For years, in my books and on my radio show I've promoted the concept of "do-it-yourself conservatism" -- making the case that the best way to prevent the inexorable growth of government at every level is to take more individual initiative in solving pressing problems.
For example, instead of waiting for the president to succeed in reforming public schools, take control of your own children's education -- through home schooling or direct, forceful local involvement.
Instead of complaining about the miserable values promoted by mass media, place yourself and the rest of your family on a TV/movie diet, selecting and scheduling the material you consume with much greater consciousness of the messages it sends.
And most significant, rather than expecting Al Gore, the U.N. and the environmental regulators to deliver us from ecological threats, take the lead in greening your own neighborhood. Plant trees, clean up local parks and beautify your environment near at hand before you worry about the caribou at the Arctic National Wild Life Reserve.
One demonstration of a controversial but attention-getting approach on do-it-yourself conservatism involved the public letter I recently sent to the weekly newspaper in our suburban Seattle community.
With a nasty little problem in my immediate vicinity, I'm hoping to use the power of public shaming -- rather than law enforcement -- to address the situation. In a sense, this approach is an experiment -- and I expect to share the results. Here's an excerpted version of the letter:
TO THE EDITOR:
It's not my concern if one of our neighbors indulges the daily habit of chewing tobacco. But it becomes my concern -- in fact, the concern of everyone in town -- when that neighbor thoughtlessly tosses the results of his habit along the main thoroughfare, polluting our parks and streets in a particularly disgusting manner.
For several years, I've made it a point of picking up any trash that I see on my regular walks -- I'm notorious for appearing with a litter bag and "grabber" (highly useful for lifting refuse without touching it). In the last two years, at least, the "South End Chewer" (whoever he is) has become the most conspicuous and obnoxious source of trash in our city. He not only throws aside empty tins of his chewing tobacco (mostly Copenhagen brand, but occasionally Grizzly) but also leaves several water bottles a week in which he has expectorated his black, slimy tobacco juice. Usually these bottles display a taste for designer water -- Evian and other prestigious labels are most common.
The culprit throws his leftovers on both sides of the street, and the major park -- beloved of children and hikers -- is regularly victimized: He apparently views the finest nature reserve in town as his personal rubbish bin.
I'm writing this letter in the hopes that the chewer himself, or his family and friends, will identify the source of this unseemly pollution and do something to stop it. The bottles of tobacco juice and the discarded tins come from a currently unknown source.
My hope is that the solution to this problem will be similarly anonymous -- with people showing their "green" commitment by speaking to anyone they know who regularly chews tobacco. It's not too much to ask that such an individual would begin to put his tobacco tins and saliva bottles into a litter bag in his car as he's driving by or, if he's walking along our main streets (as I do), that he'll deposit them into a receptacle that he'd carry with him for that purpose -- much as dog owners conscientiously clean up a smelly, unsanitary mess after their pets.
Attention to this matter will make the summer more pleasant for all of us.
Sincerely, Michael Medved.
I will report on the results of this attempt at public shaming in the next few weeks.
If nothing else, going public with this sort of concern should help raise awareness about the general problem of littering -- discouraging some of my fellow citizens from spreading their trash and encouraging others to join me in cleaning it up.
The idea that it's the government's job to take care of this, and not a matter of individual responsibility, demonstrates the sort of infantile and twisted thinking that leads to a sense of impotence and powerlessness in every aspect of our lives.