Hi everybody, welcome to Afterburner – I’m Bill Whittle.
Well, I was in Texas for Thanksgiving this year. I flew in from Los Angeles, and it’s always such a pleasure to visit the United States of America. I was raised there as a boy myself.
First of all, I was the guest of the kind of family that would get you notes on a Hollywood screenplay as being “not believable.” 6’4”, hard-working dad with best natural sense of humor I’ve ever seen, without the usual self-loathing that’s behind so much professional comedy. Bright, happy adorable mom. Kids that write love notes to their parents on their 20th wedding anniversary, studying to become electrical engineers and running a toy pledge drive for the homeless for Christmas – I mean, guys, you gotta green-light this thing. You just can’t make this stuff up. And, being Texas, everyone had their own guns and everyone knew how to use them and everyone took it seriously and had fun at the same time and no one was angry or neurotic and I felt the way I always do when I visit a deeply but quietly religious family: that I had been transported to the kingdom of the elves where everything just works better: where everybody works and everyone does chores and all the bills are paid and they look forward to being together and no one seems to be in great danger of jumping off a bridge or being on anti-depressants or blowing all their money in Reno or making four simultaneous alimony payments or any of the other occupational hazards in the world that I come from.
So that shook me. But here’s what really got me.
I knew we were going to go skeet shooting. I was looking forward to that: I haven’t had a lot of time doing it, and the only thing more satisfying to the male ego than being able to build a good fire is the feeling of pulling a trigger, feeling a thud in your shoulder, and watching a clay pi—I mean, uh, a hunter-orange, environmentally safe, non-toxic, edible, biodegradable pigeon explode in mid air. I would have gotten more of them, but they obviously loaded my shotgun with blanks to get a cheap laugh out of their visiting Yankee city-slicker… which is okay, that’s fine, I don’t have any problem with that.
But we didn’t go to a shooting range. Where did we do it, you might ask? Well, in the back yard. Right down by the river. We just set up the launcher and blasted away. On private property. In a neighborhood. With other houses within view and earshot.
And no one complained. And the police didn’t come. And there wasn’t a city ordinance prohibiting it. And I wasn’t required to sign a release or take a shotgun safety course. And some people chose not to wear ear protection. And the men were not required by law to shoot no more than the women shot. Dogs without leashes were present. I was not required to use OSHA approved safety goggles. Impressionable children were present – who parenthetically out-shot the adults and hogged all of the rounds more properly reserved for visiting internet celebrities form California. Diversity was celebrated, but only in the sense there were Texans who could hit skeet, and those visiting from out-of-state. We did not have to take a quick customer-service survey. My ID was not checked. I was in the immediate presence of second-hand shotgun smoke. And it didn’t cost me anything. Except for my self-respect, obviously.
That night, Thanksgiving night, we went out in to the back yard where there was a pile of cleared brush the size of a Buick, and we lit a bonfire. We used sensible Texan diesel fuel to get it started because Hollywood gasoline just makes a big flash of light and doesn’t actually, you know, start damp wood burning.
So there I stood in the 33 degree Texas evening, and once again, I had the thought that I’d had again and again and again: I can’t believe they let you do that!
Texans, apparently, think you should be allowed to start a bonfire in your own back yard. Presumably, Texans think that if, in the process, you burn your house to the ground then maybe Texas isn’t for you.
Santa Monica, on the other hand, will not allow fires on the beach. I have to tell you, folks, I’ve lived here for a third of my life now, and I don’t think even Californians are stupid enough to know how to set fire to a beach.
No, not here: not where I come from: No fires, no Parking, all animals must be on a leash, no photography, camping not permitted, no lifeguard on duty, penalties will apply, permit required. Gun free zone, noise ordinance enforced. Fly quietly, minimum altitude 1000 feet. No ATV’s, personal watercraft prohibited, wake limit strictly enforced, plastic bags no longer available, tow-away zone. Fishing permit required, environmentally sensitive area, no dogs allowed, se habla espanol.
This is a Fun-Free Zone. Violators will be prosecuted.
You know, I was in Texas back in 2009, and I was killing time in a tiny little train depot. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign posted there for the railway workers, and it almost knocked the wind out of me:
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND THE OBLIGATION TO WORK SAFELY.
Say what, now? I have the right to work safely. Who can argue with that? But the obligation? Are you telling me that in Texas – and, who knows, maybe there are other parts of America that still shock me for being a free country – are you telling me that in Texas, there’s an equal obligation on the part of the worker, or the citizen, to not be a flaming jackass? I can’t believe they let you do that!
Two days after I took that picture – that was four years ago – I was walking into a typical apartment building in Studio City, and because I had been thinking about that railroad sign I noticed something that had been hiding in plain sight the whole time.
Every. Single. Building in Los Angeles has one of these. Every apartment complex, gas station, 7-11, restaurant – every single building. It says,
DETECTABLE AMOUNTS OF CHEMICALS KNOWN TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO CAUSE CANCER AND BIRTH DEFECTS, OR OTHER REPRODUCTIVE HARM ARE OR MAY BE FOUND IN OR AROUND THIS FACILITY, INCLUDING: TOBACCO SMOKE, CHEMICALS FOUND IN CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS, CHEMICALS FOUND IN AUTOMOTIVE FUMES AND EXHAUSTS; CHEMICALS USED TO CLEAN SWIMMING POOLS / SPAS / HOT TUBS; AND CHEMICALS USED IN PESTICIDES FOR WEED AND PEST CONTROL
We Californians, with our vast moral superiority over the low-sloping forehead, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals out there in Texas and the rest of flyover country, have through the Grace of our Enlighten required by law a sign on every single building in the state, saying that if you force 40 gallons of Formula 409 a day into a rabbit for two years, a statistical increase in cancers has been detected.
So now that there are warning signs saying that there is car exhaust present in or around this facility: we simply ignore warning signs. We just filter them out.
They won’t let us do anything here. Who is they? You know. The small-minded, feral, spiritual atrophied bureaucrats who my idol P.J. O’Rourke described as the Student Council weenies who get sexual pleasure out of telling other people what to do. California, once a paradise of freedom, creativity, hare-brained schemes like personal computers and Fun, Fun, Fun has allowed these genetic defectives to run what was once the fifth biggest economy into the ground and do for real what the puny San Andreas fault couldn’t do in it’s wildest dreams: push California into the ocean.
It wouldn’t take but twenty Texans with AR-15s to conquer California. You could even load them with blanks like you did that shotgun you handed me. Just the sight of a black rifle like mine makes most of these people puke in their Priuses.
And I’d like to remind my new, freedom-loving Texas Overlords that as a trusted media personality, I can be useful in rounding up other Californians to serve in their underground fireworks factories.
Whoa, whoa! Hang on! Come back, come back – I forgot something!
All of you California liberals who voted for these job-killing policies and who are now driving East on Interstate-10 to catch up with the jobs that you chased out of the state in the first place?
DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!!