I went to see my sister last weekend and I just wish Bob Dole could have come along with me. She is in a nursing home now under hospice care. She looks like pictures you see of the frail survivors of the concentration camps.
I cannot possibly imagine how she still lives. She is in a state all of us should fervently pray to avoid. Soon her agony will be over.
She is a product of the tobacco companies - the final product. A bit defective, to be sure, because the tobacco companies might have wished she hung around a bit longer, been responsible for another 10 or 15 years of sales, or a few thousand more cartons.
But she did all she could for the corporation. She danced with the Marlboro man until she dropped, enjoyed the springlike taste of Salem. She was Kool before her time, a modern woman in the mold of Virginia Slims. It wouldn’t even surprise me to hear that she had even saddled up ol’ Joe Camel a time or two. She fought rather than switch for so long she wound up fighting for her life.
“Hand me another coffin nail,” I heard her say in jest once. Of course, it isn’t a joke and everybody from me to the guys who sit in the boardroom at R.J. Reynolds knows that it is not. If they say otherwise they are lying or being exceedingly foolish. Pure and simple.
But there was Bob Dole on television saying that, gee, he just isn’t sure if the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive and that, even if it is, well, so what? “Are we going to regulate everybody’s adult life? I mean, adults ought to be free to make choices,” Dole told the television cameras.
Except that, just a few minutes earlier, Dole had complained bitterly that the Clinton administration had so dismantled the national drug policy that marijuana smoking had doubled. Using Dole’s logic, why should we really care, huh? Shouldn’t adults be free to make choices?
To be sure, tobacco is legal and marijuana is not, but if the Indians had only given the explorers a different plant 400 years ago, this situation might be reversed. RJR executives might have been sitting in front of a congressional committee in tie-dyed shirts saying, “Man, pot won’t hurt anybody. We’ve been smokin’ it all our lives and haven’t been hurt one bit. Trust us.” A third of the nation, stoned out of its collective gourd, would raise a fist and say “Right on!”
Somewhere in the background, Dole would be saying that adults ought to be free to make choices, but he really wishes people wouldn’t smoke dope. Then Dole would get indignant because journalists would have the temerity to suggest that the $4.5 million the dope lobby had given the Republicans over a two-year period had convinced him not to speak out against the industry.
My sister made her free adult choice. Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem as glamorous when you look at her wraithlike figure as it does when you listen to Bob Dole. Looking at her, it doesn’t seem to have any kinship to freedom, or state’s rights, or even being a good Republican conservative.
Oddly, from my perspective, it seems more than anything to be like death.