As most of you know, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger survived his brush with a windshield after crashing his motorcycle into an oncoming vehicle. As is natural in these situations, we seek to blame someone other than the people responsible, and that low-water point has sought and found Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell, who repealed the helmet law to make it optional to wear them while riding. Twenty states have full helmet laws for all riders, including my home state of New Jersey.
During his appearance on WIP's morning show today, the governor defended his position by saying that bikers expressed their concern thusly (paraphrased): "We're responsible adults - and when we're on a highway or a country road we want to be able to ride without a helmet. During the summer, a helmet is oppressive." He also went on to explain that he wants people to be able to make their own choices, as long as the government makes us aware of the risks involved. That's a worthy argument, if it were not fraught with contradiction.
Let's say, for the sake of this argument, that I am a responsible adult. As such, I would also like to be able to make my own choices, and if I am aware of the risk, I should be able to make a decision about my own behavior, as long as that behavior affects only me.
This includes (but is not limited to) wearing a seat belt in my car. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania require them, and currently we are going through a fund-raising effort sponsored by our state police that they call "Click It Or Ticket", which threatens us with fines if we fail to fasten our seat belt while driving. I use mine, because I think it makes sense, but I do not need the state threatening me with a fine if I choose to risk a skull injury by not clicking it.
Following Rendell's logic, I should be able to engage in a variety of in-house practices, as long as I do not endanger others, up to and including the consumption of illegal drugs, sodomy, gambling and perhaps even on-line poker. Perhaps the governor should adopt a policy of "in the privacy of your own home" and invite all the heathens and their enablers to join the party? Quickly, Pennsylvania would become the most densly populated state in the union. But, it will never happen. Why? Because sodomites and drug users have a weak lobby.
Somehow, the helmet-less riders persuaded the governor to repeal the law. Now, we find that it is not Ben's fault - or even the driver of the car he hit - it is the governor who allowed riders to do as they please. That would be a worthy excuse if the governor exercised the same judgment when it came to other habits and vices, but it doesn't seem to work that way.
Maybe it's just a case of Ben's bad judgment combined with his social status? After all, if it wasn't an accident involving a celebrity, it would be just another schmuck on a bike and not front-page news, and Ed wouldn't have to appear on morning radio to defend himself.