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Thinking about what you read...

Ok, soapbox time kids.

A friend, and someone who I think quite highly of, posted a very negative reaction to this article recently:

No brain our gain, Senate tells bikers

It got me thinking (possibly a bad thing) and I wrote most of following long rant as a comment to her and I posted a version of it to one of the motorcycle communities where everyone seemed to also miss the point. I'm putting it here now and adding some more commentary to clarify what I think about what he's saying:

So, I hope this doesn't get you angrier (and I'm only writing this because I can't quite grok where you're coming from), but the problem I have with going along with the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) in this particular case is that they're actively attacking one person's constitutional right to actively criticize "an extraordinary display of bipartisan nincompoopery" because someone might misinterpret what he's saying.

That's like saying that I'm against gay marriage if I say respond to the "slippery slope" arguement by saying something like "Oh yeah, I can see it now, if you let gay people get married, next thing you know people will be wanting to get married to their turtle AND their toaster oven". Personally, I refuse to start censoring speech or attacking people for their exercise of that free speech simply because some moron somewhere might take the comment seriously. I think that's just as onerous as conservatives trying to take sex education out of schools and pretend that teenagers aren't having sex. Do you honestly think that this article is actually advocating making motorcyclists organ donors?

I think his point is two-fold. A) the powers that be "are cravenly kowtowing to bikers" by repealing the law and B) bikers who insist on not wearing their helmets are volunteering to become organ donors (the first important step of which is to get yourself killed). Sure, someone might come along and say "Hey, that's a great idea, bikers should be forced to be organ donors!" but that's like saying that you're advocating the death penalty for motorcyclists when you refer to some of them as SQUIDS (Stupid QUick and Invariably Dead - a term used to describe people who ride motorcycles, usually on public roads, with little/inadequate regard for their safety or that of the people around them)

To a large extent I find it amazing that people who frequently look at "squids" doing wheelies on the interstate and shake their heads in dismay can't appreciate the concept that people who ride without helmets are quite possibly playing Russian Roulette with an automatic. I know you've read tons about riding so you know just how important it is to wear a helmet at all times. I read the article and it comes across as an exercise in going to the extreme end of the spectrum in order to point out how stupid any point on that spectrum is, and in case you're wondering, that spectrum is: "Adults should not have to be treated like children, everyone should always, willingly wear adequate protection while riding a motorcycle".

I know, I know, lots of people firmly believe that it is your absolute right to kill yourself by doing stupid things, but given that when you are out on a public road and you have an accident you will be using emergency resources, I think it's fair to expect you to use a minimum level of safety equipment. Just like you wouldn't call 911 and send out an ambulance or police somewhere "just for fun", you shouldn't make it any harder than neccessary for other people to clean up your mess if you have an accident. If a helmet or seatbelt will substantially improve your chances of surviving an accident then you should wear that safety equipment when you're on public roads, end of story. I'm not saying that we make people wear safety glasses, back supports, and full five point harnesses when they're driving, but just that one or two basic safety features are not an undue imposition on your ability to enjoy driving or riding.

Some quotes that I think make the point that he's being sarcastic (emphasis added):

The right to die is alive and well in Michigan!

In an extraordinary display of bipartisan nincompoopery, the state Senate struck a blow last week for those who yearn to dash their brains out on Michigan highways.

Not that those who supported the bill are cravenly kowtowing to bikers. In an amendment that explicitly recognizes the increased liability foisted on Michigan hospitals, the Senate also voted to require that every biker carry medical insurance... the majority settled on $10,000, an amount that should more than cover the lifetime medical care most serious closed-head injury victims require -- as long as they don't live through the first night.

In emergency rooms, where seriously injured riders are privately known as donorcyclists, the no-helmet crowd is prized as a rich source of ... organs that remain well preserved long after brain death.

If only lawmakers had thought to add a requirement that all helmet-less cyclists agree to donate their organs. And why not require donorcyclists to sign papers declining extraordinary lifesaving measures...?

Allowing healthy people to dash their brains out on the open road is one thing; after all. Letting a brain-damaged woman die in privacy is quite another.

If our state wants its fair share of the biker market, they argue, it should worry less about the donorcyclists' skulls and more about their wallets.

To me, he's saying "look at the stupid politicians listening to the stupid motorcyclists who don't want to wear helmets" and to be honest, I think it's a well written sarcastic editorial and I applaud him for writing something that makes people think about what they read instead of just telling them what their position on the issue is. Honestly, I think that's the real problem with a lot of people today. They can't be bothered to read something, think about it, process it and then come up with their own opinion, they expect to only read things that spell out what they should believe and then they get confused when that doesn't happen. I think we should encourage people to write intelligent articles instead of attacking people for writing something that someone might misinterpret if they were disinclined to actually think.

So, now, I'm putting this here in my LJ to see if anyone else thinks that it was sarcasm. I'm not naming names and I don't want to attack anyone, but I honestly want to know what people who are a little farther away from the whole helmet vs no-helmet arguement think about it this whole thing.

Oh, and based on the feedback I'm seeing elsewhere, I might suggest dropping him a line if you think that his article was interesting and thought provoking. I think he's getting a lot of hate mail right now and it seems like it would be cool to hear that at least some people got the point.


Well you saw my comment on the original so you already know my basic take on the sarcasm thing. Just a couple more thoughts:

1) It's not like the law mandates no helmets. Safety-conscious riders can still protect their vital organs from pillage.

2) I really really really wish more people in general would be organ donors. It's important. I totally agree that FORCING people to be organ donors is wrong and bad but sometimes when people get all up in arms about it I get annoyed because they are making organ donation sound like a bad thing. If more people registered it wouldn't even OCCURR to anyone to have mandatory registration for ANY group because there would be plenty of organs.
Those are two very good points.
Definitely seems like sarcasm.

Now this is a HUGE generalisation, but I'm told that the general American population do not have a grasp of sarcasm and irony (one reason why British humour may not be widely watched?).
Heh, that is a huge generalization, but from what I've seen (actually living here) it's, sadly, a true generalization.

Mind you, I don't think people in the rest of the world are any less prone to miss sarcasm and irony, it just seems like we go out of our way to miss it and we take ourselves way too seriously when we do it.

A lot of the comments I read seemed to go "Ack! I don't care if he meant it as satire/sarcasm, stupid politicians might take it seriously and it'll be his fault!!!" with a certain hysterical edge as if politicians were gleefully giggling in dark backrooms and plotting how they were going to forcefully seperate riders fromt heir organs.

In recent months I have come to realize that I don't fear stupid/irrational politicians as much as I fear the easily swayed, panicky herds of people who put them in power.

yep. definitely read as sarcasm to me, and a well-written article.

Well, I'm glad you thought so, and you're into riding too so I don't feel like such a pariah now. For a while there it seemed like everyone who liked motorcycles was missing his point/sarcasm and I just can't see how people could really miss it (provided they're actually reading the article and *gasp* exercising a little reading comprehension).
yep. ah well.

i still don't have my license. entirely failed to do it before this last trip. gotta do it before mid-april though, since my MSF certificate might expire.

i'm way behind on lj, so not likely to do many more comments...it sounds like you've had a crazy time of it lately, though. we should catch up sometime soonish. *hug*
I probably need to take a MSF course before I start riding a lot, but at least I still have my license so that helps a lot for insurance (lower rates because I've had it so long) and just buying it etc... Legally I can go out, even if I feel a bit shaky now.

Yeah, we definitely should catch up soon. My semester is coming to a close soon so things will be a lot less hectic (at least until work picks up again)
definitely take the MSF course. it's good.

when does your semester end? mine doesn't finish until mid-may, and i've got a midterm next week. *twitch*

also...Roast? i don't have tickets yet. i need to get them. *more twitch*
Cool. I was starting to get worried there when so many folks didn't think it was sarcasm.

Then again, maybe that's why I don't have all that many friends ;)