Monday, December 06, 2004

My Body is My Own (Isn't it?)

My Body is My Own (Isn't it?)

I wanted to post something early this morning, as part of my new plan for world domination, but I have held off, since my editorial board has been having a difficult time agreeing on a topic. While my editors have had quite a few suggestions, my bullheaded writing staff can not get off this one thing, the single most bothersome thing that we have heard since Friday. The greatest threat to our republic. The most irksome task that our overreaching government is preparing to undertake.

Nothing bothers me more than the increasing intrusiveness of our government, the erosion that is occurring in our constitutional protection. The government itself, the small people who legislate and execute, prosecute and judge, do about what one would expect. They are human beings, after all, and therefore their selfishness and venality, their grasping and subordination to the grasping for power and wealth, are to be expected. Humans all have feet of clay, and very few of us are large enough of soul to rise above our essential ape-ness. No, that is not the problem. My problem today, and every day, really, is the credulous, sheeplike quality We the People exhibit when our governors make ready to take yet another iota of power from us. With our opinion leaders leading the charge over the cliff like Lemmings, we acquiesce to almost all of the inroads into our personal rights that the government attempts. Power is a zero-sum game, and each iota of power that we grant to the government is one we have lost, until we may have precious few freedoms left. We have lost so much already, we can not afford to lose more. Each new instance is seen as such a little thing, yet the addition of them all amounts to a terrible chasm between our constitutionally mandated position on the spectrum of power, and the puny position that we inhabit today.

I am a child of the sixties, and can testify that, by 1969, freedom was breaking out all over. We could say whatever we wanted, live wherever we wanted, and if it pleased a homeowner, he could cut down the tree on his front lawn. But, just then, even as we were at our pinnacle of reclaiming our personal power, the culture of victimhood, and the nanny state, swung into the ascendency. Each little inroad seemed small to most of us at the time, yet the aggregate result has been overwhelming. Hate speech laws. Special treatment for violence, when it was conducted against women. The Supreme Court of the land confirming that a plant in our garden is a threat to interstate commerce, since, after all, one might hurt oneself thereby. The area of government applying the interstate commerce clause alone has been used to remove more of our personal freedom and power over ourselves than two world wars. Almost a century ago, when government sought to impinge upon our freedom, they sought shelter in our constitution, asking for, and receiving, constitutional amandments in order to institute the income tax, or the prohibition against alcohol. But they have become so brazen that they do not seek such authorization when they seek to diminish us any more. Or, when an amendment fails, or seems to be unwinnable, they merely pass a law. We, usually, acquiesce. Then the Supreme Court says Amen.

On Friday, Barry Bonds, perhaps the greatest living baseball player, was revealed to have made some admissions about the use of performance enhancing drugs. On Sunday, Senator John McCain proposed a sweeping new legislative incursion into the regulation of baseball. And no respected commentator, that I have heard so far, has offerred a word in opposition. After all, steroids are bad, aren't they? Violence against women is bad too, isn't it? Hate speech is bad as well - who could argue against that? I suppose that, as the sheep walk calmly into the abbatoir, they can see no harm in merely walking up a ramp.

There are two issues involved here. One is, steroids are bad for you. While there is an argument to be made that it is anabolic steroids that are dangerous, and that the metabolic steroids, which have only recently become available in quantity and at a low price, prescribed and monitored by a physician, might not be, but I will concede the point: Steroids are bad. Next item, children should be protected from themselves in a manner that adults might not be forced to allow. Again, while I could put up a spirited argument in opposition, I will stipulate this point as well. Children should be protected from themselves. Yet, incredibly, these are the pegs that will drive the debate toward federal government intrusion into the administration of a professional sport. I find that stunning.

Take a fully grown man, whose performance in college sports has placed him in a position to make millions of dollars per year in his business. Today, government allows this man to make a decision to undertake some personal risk in order to further his career. His body is his own. It is perfectly legal today for this man to have his doctor administer Human Testosterone of Human Growth Hormone. He will have an enhanced ability to build muscle mass, and an increase in his aggressiveness. Now along comes government, that seeks to insert itself into this doctor-patient relationship. As Big Brother rattles his sword, expect baseball to cringe in fear, and modify its rules to keep the beast at bay. Yet almost no one sees the danger.

There are many who will say that this is an unimportant new government incursion into our rights. They will say, if they are knowledgeable enough, that the government already legislates and regulates the prescription of Methadone, when administered to addicts. (With gruesome results. For more reading on the politics of methadone, read this) But professional athletes are not addicts, nor are they guilty of criminal behavior, necessarily. At the very least what has been proposed is a usurpation of the doctor-patient relationship in a setting totally without a criminal element. As with violence against women, all the acts proposed to be made criminal acts are already illegal. And, we do not yet know what else will be added to the legislation, what incursion into our privacy will be made. If we even have any privacy left. There are those who have already thrown in the towel, who say that all of our privacy is gone. That is what they say about the Patriot Act, and NASPER (see post below, Freedom Hijacked). But that is demonstrably untrue, as, if it were true, there would be no need for this new law. There are those who say that this will become moot, as Baseball will change its rules. But any change will be made in the shadow of this threat from government, which is even more insidious. There is no appeal from a settlement. No judicial oversight, no constitutional test. While I would not expect any protection from the Supremes on this one, they might surprise me. But they will not get the chance thus time, if Baseball caves in to the pressure.

Finally, there are those who will say that good ethics or morals would obviate the need for government to intervene. But that is the very heart of this thing. It used to be that we could use ethics and morals as a guide to our behavior. No more. If you remember the Clinton impeachment debate, you will recall that the legality of his actions were the limits that he placed upon himself, and the impeachers in Congress respected those limits. We have entered an age where the law is the arbiter of behavior. I long for a world where men and women placed limits upon themselves that were far stricter than mere law would mandate. Today we have a world where the student who fails to cheat in school is the exception, and our media have becomed coarsened to anything resembling good taste or modesty. In such a world, it is argued, the law must expand to encompass more of human interaction. And that is truly frightening. And, what with the social conservatives in the ascendancy, it will be getting worse.