Escondido, CA
Mostly clear
Mostly clear

The Puritan ideal lives


The Puritan ideal lives strong in our society. The idea that “I don’t enjoy it, so nobody else can be allowed to enjoy it.” All it takes is for regular folks to lie back and take it for the Puritans to win.

The old joke is that a Puritan is someone “who suspects that somewhere, someone is having a good time.” I think that quip might be extended to anyone who grimaces with fury anytime anyone wants to do something that’s noisy or that they for whatever reason disapprove of.

In my experience usually the people who don’t want others to enjoy themselves end up winning.  In Escondido there’s a robust July 4 fireworks celebration, but up the hill the people of Valley Center don’t have a fireworks show because someone who hated fireworks made a nuisance out of herself at every public meeting she could find and threatened litigation until those in charge threw up their hands and gave up. 

 Now, how many people do you know who hate fireworks? Probably not many, but it only took one sourpuss in Valley Center to put a stop to it. And no one has had the guts to try to bring it back.  That is called the tyranny of the minority. 

Activists have long known that all it takes is a few people who are willing to push things to the limit to overcome the inertia of the great majority who don’t feel like fighting that day, and would rather just shake their heads with disgust and wander off to mind their own business. 

I looked on Google and there are literally (and I mean that not in the way Joe Biden means literally, but actually) hundreds of sayings on the order of Margaret Mead’s famous “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” or T.E. Lawrence’s (and this is one of my favorites): “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” Or even former President Obama’s call for “fundamentally transforming” the U.S.A.

So, I get that there are lots of individuals out there who want to “rock” our world. But what if you or I don’t want to be fundamentally transformed? Or rocked?  What if we sort of like the status quo? Just because we are comfortable does that mean we are required to become uncomfortable?  Change is inevitable, but does change always have to made in a direction that we oppose? By people who haven’t bothered to ask us what we think? And by decision-makers who listen to “influencers” but not the man or woman on the street? 

It seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Most of us prefer to mind our business and hope that we will be left to enjoy our amusements as long as we aren’t hurting anybody. The problem with that attitude is that often “your business” eventually becomes the target of those who have an insatiable itch to tell people what they can and can’t do for fun. The politics of the day makes it inevitable that all things that all men and women do are political. And if something is political, that means somebody wants to influence it. 

They might want to kill a fireworks show. They might, as happened in Del Mar several years ago, want to shut down an interest group they detest. Such as the Crossroads of the West Gunshow that was made homeless by the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

My question is: If you don’t like gunshows, why don’t you just not attend them? Why strike out and try to keep other people from enjoying what you do not? 

Often these professional killjoys will marshal letter writing or telephone campaigns against corporate organizations who, as soon as they get such a letter, will blanch with alarm and look around frantically to see what they can do to placate the letter writer and make him go away. Corporations are cowards, after all. They will do whatever they can to inhabit the place of least resistance. 

The lesson here is this: If you like something be prepared to defend it. Or be prepared to see it gone.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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