Last month, at a Raeford, N.C., elementary school, a teacher confiscated the lunch of a 5-year-old girl because it didn’t meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines and therefore was deemed nonnutritious. She replaced it with school cafeteria chicken nuggets. The girl’s home-prepared lunch was nutritious; it consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, a banana and apple juice. But whether her lunch was nutritious or not is not the issue. The issue is governmental usurpation of parental authority.
In a number of states, pregnant teenage girls may be given abortions without the notification or the permission of parents. The issue is neither abortion nor whether a pregnant teenager should have an abortion. The issue is this: What gives the government the authority to usurp parental authority?
Part of the problem is that people who act as instruments of government do not pay a personal price for usurping parental authority. The reason is Americans, unlike Americans of yesteryear, have become timid and, as such, come to accept all manner of intrusive governmental acts. Can you imagine what a rugged American, such as one portrayed by John Wayne, would have done to a government tyrant who confiscated his daughter’s lunch or facilitated her abortion without his permission?
I believe that the anti-tobacco movement partially accounts for today’s compliant American. Tobacco zealots started out with “reasonable” demands, such as the surgeon general’s warning on cigarette packs. Then they demanded nonsmoking sections on airplanes. Emboldened by that success, they demanded no smoking at all on airplanes and then airports and then restaurants and then workplaces — all in the name of health. Seeing the compliant nature of smokers, they’ve moved to ban smoking on beaches, in parks and on sidewalks in some cities. Now they’re calling for higher health insurance premiums for smokers. Had the tobacco zealots demanded their full agenda when they started out, they would not have achieved anything.
Using the anti-tobacco crusade as their template and finding Americans so compliant, zealots and would-be tyrants are extending their agenda.
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