I knew she meant the cigar, but I pretended not to hear.
“What you’re doing is wrong,” she repeated.
“Oh, it’s not so bad,” I said. I was sitting on a raised planter on a street corner in San Francisco, the home of Tolerance.
“Smoking is bad for you!”
“You gotta die of something, lady. And this isn’t a bad way to go.” Cars streamed by, dumping their noxious fumes into the air. I thought of this because I was going to tell her that my cigar was comparatively harmless and that if she knew what was good for her, she would never go outside.
But she said, “Well you can choose to die of something else.”
And then I said, “But I enjoy it.” She looked startled. Some internal war played across her face. I puffed. She said, “Well.” I said, “You have a nice day.” She walked on.
I had hit upon, quite by accident, The Argument, the one method of persuasion that has no counter, that works like garlic on vampires. If you enjoy it, it must be good. Not just as in it feels good, but that it is morally good because it feels good.
The only possible rebuttal to a modern is that which you are doing does not feel good to them. This, incidentally, is what led these intrepid moralists to invent “second-” and “third-hand smoking” and to weep about how they suffer from it.
Since I am a gentleman, I was resisted telling the old lady to mind her own business. It’s not as if I were walking up to strangers and puffing into their faces, baiting them. You better say you like smoking or I’m going to call you a bigot.
The Mind-Your-Own-Business used to play strong. You did what you wanted, I did what I wanted, and with the usual provisos and within well known boundaries, as long we both kept to ourselves, we could still get along. We could even be friends.
But this idea is now dead. To modern moralists, everything is their business. And nothing makes them happier than telling people what to do.
Disagreement is not and cannot be tolerated. Disagreement makes the modern moralist feel bad about himself, and there is no worse sin than making somebody feel bad. If a person disagrees with a modern moralist, the only explanation the modern moralist can imagine is that this person is full of hate, that he is a raving bigot, or that he is insane.
For instance, Supreme (the word now has to be used ironically) Court Judge Anthony Kennedy famously wove into the fabric of American law that the only possible reason a person could have against so-called same-sex marriage was animus. What about millennia of tradition, natural law, commonsense, logic, biology, science, religion? No. It must be hate. And hate is intolerable.
Earlier this week we talked about Laverne Cox, a man pretending to be a woman, part of a growing brigade of such people. Most of us really don’t care what Cox does. All we want is to be left in peace. But there is no live and let live anymore. No leave me alone and we’ll leave you alone. No: for the modern moralist, it is all or nothing. You must not only enter into Cox’s deception, but you must approve of it.
Kevin Williamson didn’t. He wrote a syndicated column saying what we said: Cox is a man, despite his fancy dress and lipstick. Reaction was interesting.
The bulk of the moralists pretended outrage. They calumniated Williams, as was their duty, but these people would do the same were Cox to pretend he was a duck “trapped” in a man’s body, as long as that was what they thought they ought to be for. Don’t scoff. All that’s needed is some quack to invent a theory which catches the imagination and soon people will be walking around in feather suits daring you to laugh.
A few people were genuinely incensed. They believed Cox was a “woman”, and were damned if they would let anybody publicly disagree. Williams must be punished, these people said. He must be fired. Williams was “full of hate” and a “transphobe.”
Remember that Colorado bakery who refused to bake a cake for a homosexual couple? So-called same-sex marriage is illegal in Colorado, incidentally. No matter. The government said the man must still bake the cake in spite of his religious beliefs. And that he must undergo “sensitivity training”, which is the current euphemism for Reeducation Camp.
There is only one correct belief and all shall be forced under duress to state it. This is what is known as Freedom and Tolerance and Love.
Update Haters going to hate.