not sure that DADT is the real issue.