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Category: Humans

Look! Up in the Sky!
Try to imagine, for a moment, that you are Tippi Hedren. You’re in the sleepy little town of Bodega Bay, where things have suddenly turned ugly on a massive scale. There are birds everywhere, and they seem intent on murdering every human they can get a peck at. You think you have found shelter from the slaughter in a glass phone booth, but the seagulls come at you kamikaze-style, smashing themselves against the glass on every side.

Yes, I agree… this scene will never happen in real life. Ms. Hedren and her perfect blonde bubble would never really be in such danger. Birds have plenty of cause to be mad at us, but I don’t see them massing by the millions for an attack on civilization.

But what if we make a small alteration to the premise? You’re still Tippi, and you’re still cornered in that fishbowl phone booth, but what if it is not birds that are menacing you, but drones. Millions of them, filling the sky and bent on destroying all human life. Are you still feeling confident that this movie could never come true?

No, I do not think drones are out to get us. Unlike the birds, they would not harbor any animus toward humans. It’s worse than that, I’m afraid. Those drones are in the hands of our fellow citizens, God love ‘em. I don’t think they’re out to get us, either, but that’s not what concerns me. When it comes to technology, the greatest danger isn’t intentional wrongdoing. It’s human stupidity.

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe common sense and good government will combine to save us. In this case, it wouldn’t be Rod Taylor rushing in to whisk Tippi out of danger. His hunky role will be filled by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been tasked with the responsibility of protecting us from drone abuse by creating some thoughtful regulations of their use.

Last weekend our heroic agency released some tentative suggestions for such rules for all of us to chew over. Among the highlights:

1. No flights higher than 500 feet above the ground
2. No craft weighing more than 55 pounds
3. No speeds over 100 miles per hour

There is more, but let’s just talk about these three. While I applaud the FAA for trying to strike a balance between safety and fun and commerce, I have to say that they may have come up a bit short on safety.

To illustrate my point, why don’t we get back in the phone booth with Tippi? When we saw her last, the gulls had gone all ISIS on her, smashing that thick glass with their bodies and looking like they would soon overwhelm her. Now imagine what would happen if those living missiles weigh 55 pounds and are traveling at100 mph. Unless she can somehow get that booth 500 feet in the air and do it pronto, there would be nothing left of her for Rod Taylor to save but that fabulously coifed French Roll.

All I’m saying is that I don’t want to live in a world where I have to put on a Kevlar suit to go pick up the mail. I’ll take my chances with the birds; it’s my fellow stupid humans that worry me.
It's Personal
I should note, here at the outset, that I am a bit of a traditionalist. I will also report that I am a person — a traditional, flesh-and-blood human being, that is, not a contractual amalgamated being, fictitious legal entity, or, you know, a corporation.

That said, I was heartened by a recent decision to expand the conventional definition of personhood. Last month, an Argentine court issued a writ of habeas corpus for Sandra, a 29-year-old orangutan held captive in a Buenos Aires zoo. The order declared that the zoo did not have the authority to imprison the ape because 1) she had done nothing wrong, and 2) she qualified as a person under the law.

In spite of my traditional views in such matters, I welcome Sandra to the team. Let her exercise the freedom to worship unfettered by the dictates of the state. Let her engage in political discourse and join in peaceful assembly with other persons and make contributions to her favorite candidates in whatever amount she deems appropriate. Hell, let her vote. She could have no worse effect than the hairless apes currently exercising these rights.

In fact, she might do better. The court cited Sandra’s intelligence, sensitivity, and self-awareness as its reasons for recognizing her personhood. That is just the kind of person we need more of.

Now that I think of it, why not throw open the doors and let every one of our brother and sister species into the club? We’re all citizens of planet Earth, aren’t we? That probably won’t happen, though. Two New York judges have already denied personhood status to Tommy and Kiko the chimps, and other courts seem inclined to give a cold shoulder to the line of porpoises, orcas, and elephants waiting to petition for entry. It seems that Sandra, a gentle little soul who was born into captivity, will be the only non-human candidate eligible to enter our world.

Sadly (for our sake), I don’t think she will be interested in any of it. She will more likely take advantage of her new status by retiring to the Brazilian wildlife sanctuary that is waiting for her. There, she will no doubt take up the quiet, peaceful existence called for by her true nature.

I can only wish that corporate persons were so shy and retiring.
Stay Behind Your Mask
The annual Carnival of Venice begins next week. If you’re going, be prepared for revelers dressed in lavish costumes and wearing masks fashioned of every imaginable material. The party will ebb and flow along the canals all the way until Lent, and three million visitors will celebrate the strange freedom that comes when true identities are kept secret.

There is no doubt, at least, that wearing a mask can make us feel more free. Inhibitions melt away, and we are likely to do things that we would never do with our bare faces hanging out. So it’s great for partying — but is it possible that masks might also have a more profound role in making us free?

I can sense the skepticism rising like a bundt cake in the oven of your mind, but hear me out. What calculations do you make when you see somebody in a mask? Right now in Venice, you’d probably be thinking that he is a partier like you: looking for fun and maybe a little light mischief.

What you would not be thinking about is what color he is or where he came from. That’s because you couldn’t see his face. Or hers. You might not even be able to tell the gender of the masker. If he or she suffers from a deformity or even from something as simple as acne or bed hair, those attributes would not be apparent, either. You would not be tempted, then, to judge the character of this stranger based on such superficial, misleading evidence.

Now, I am not saying that you are a bigot. In fact, you seem to be a very nice person. But you know…other people. Those other people do make such judgments, and the result is less freedom for those judged. That is how prejudice works.

Yes, I am saying what you think I’m saying. If we wore masks all the time our world would become fairer and freer — by banishing human prejudice once and for all. If you are still with me, let me explain how my vision would work. Everyone would wear a mask in public. In the interests of fairness, all the masks would be identical. I think our voices would have to be disguised as well, just to make sure no hints of ethnicity are detectable. Oh, and we’d all have to take numbers for our names. Come to think of it, we’ll probably have to just stay home and send out robots to represent us. Just to be sure no one was discriminated against.

Okay, now that I’ve unpacked my idea and spread it out on the queen-sized bed of further reflection, I see that it may need some work. Maybe eliminating prejudice is going to be harder than I thought. And if it turns out that wearing masks does absolutely nothing to end discrimination, well, at least I tried.

In the meantime, please leave the mask on. At least we can still party.
What Were You Thinking?
What were you thinking? What could have possessed you to run out into traffic like that? If you’re not careful, that kind of foolhardiness can get you killed.

It’s possible, I suppose, that you don’t know any better. You may not have seen the statistics on the number of pedestrians killed last year by automobiles. All I am saying is that it would be better if you looked both ways before you enter the roadway…you know, rather than after?

Listen, I know exactly how you feel. You’re in a hurry; you’re trying to cut corners. Rush, rush, rush. And now, there in the middle of the road, you’re reconsidering your bold dash. Yes, you’ve made an error in judgment. Fine, just head back to the side of the road where you’ll be safe. That’s right.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps there is enough time to reach the other side. Sure, go ahead. You can make it.

Yes, I know what you’re going through. After all, I am going through it with you. In fact, I am directly involved in your dilemma. You turn one way, I twitch with you. Forward, backward, or just sit there, trembling. Right in the middle of my lane. I don’t know what to do either.

B-bump. Damn. Whatever you were thinking (if you do think, that is), it’s gone now.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon