Has enough time passed now for you to have stopped laughing at Sen. Thom Tillis' first memorable contribution to the national discourse last week? You know, the one where he suggested it wouldn't be a big deal if we eliminated the regulation in which restaurants are required to post a note in the bathroom telling their employees they had to wash their hands before returning to preparing the establishment's food?
Yeah, it was a good one. But maybe we can now pay attention to the seriousness of that incident, which perfectly encompasses the biggest, most dramatic, fundamental difference in political philosophies that define our political parties and movements today.
The problem revolves around the conservative philosophy and the Republican Party's platform that we'd all be better off with fewer of the Old World's stodgy rules and regulations and more good old American flag-waving individualized "freedom." As far as conservatives are concerned, the last two Congresses were roaring successes. They passed the fewest laws in our country's history.
Of course, that means the list of things that didn't get done grew so high no one could begin to count them. So many didn't even reach the proposal status because their proponents knew they were dead on arrival. Can you imagine what could have been in those bills with new regulations that might have done us a lot of good?
Which leads me to the current measles outbreak: There were 102 cases across 14 states, many due to an outbreak at Disneyland, in January alone. Exemption rules (including medical, religious and philosophical) for vaccinations vary from state to state. Some parents are actually choosing not to vaccinate their children, despite the fact that a study linking vaccines to autism was discredited long ago.
It's as nuts as some of my supposedly educated, intelligent friends who think the attack on the Twin Towers was "an inside job" done by the U.S. government, or that HIV was introduced into African-American neighborhoods by the government "to keep them in their place."
Conservatives, of course, have chimed in. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested parents should have a choice as to whether or not to immunize their kids. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — way more of a quack then most people realize yet — mumbled something about parents owning their kids and calling it "an issue of freedom."
Maybe if politicians cared a little more about regulations, this highly contagious disease, which was all but eliminated from this country, wouldn't be in headlines today.
Tillis' joke about handwashing was just dumb. He suggested we eliminate the existing burdensome regulation, and then suggested adding one to replace it: Restaurants would be responsible for telling us they don't require their employees to wash their hands. Supposedly, if we all knew the food we were eating was prepared by less-than-sterile hands, we'd stop going there, and that good old answer to everything — the free-market system — would fix any problem.
It all comes down to this: I don't know anyone who, at some point in his or her life, didn't want to be left alone to make his or her own decisions. But that's about as childish an attitude as I can imagine, if not potentially the most dangerous.
Ironically, it's pretty close to how I feel about the younger generation these days who call themselves anarchists (which basically means there shouldn't be any government because all adults would eventually do the right thing) and the immature attitude of the "Don't Tread On Me" conservatives. Everyone wants their own way, all the time, and no one wants to be told what to do — especially if it hurts a little bit or spoils some fun.
And that's why what Tillis said isn't funny, and why the right-wingers who spout off about how we'll be better off with fewer regulations are, to be blunt, dangerous.
The next time you hear one of them start up with this crap, tell them you're tired of that rule about not driving your car through the intersection when the light is red, doggone it. Then ask them to explain again just how it is that some regulations are OK because they're in agreement with them, and the rest aren't.
And, by the way, who chooses? I'd love to hear that answer.