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Our golden age of craziness

April 18, 2001

Ah, America, a never-ending carnival.In Washington, D.C., police pounced on a l2-year-old girl and led her off in handcuffs for eating a french fry on the Metro. In California, the city of Glendale fought a nine-month legal battle to force a gas station owner to take down his display of American flags.
At a play in New York City, a sign in the lobby warned theatergoers to brace themselves for two shocks: the show “contains scenes of explicit violence and cigarette smoking.” Murder and torture, maybe, but smoking? Have they no decency? How explicit was the smoking scene going to be? Critic Robert Brustein wrote, “What’s next? Printed cautions about the non-organic candy at the refreshment counter?”

The french-fry felon, Ansche Hedgepeth, was caught in a weeklong crackdown by undercover Metro cops. After cuffing her, the police pulled the laces out of her tennis shoes, possibly to prevent her from hanging herself out of shame and guilt for what she had done. She was frisked, hauled down to a police station for two hours, interrogated, fingerprinted and booked. Like other food criminals (Jeffrey Dahmer, Hannibal Lecter), she seems to think that her crime wasn’t very serious. But Metro police are more savvy. “We really do believe in zero tolerance,” said the police chief. Apparently so.

In the flag case, Jordanian immigrant Kelly Khoury had been flying 20 American flags at his gas station. Glendale ordered him to take down 17 of them. Khoury fought back and won. A gracious winner, he voluntarily reduced his display of flags to 13 — one for each original colony. “I don’t want to rub it in the face of the city,” he explained.

At Princeton University, the zany pro-infanticide Australian ethicist Peter Singer was in the news again, this time for sympathizing with people who approve of sex between humans and animals. The taboo on bestiality, he wrote in a book review, may have originated as part of the broader rejection of non-reproductive sex. But that rejection has nearly been swept away. Singer, the primary founder of animal liberation, thinks there is no important distinction bewteen humans and animals, so approval for human-animal sex has always been implied in his work. His review includes a detailed discussion of chickens that many readers will be eager to skip.

Memo to Princeton: When hiring a specialist in ethics, can’t you do better than this?

Runner-up in the category of worst prose about animals came in a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The group wrote to the warden of the Indiana penitentiary where Timothy McVeigh awaits execution, asking that the final meals of the Oklahoma City bomber be vegetarian. “Mr. McVeigh should not be allowed to take even one more life,” the letter said. “Feeding inmates bean burritos rather than baby-back ribs might just break the cycle of violence. … Non-violence begins in the kitchen.” The belief that eating meat causes anger and violence is a standard notion on the cultural left. (On the other hand, Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian.)

Identity politics on the college campuses have reached their logical conclusion: separate graduation ceremonies for each identity group. Homosexuals hold their own graduations at 18 or more colleges. At the University of California at Los Angeles, the Lavender Graduation will be on June 16. Each new grad will wear a rainbow tassel. The commencement speaker hasn’t been picked yet, but in the past, Ellen DeGeneres’ mother spoke.

The Raza graduation for Latinos will be at 7 p.m. June 17, just after the separate graduations for Filipinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, African-Americans and Iranians. American Indians, who after all were here earlier than other groups, graduate earlier too, on June 15.Possibly to deflect criticism that the university is foolishly collaborating in the balkanization of the student body, administrators officially refer to these events as “celebrations.” But they function as graduations, and that’s what students call them.

Finally, we have entered the golden age of free zones. Many stadiums have alcohol-free zones, or small areas where obnoxious drunks are not supposed to bother you. A public library of Gaithersburg, Md., has a no-noise zone or quiet room, possibly indicating that the rest of the library is now a noise zone. We have violence-free, sex-free and even ferret-free zones. Two cities in new Zealand declared themselves GE-free — no genetically engineered foods.

The entire Unitarian Universalist Association is a nuclear-free zone, and you simply cannot bring a nuclear bomb into Arcata, Calif., which is a nuclear weapons-free zone. Many cities have named themselves hate-free zones. Montana is a hate-free state, and Montanans are urged to declare themselves individual hate-free zones.

Like some other campuses, New Mexico State University has a few free-speech zones for demonstrations and leafleting. Some brazen students have been attempting to speak freely outside these designated areas. This is a very good sign, since so many campuses seem to be turning into huge First Amendment-free zones. Now if they just could be convinced to become PC-free zones instead.

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