This is the first installment of a new feature on DavidMasciotra.com. Once every couple of weeks, I will post the content of an email I receive from an angry reader and write a brief response. Enjoy a look at the friendly correspondences I receive as part of my profession and trade.
Angry Reader #1 (In reply to “…Nanny State Attack on Freedom, Personal Choice”)
Your awkward use of the term “socially inept” is what caught my eye. Are those who dislike people huddling around the entrances of public buildings puffing on smokes the socially inept? Are those who find it discomforting and bothersome to watch people who can’t eat a meal, have a drink, take a break, drive a car, or do anything for that matter, without lighting up a cigarette? Are they socially inept because they don’t want their clothing smelling like smoke, because they find the littering of butts filthy, or because they don’t accept the compulsive, addictive habit of smoking as socially acceptable?
Most importantly, you are talking about a school, an institution of higher learning (even if it is just Ball State). And as such, schools have an additional responsibility to those who attend. Schools have an additional responsibility to care for the health an well-being of those students who attend.
Freedom and independence are not the only values of a college education. Structure, discipline, responsibility, thoughtfulness, creativity, learning how to learn, health, hygiene, respect, etiquette, and many other qualities are just as important. Learning good skills and habits, making good choices should be encouraged.
College is a transitional time. It is not a free for all. It should provide a balance between a structured environment, and the freedom to make one’s own decisions.
Those who teach should be held to a higher standard, too. Just because class is over, doesn’t mean Professor Masciotra needs to rush out of the building to light up that ever relaxing cigarette, or pour that much needed glass of scotch.
Dear Angry Reader,
The term “socially inept” came in a juxtaposition with the term “politically correct.” It was a tongue-in-cheek remark castigating the politically correct for their uptightness, lack of humor, and love for phony outrage that makes them socially irksome. The joke isn’t hilarious, but it is clear enough to anyone but the comically inept.
You might want to reorient the priorities of your life. Stop spending so much time watching smokers, especially if the sight of them lighting up infuriates you. The next time you see someone smoking, just look away. It really isn’t necessary for you to stop what you are doing and stare in silence, while your blood pressure rises and head begins to ache. Do yourself a favor and leave smokers alone. That’s one of the privileges of living in a free society. You can stay away from people engaging in behavior that bothers you. Similarly, why are you allowing the compulsions of strangers to upset you? If you’re only worry involves the addictions of people you hardly know, I envy you.
If my phrase “socially inept” caught your eye, then you gave yourself away with the phrase, “even if it is just Ball State.” I’m not sure if you received an Ivy League education or you just like to pretend as if you received one, but the next time you write an angry letter to a columnist who condemns the arrogance of “enlightened” elite, try not to expose your own snobbery. I have enough respect for students and employees at higher educational institutions – even ones like Ball State, and God forbid, junior colleges – to believe they should have the right to make their own decisions. When you insult an entire college, especially one that claims John R. Seffrin, the CEO of the American Cancer Society, Jeffrey D. Feltman – former ambassador to Lebanon, and David Letterman as graduates – you position yourself in the argument with the subtle tyrants who believe they are smarter than most people and can, therefore, impose their lifestyle choices on the masses.
The rest of your rhetoric is vague and bizarre. Sure, colleges should encourage their students to make good choices, but at what cost? You do realize that those students – all of whom are legally adults – are paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend classes. It would be more productive for the institutions of higher learning – even Ball State – to focus on providing the best and most cost efficient education possible for students, rather than policing the legal behavior of its students and employees. Brady Hoke – head coach of football at the University of Michigan, John Schattner – founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, and Jim Davis – the cartoonist creator of Garfield, all seem unharmed by the presence of smokers at their alma mater, which by the way, is Ball State University.
I don’t drink scotch. I drink bourbon.