I was adopted when I was four days old by two of the smartest, coolest, funniest, did I say smartest?, people on Earth. In almost every way.
I still miss them all the time.
My father died in 1977 at the age of 56. I was 19. My mother died in 1983 at the age of 56. I was 25.
Both of them died of sudden heart attacks. Their doctors said there was no doubt that smoking caused their deaths.
My earliest memories are of waking up to the blended aromas of unfiltered Camels, bacon, Arpège, and coffee with chicory. Funny how those things still make me smile.
We lived in New Orleans, and later Birmingham, in the 1960s and 1970s when the Deep South was still very deep and tradition had a stranglehold on our reality. It was an existence as genteel as it was anachronistic, and today it is hard to imagine that such things as Bull Connor’s firehoses and church bombings and segregated water fountains and the John Birch Society existed in my very own lifetime, let alone my backyard.
But they did. And like that blended aroma, many of those injustices, inequities, and just-plain-wrongs have thankfully blown away over the decades, or at least been relegated to the privacy of people’s own dark minds or homes.
I was raised to be a nice girl — a thoughtful, kind, smart, and conservative lady. For the most part, I’ve done a decent job at that. But this past week, I’m afraid, my parents are rolling over in their untimely graves.
Because this past week I have gone from nice lady to — let me get these words just right — “lilly [sic] white,” “tyrannical,” “un-American,” “omnipotent moral busybody.” I have been vilified and scorned and threatened and accused of single-handedly taking down a segment of my community.
And all because I don’t want to smoke somebody else’s cigarette.
I am not a public figure, a paid city representative, or even a candidate. I am an ordinary citizen exercising her right to free speech and, by the way, doing it on my own blog and on my own Facebook page and through my own email lists, all of which are opt-in. I haven’t even spoken to the press.
And while it’s a little bit scary, it has become quite clear to me what is happening. What I didn’t know before that I know now is that it’s the bullies who are running our so-called democracy. I really didn’t get that before this week. You see, my beef is with the ridiculously small smoking minority of a tiny little island, and yet the vitriol that a few of them have spewed toward me, allegedly on behalf of all of them, is outlandish and, well, I guess predictable given what we know about the behavior of addicts and cornered rats. And it’s no doubt designed to scare me into backing off.
So it’s made me really think about the heroes out there. The people who have taken on the big bullies in a big way. I can’t even fathom the depth of courage and intestinal fortitude of a Karen Silkwood or a Linda Tripp or a Jeffrey Wigand or a Frank Serpico.
I implore thinking and compassionate people everywhere to stand up to the bullies. Change is inevitable. Change for the good requires some effort.
At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed ten thousand men to guard the past. — Maurice Maeterlinck, Nobel laureate