John Harrigan: Wave the flag, but don't forget Big Brother
Hearing aids are expensive — in my case, around $1,850 a crack — and although many carry a year's worth of insurance after purchase, they are not apt to be covered in most homeowners' policies. The one for my right ear was destroyed by a dog (another story there), and its purchase coverage was still in effect. But if I'd lost the other one, it would not have been covered.
This led me to ask my insurance agent, sort of mildly, about guns. I'm not a gun collector, but I do have a passel of guns, each with a story. Get 'em appraised pronto, she said, and adding them to my homeowners' policy will be cheap. People think about this concerning jewelry, furs, priceless antiques, coin and stamp collections and the family silverware, but I'd bet a lot of people don't think about their guns.
This made me think about the Fourth because I've been in parades where participants were shooting muzzleloaders and the like — including me — (no bullets, of course, just powder), and it made me ponder town ordinances. Most towns have laws against discharging firearms within the village precincts. However, I'd bet that most people don't even have a glimmer of what a “precinct” is, and besides, nobody — town officers and peace officers included — cares on the Fourth of July anyway, just as a blind eye somehow magically gets turned concerning vehicle registrations, fireworks and imbibing certain unknown (and sometimes blatantly known) beverages in full view of the public.
This is where freedom and common sense blend into those wonderful gray areas of the law — and where the practicality and marvel of living together in a sort of decency and regard for others also leaves a lot of room, when the occasion demands and permits, for plenty of fun.
So I cannot imagine anyone giving someone a hard time for much of anything involving a parade or the numerous other law-stretching hijinks that go on over and around the Fourth. All but the most hardened and joyless judges would toss most such cases straight out the window.
It bears mentioning here that we live in a state where it's perfectly legal to walk down Main Street wearing a sidearm or carrying a shotgun, although the latter might attract undue attention unless there's a gun shop nearby or it's bird season.
I'm a libertarian bordering on anarchy. I loathe government intrusion in matters of personal choice and so was gladdened by yet another spate of news reports last week about various towns and branches of state governments relaxing, or doing away with, arcane and impossible to enforce fireworks laws. The two tenets of common sense and not endangering others should suffice, although I'm the first to admit that, given the vagaries of the intelligence scale, they sometimes don't.
This brings me to the rest of the list, which consists of things I may or may not voluntarily do — and in some cases highly recommend doing, but don't want anyone else telling me to do.
I wear hunter orange most of the time but take it off and stuff it into my pack if, for one reason or another, I don't want to be seen, even if only momentarily. Anyone who's spent a lot of time in the woods will think of some of these instances. Big Brother has no place there.
Ditto for motorcycle helmets, although back when I was on the daily paper police beat I saw the carnage and there is the inevitable burden-to-society issue. Still, there is that motto on our license plate. The rest of General Stark's statement being, by the way, “Death is not the worst of evils.”
As for life jackets — “personal flotation devices,” in the jargon of the times — I can't stand them and refuse to wear one, although the law (pointed out to me once in his best drill-sergeant fashion by always-a-Marine, veteran Pittsburg conservation officer and longtime friend Carl Carlson) is that you have to have them within reasonable reach in your boat.
So I do, and it makes sense, because I should not make the personal-choice decision for passengers. Besides, I've never sat while paddling a canoe, instead always kneel and life jackets make great kneepads.
Considering all of the above, I just can't wait to see Monday's mail. In the meantime, Happy Fourth, and let's all sing “Happy Birthday for Us,” but keep one eye over a shoulder for the ever-looming figure of Big Brother.
John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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