I don’t discuss politics very often. You may have noticed I’ve never written about anything political since beginning this blog. When my friends have political discussions/debates/arguments, I generally sit back and listen. I let my own opinion form in my head and will occasionally throw in my two cents, but I get more gratification from watching other people get all bent out of shape while trying to express their ideas. I also don’t feel that I’m as educated about many topics, nor as up to date on my current events, as many of my peers. Not that I’m completely oblivious to the world around me, but I’m simply not as politically minded as the next guy.

But every once in awhile a conversation comes along where I can’t help but get a little worked up about something. Often it’s a result of my buttons having been pushed just right along the way. But I’d say it’s more often a situation where someone is coming so far out of leftfield, that I can’t imagine how anyone would actually think such a way.

So last night Brad and I are at the bar and we’re having one last drink before heading home. We’re talking with another quasi-regular at the bar, Joe. I like Joe. He’s a bit crazy, some might say, a fast talking New Yorker with a definite confidence about himself, but generally an alright guy in my book. But last night Joe let a few of his opinions out and I couldn’t help but argue back with him. I’ll try my best to recount some of our discussion.

It basically began as we were talking about cigarette smoking and how much less we’d actually smoke if Chicago were to pass the anti-smoking law in bars and restaurants. But then Joe, a guy who sounds like he was born with a cigarette in his mouth, began to explain how by passing a law like that, all Chicago would be doing would be to encourage cheating. He explained that banning cigarettes would be like prohibition. And what would happen is that bars would start setting up secret back rooms that people who wanted to smoke could sneak off to. He believed there would become cigarette speakeasies. He didn’t seem to understand that cigarettes themselves would not become illegal, just smoking them in certain public areas. In other words, if I wanted a cigarette I wouldn’t need to sneak to some hidden back room, I could just step outside. In 1916, if I wanted a drink, I had to sneak into some hidden back room. But his argument was that if you had a choice between two bars, would you choose the bar that had the smoking room, or the one where you had to outside. Which was a legitimate question, but all things being equal, I might pick the smoking bar.

But his argument wasn’t about this. Nor did the fact that if the city did pass this law they would offer bars the opportunity to declare themselves a tavern if they wanted to pay a city tax, thereby allowing them to continue to allow cigarette smoking. No, Joe was too focused on the fact that the government would be trying to make decisions for its citizens. An issue which could have many arguments made for or against it, but one which Joe’s only argument was that it would be prohibition all over again.

But then the conversation turned to cell phones and driving. Not long ago Chicago passed a law banning the use of cell phones by users who were driving without the use of a hands-free device. This is a law I was actually in favor of because I can’t stand getting stuck behind someone who’s holding a phone to their head while driving 20 miles an hour and trying to hold a conversation while at the same time trying to decide which entrance they want to use to pull into the T.J. Maxx. But Joe’s big problem (although I think he ultimately agreed he liked the priciple behind the law) was that this opens a whole new can of worms as far as the ability of the police to be able to arrest an individual for things worse than the cell phone use.

His example was a scenario where Brad would leave the bar that night to drive the two blocks home. He would pull up to the end of the block and would be on his cell phone. A police officer would see this and pull him over. The end result would be that the officer would detect that Brad might have been drinking so he’d ask him to step out of the car where he would begin to administer a field sobriety test. While the test was in progress, the other officer would search the car and find a joint in the ash tray, an illegal handgun in the glove compartment, an eighth of cocaine under the seat, and a kidnapped Portuguese family in the trunk. So what started out as an ordinary cell phone violation could turn into an arrest for driving under the influence, possession of narcotics, and kidnapping topped off with a weapons charge. He found this to be incredibly unfair.

Obviously, my argument was simple (I shouldn’t even type it here): if you’ve got all these illegal items in your car and you’re also driving drunk, what the fuck are you doing putting a cell phone to your ear when you know that’s illegal too. Wouldn’t you try to avoid every possible reason for getting pulled over in that situation. If you get busted for ancillary charges in a situation like that, then you deserve to go to jail.

On top of that, Joe actually believes that the judicial system in this country is backwards. He thinks that individuals charged with a crime should be considered guilty until proven innocent. I was so appalled when he said this that I had a hard time even arguing back on this one. His main case in point was, naturally, O.J. Simpson. He believed that if even one actual murderer were put away because of this system, then it would be worth it. Not to mention the probable hundreds of individuals that would end up serving time for crimes they never were even remotely connected to. Isn’t the fairness of our judicial system one of the great liberties we’re granted in this country?

I don’t know. I’m probably not doing justice to the complete absurdity that was spewing from Joe’s intoxicated brain last night. I don’t know how much of what he was saying was simply drunken blather intended to get a rise out of Brad and me, or if he actually felt this way.

I also highly doubt that he’ll ever see this post, but on the off chance that he does, Joe, lemme know, do you really think these crazy things?

I don’t know that this was necessarily a “political” discussion we were having as much as it was a sort of legal morality issue, but it was hard not to want to get a little worked up over some of this stuff at first. But then once Joe stopped making sense and we recognized what we were dealing with, it became easier to laugh it off.

I still would rather eavedrop on others arguments rather than get involved. But every once in awhile it’s fun to get into the mix.

Just thought I’d share that with all of you.

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