The Melon Heads
On TV recently (CBS’s “Judging Amy”) one of the characters, Maxine Grey, a children’s caseworker, declared, “Zero tolerance are the easiest words for a politician to say.” She was trying to deal with a zero tolerance politician, making an ass of himself while running for governor.
Time after time we hear from such melon heads, as they try to rule out any possibility of compromise while dealing with people in trouble with drugs, childcare, affordable housing, and schools.
Recently, a 7-year-old boy was sent home for mentioning the fact that he had two “mothers” who were lesbian. We can’t have anyone mentioning “lesbian” in our schools, not even if one’s mothers actually are lesbian. Zero tolerance.
Now we have Sharon Schuman, who teaches literature at the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College and directs the UO Residential Academy telling us we need “zero tolerance” for “any alcohol consumption at all before driving.” She wrote a long, melancholy, 1,100-word dissertation in our local newspaper, complete with large headlines and a color photo of beer and hard liquor bottles spelling ZERO. She tells us that 17,000 Americans each year die in “alcohol-related” accidents.
As we know, the government’s statistics are a bit flawed in the “alcohol-related accident” department. An “alcohol-related accident” is any accident that involves anyone who has any blood alcohol level at all. You could be stone-cold sober, driving your besotted father-in-law home, and be hit by a driver running a stop sign, who is also stone-cold sober, and that’s an alcohol-related accident.
Yes, accidents do happen. They even happen to people who do drink a bit and then drive home.
Last February, in our fair city, Michael Meek, a truck driver operating a 73,000-pound trailer rig, at 55-plus mph on one of our city freeways, was on his cell phone and reaching for a cassette tape. Even though the traffic was moving well, and not all that fast, either, he barely noticed that he had rear-ended a Honda Civic and rammed a Ford Ranger to start a chain reaction, multiple-car crash, interstate inferno that killed two. True, Meek did jump out of his cab to rescue one motorist from a burning vehicle. As for the accident, he was distracted, even impaired, but he hadn’t been drinking, so no criminal charges were filed. He did get a $300 ticket. If he’d had a glass of beer with his lunch a couple of hours earlier, they’d have thrown the key away. One deputy DA told reporters that without drugs, alcohol, road rage, or speed racing, no jury will convict.