Burt Prelutsky

By this time, I don’t think it will shock anyone if I come right out and admit that I’m not a bleeding heart. When I read about a lava flow or an earthquake taking 500 theoretically innocent lives on the other side of the world, my first reaction is to ask myself if I knew anyone who might be visiting Sumatra or Mongolia. If the answer is no, my second reaction is to get on with my life.

There are, I’m well aware, many nicer, kinder people around -- the sort of folks who immediately organize collection drives, so that blankets, canned goods and medical supplies, can be rushed to the survivors. Quite honestly, that would never even occur to me. In fact, when the giant tsunami hit Indonesia a while back, my initial thought was that, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, God was sending a long overdue message to a part of the world where the child sex trade is a major industry.

I do have a hunch, though, that a lot of the same people who are always ready to provide pajamas and peanut butter to people they don’t know are the same ones who hold candlelight vigils outside prisons when serial killers are being executed. Whenever I see them huddled outside in the cold, looking as if they’re posing for stained glass windows, I always find myself wondering how they treat their spouses and their kids when they pack up their candles and go back home.

All that being said, it should come as no big surprise when I confess that I am not in line to receive awards from the ecological zealots. That’s not to suggest that I wouldn’t offer bounties for the hides of spray-painting vandals (aka taggers, graffiti artists, public nuisances). But I certainly wouldn’t ban cigarette smoking in the great outdoors or even in bars and restaurants if the owners wish to encourage that sort of thing. If you don’t like cigarette smoke getting in your eyes, lungs or clothing, you eat, drink and get a job someplace else. If rolling out the red carpet to smokers is a really lousy idea, the place will go out of business. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in a free society.