Arise Ye, Americans!
FAIR warning: Skip this column if you don't like to read things written in blazing anger. What makes me indignant is the way special interests keep inflicting their will on the American people. Example: US health officers have issued warnings about the connection between tobacco and serious illness. Our government has spent millions of dollars on research showing that tobacco can trigger cancer and heart disease.
But the same government, under pressure from the tobacco lobby, provides cash rewards for those who grow the poisonous product.
Worse, the government subsidizes the promotion of the product abroad. It would be different if the connection between tobacco and disease was an open question. But the principal evidence of danger comes from Washington itself.
Congress, of course, is the responsible party. Southern senators and representatives have succeeded in putting the welfare of tobacco growers ahead of the health of the American people - and of people elsewhere in the world who can be persuaded to buy American tobacco.
My wrath, therefore, is directed against the non-Southern members of Congress who supinely go along with tobacco subsidies, whether because of the punitive political power of their Southern colleagues or other reasons.
Since my supply of indignation is profuse, it spills over to the members of Congress who privately abhor handguns but who publicly knuckle under to the gun lobby.
The gun manufacturers and their customers have constructed one of the most potent political forces in our history. And few congressmen are willing to risk being cut down in the next election by the organized handgun lovers.
It is clear, therefore, that only when opponents of handguns show and use the same political muscle will the insanity of gun possession be curbed.
Sarah Brady, whose husband was aide to President Reagan and was shot in the head during the handgun attack on the president, has organized an anti-gun lobby. If enough Americans join her crusade, members of Congress can be given something to think about if their prime concern is staying in office.
While I am fulminating, let me vent my spleen against something happening here in California. Farmers in the state are worried about the dangers of medflies to their crops. Their lobby is strong enough to produce a state order to use the poison malathion in aerial spraying. In one of the most irresponsible official actions undertaken in recent years, the state has been using the poison spray over both agricultural and metropolitan and residential areas.
Recently, a single medfly has been discovered in downtown Los Angeles. The result is an official order to spray a large portion of the city. Despite evidence that the poison is not innocuous, especially for children and older people, the farm lobby has been strong enough to prevail.
The people of Los Angeles are properly incensed over the arrogance of officials who blithely dump poisons on human beings without proof that what is lethal to insects has no effect on humans.
No sensors are built into the malathion molecules that pass over infants and attack only medflies. No matter, apparently. The spirit of Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams rests uneasily over the situation. I can just imagine Adams saying, ``No spraying without representation.'' Or an emblem: ``Don't spray on me.''
During the Vietnam war, the US was accused by the North Vietnamese of using a poisonous chemical on Vietnamese farms. Washington indignantly denied it had turned to chemical warfare. But the evidence was irrefutable and it was finally admitted that we used a poison called ``Agent Orange.'' Thousands of American servicemen were heavily affected by the poison.
It was admitted that the US government had lied about the use of chemical warfare. Unbelievably, the US officials responsible for the deaths and illnesses caused by Agent Orange have not been brought to trial. If you want an outlet for your indignation, here is a good place to direct it.
Increasingly, the evidence is clear that unless enough Americans develop and use their political muscle, they will be victimized by groups advancing their own interests at public expense. The main defense against special interest organizations and lobbies is an equal or greater political force.
I recognize the tobacco farmers and gun manufacturers have the right to advance their cause. What I don't understand is why those being injured by that process don't rise up to defend themselves and advance their own cause. I can't think of any lobby that can stand against the expressed fury of the American people.