William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
I'm confused. And a little bit hurt, in all candor.
I thought government loved me.
I was under the impression that the state, at every level, is there to save me from myself.
That's what I've been led to believe. I mean how else could I have interpreted its coddling all these years?
If I don't wear a seat belt in New York, I am reminded to do so with a $50 ticket for a first offense, and an $85 surcharge. I'm persuaded not to smoke cigarettes with terrifying warning labels and $15 per pack prices, courtesy of federal, state and local taxes.
New York City restaurants are verboten from cooking with delicious trans fats, so precious are my arteries, and my children must be helmeted just to walk outdoors on weekends.
OK, I exaggerate. But their vitamin gummy bears do come with calorie counts.
So why is talk of casino gambling and marijuana legalization the new rage in New York? Can either be construed as somehow good for us?
Let's take cannabis.
I think we can safely say that inhaling smoke down to the toes, any smoke, isn't an ideal activity. A good rule of thumb: If something makes you cough the first time you do it -- tears-down-your-face hack -- it's probably not good for you. If it makes you stare at your thumb for an hour after smoking it, it's definitely not.
A certain percentage of pot smokers become addicted to it and go on to take more dangerous drugs, and the nanny state knows that. I learned that one on my own, spending much of my high school years in a drug rehab when my classmates were planning for proms. If marijuana is legalized, a lot of young people who would never smoke anything illegal will learn it that way, too.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation reported in May that marijuana use among teens is rapidly rising in America, with nearly one in 10 of them now smoking pot at least 20 times per month. Legalization would only increase the numbers.
Cannabis has been shown to help cancer and glaucoma patients, though. They clearly should be able to have it under a loving government. That's a consistent position. No problem there.
But is medical marijuana really the end goal of its advocates, or is full legalization -- as happened at the ballot box this year in Colorado and Washington State? I suspect it's the latter; there's so much money at stake.
Next year, marijuana found during controversial stop-and-frisk procedures in New York City will probably be decriminalized by the New York State Legislature. The message there? Pot may be illegal, but not when we find it on you while we're doing something we're not sure is right. Whatever the rationale, it's another "progressive" step toward legalization.
Full casino gambling is almost certainly coming to New York. But to what good is that? What possible benefit can casinos bring us as individuals? These are businesses rigged to take our hard-earned money. And most of what they take is from problem gamblers whom the state purports to care about.
That's where the hurt feelings come in.
Is it possible that government might actually be more concerned with revenue than with moi?
Call me cynical, but I'm really beginning to suspect that.
Could our elected leaders, after years convincing us that government is the arbiter of good and bad, right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, be exchanging our well-being for the almighty dollar? Are we hapless citizens to become collateral damage in the unholy scramble for new revenue streams, as marijuana becomes legally sold and taxed and casino companies procreate throughout the state?
It will be interesting to see how the messaging from government changes to accommodate that. Will it try to convince us that gambling, pot smoking and they like aren't really dangerous, or will they level with us and say we're actually on our own?
If it's the latter, such legalizations could be worth it. It will return the notion of responsibility where it belongs. With us.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.