The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

BOTANICAL TYRANNY: All is not as well as it could be here, I’m sorry to say. In a classic case of governmental overreaching, the municipal solons who govern our happy little burg have produced one of the greatest examples of botanical draconianism since someone informed Napper Tandy that the shamrock was by law forbid to grow in Irish ground, as the song goes. Shamrocks are, of course, not included in this particular ordinance; there are still enough Irish and their descendants about so that political officeholders who want to hold on to their jobs, and that includes the vast majority of them, do well not to disturb the Irish and their ethnic sensibilities in this politically correct age, although an ethnic group that at times glories in its gross stereotyping as a loutish mob of riotous drunks can hardly complain that their ethnic sensibilities are offended by anything. But I digress. We are speaking here of weeds, yes weeds, damn it all, which are now, by an act of the city council, forbidden to grow to a height of ten inches anywhere within the city limits of our fair community.

This, of course, brings up the question: what exactly is a weed? A metaphysical question, really, when all is said and done, but one with profound implications, I think. Unless I miss my guess, a weed is a plant regarded by your average human being, and we can go on for hours about just what constitutes this semimythical creature, as both unaesthetic and lacking in utility, an opinion that displays, in all its baleful consequence, the corrupting influence of ancient Greek philosophy, especially Platonic philosophy, upon botany. Why should plants have to justify themselves on terms that no human would, this side of the Nazi Party, dream of applying to other humans? Why should the Kantian dictum that persons are never the means to an end, but always and absolutely an end in themselves by virtue of their humanity not be extended to the humble weed? Because they neither please the eye nor fill the belly, are they, no less than any other of God’s creatures, not entitled to existence?

And then there is the question of practicability; can a group of people, even people who come by their offices by democratic election, simply decide, on their own, that crabgrass cannot grow inside the city limits when its been here a lot longer than you have, buster, and don’t you forget it. The war against the weeds is an ongoing enterprise, from generation unto generation, from the time of Adam and the first lawnmower even unto this day, and will continue ever after. This is the way of the world, folks; the dandelions are here to stay so get used to it.

The ordinance also coerces honest citizens by fining them, on an ever increasing scale, for not joining in this botanical jihad, thereby compelling good citizens to confront their consciences as they mow down the budding and altogether helpless ragweed stalks (Well, ragweed should be an exception to the rule; I have allergies). One of the great evils of totalitarianism as practiced in the late and not terribly lamented 20th century was the way it co-opted ordinary people by letting them indulge their prejudices under the cover of law. Have a noisy or obnoxious neighbor? Can’t find a way of getting rid of them? Have no fear; the answer is as simple as two plus two equals five, and it does equal five if Big Brother says so, comrade. Simply denounce the clod to the secret police as a traitor to the proletariat or the master race, as the case may be, and watch how fast your problem with this person disappears, along, of course, with the person, his family, and his cat as well.

Yes, the evils of totalitarianism are upon us. Now, dedicated squads of fanatical little old ladies will troop over the lawns of our happy little burg with a copy of the ordinance in their handbags next to rulers and tape measures and tissues and bingo cards, carefully measuring any plant that does not meet their subjective standards of beauty and / or utility, prepared to denounce any hapless homeowner with an oversized golden rod growing on his property to the authorities. We are in for bitter times, I think. The plant police will be everywhere then, uprooting our liberties along with the dandelions, a threat to decent citizens throughout the city.

Can anything stop this attack upon our civil liberties? After much thought and soul searching I am now certain that the answer is no, not really. Let’s be honest; no one gives a rat’s ass about the civil rights of poison ivy; I know I don’t, although I should. That’s just the way it is. You can argue that the modern American suburban lawn is as unnatural as a polyurethane palm tree and it will do no good. People want their nice green lawns and that’s all there is to it. So point the Mexican guy mowing your lawn in the general direction of the crabgrass and tell him to have at it, or whatever the equivalent expression in Spanish is. Yet another example of humanity's selfish indifference to other species and their rights.


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