How many children did YOU kill?
Not exactly your typical bar conversation ice-breaker. But whatever, we were at this year’s BBB & B.”I dunno,” I said. “Maybe four or five, a full half-dozen. I sometimes lose track. How ’bout you?”Facet-iousness is not just a family trait, but an acceptable style of banter in alcohol-consumption environments.”No, man, I am serious,” said my drinking buddy of almost two decades, although it sounded more like, “N’man, m’cirrus.”He had arrived an hour earlier, apparently wasting little time sampling homebrews with those extra large glass thimbles they called cups. He’d brought his own mug, supersized and porcelain constructed.”You’re not, by chance, talking about those maniacal ads claiming that owning an SUV supports terrorism, are you?”I already knew the answer.Unfortunately, my friend, who has a heart of gold but a brain of Velcro, takes almost everything to heart, including manipulative guilt-ridden advertising, guys holding signs on busy street corners in bad weather, and suggestive bumper stickers.I told him to relax and just enjoy the afternoon of sampling Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines, although the latter sounded like mixing a Killians with a merlot. Yuck.”Bu’ I din’ meanda’ kilanbody,” he sobbed in a shout above the crowd, plopping down in a quickly placed chair.”But that IS the point,” I began to explain.A group calling themselves the Detroit Project was simply trying to turn the tables of callous consciousness on the Bush administration’s feeble attempt to link the purchasing of drugs with supporting terrorism. He had not killed anyone. He had just been sucked into a brief spat of mental masturbation by yet another well-meaning group of tree-huggers.”They’re mad because they see President Bush as a war-mongering dolt who cares more about revenge for his dad and his addicted niece than he does the environment. All they’re doing is exercising their right to free speech in a very creative fashion. Of course, it helps to have a few million bucks as backing. But at least they have the decency to do it without violence, up to this point.”I shrugged my shoulders, feigning it really wasn’t a big deal either way.”But, I still don’t understand why they have to say it that way.””Which side?””Either.”He was right. Those who can barely squeeze in to the liberal left of Al Sharpton were using the same heartless tactics as those who lean on the virtuous wall to the righteous right of Trent Lott. Each side is attempting to circumscribe American’s emotional and patriotic feelings into a guilt corral suitable to fit both incarcerating agendas.To their credit, they are actually using the easiest approach: stop the demand and the supply will stop itself.But neither will work.The existing freedoms that make America great are both the scourge AND the saving grace of its inhabitants.The responsibility trunk of being the world’s remaining super power includes years of baggage passed down from generations of overachievers, most of whom were blazing trails of creativity unheard of throughout the rest of the world.From within these freedoms emerged extremely free-willed individuals, stronger in numbers and liberties than had ever been witnessed before, causing breakthroughs and discoveries for mankind on a historic scale.But democracy also breeds competition, meaning some win and some lose, causing weaknesses to develop and dependencies to become inevitable, which is why we will not stop using oil or drugs anytime in the foreseeable future. The wagging tail of decline always follows progress, and the process can take generations to complete the cycle, but at least we’re headed in the right direction. It will take a lot more patience to get there.My buddy with the empathetic heart looked up, his eyes moist, but only slightly swollen. “So, it’s OK to keep driving my car?””Yes,” I said.What I said to myself was a very loud, “DUH!” But I was careful not to further disturb my friend, who was three sheets plus one pillowcase to the wind.”And, I’m really not responsible for killing any little kids?””Of course not. You’re no more responsible for that than you are for the U.N.’s inability to find a smoking gun under Saddam’s pillow over the last two months.””Huh?””Forget it. How ’bout another one of them weird brewskis?””Yeah, you know, they just said on the news the other day that a little bit of alcohol each day is good for your heart.””Yeah, they said the same about bat spit. But for now let’s just stick to beer.”The heart can only take so much in one day.Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at email@example.com