"John Edwards Vows to End All Bad Things by 2011."
That headline ran last week in The Onion, the online institution that is to newspapers what The Daily Show is to CNN. The ensuing article quoted Edwards as follows: "Racism will soon be a thing of the past. Same goes for being picked last for playground athletics, AIDS, robbery, not having enough spending money, and murder. Because these things are bad and not good, I promise they will be eliminated."
As with most things that are truly funny, the parody slices perilously close to the real McCoy. Politicians are always promising to end bad things. Here in Memphis, for example, the County Commission and the City Council are considering ordinances that will further regulate strip clubs, massage parlors, escort services, adult bookstores, and adult movie houses. Turns out, we've got sex, right here in River City.
One element of the proposals would ban the sale of alcohol at strip clubs, the idea being, apparently, that nekkid ladies aren't nearly as interesting to look at if you're sober.
Yeah, that'll work. Ever heard of BYOB?
I'm sure all of this is well-intentioned, but it's really pointless. Memphis is not now and never will be Salt Lake City. Our roots run funky and hot. Sex and alcohol and gambling are part of our civic fiber, just like blues and barbecue. These latest attempts to "regulate" vice will only force these businesses underground temporarily, until the next wave of politicians looking for an easy target arises.
And pushing them into the shadows won't stop anyone from patronizing them. It will just make them harder to regulate. Prostitution isn't called the "world's oldest profession" for nothing. Wouldn't it be easier to just create zoning categories for these enterprises, so they can operate away from churches and residential neighborhoods? That way, cops could focus on crimes against God-fearin' people, instead of those heathen pervs who frequent titty bars.
But, alas, hope springs eternal among certain of our leaders that we can end all bad things if we just pass enough laws. After all, the laws against murder and carjacking and burglary ended those bad things. Didn't they?
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...