In the year just past, one of the consistent complaints from both left and right concerned the degree to which government — state and federal — is intruding into the lives of ordinary citizens.
However, it takes an exceptional act by an agency of any government to outrage both ends of the political spectrum.
Last November, the Florida Health Department accomplished just that.
In an effort to determine the reproductive service needed by young women around the state, Florida sent out a survey to 4,100 women between the ages of 18 and 24. It asked such pertinent questions as how many different men had they had sex with over the previous year, was the sex protected, and how they felt, emotionally, after having unprotected sex.
I could not help but wonder if “none of your business” was one of the responses.
In the fiasco that followed, liberals and conservatives united to denounce the questionnaire as another example of government treading where it should not trod. Those on the right saw it as yet another example of creeping socialism, while the left wing feared the data collection was part of a fascist plot to identify immoral Floridians and weed them out.
What really caused me to snort milk up my nose was the revelation that as an incentive to get young women to tell about their personal lives, the state of Florida offered a $10 CVS card to everyone who returned the survey.
Why CVS and not Wal-Mart?
Did money pass under the table?
But if you get upset at this sort of poking into private lives, consider Iceland, where a 15-year-old girl is suing to be able to use the name her mother gave her, the name with which she was baptized. The government says she can’t because the name is not one of the 1,853 female names on the Icelandic Personal Names Register.
I wonder if Bubba is on the boys’ list.
Meanwhile, in Russia, officials have declared that beer will henceforth be considered alcohol instead of food. That done, government, as it always does, will step in with another rule. When beer was food, there was no legal age to feed. Now that it is alcohol, what will be the legal age to drink?
See how one thing leads to another?
Back in the States, the Illinois Legislature has banned shark fins, which, if broadly interpreted, could create a problem for Jimmy Buffett concert-goers.
Illinois also made it illegal for sex offenders to hand out Halloween candy or dress up like Santa or the Easter Bunny. ’Bout time.
Returning to Florida, in an act filled with cultural significance, the Legislature repealed a law that had threatened a longstanding tradition of highway courtesy. How many times have you flashed your lights to warn approaching motorists of an upcoming speed trap? Well, in Florida that helpful hint was illegal (I didn’t know it, either) until this year when the representatives of the people voted to repeal it.
And, near the end of the year, news reached me via Facebook and my buddy Jim that confirmed my theory, unsupported by evidence other than anecdotal, that it won’t be long before Wal-Mart takes over everything.
As I am sure you know, it is now possible for citizens of this great republic to drive to Wal-Mart and eat at the Wal-Mart café, shop for groceries at the Wal-Mart grocery, shop for clothes among the Wal-Mart dry goods, get the car serviced at the Wal-Mart auto center, get your eyes checked at the Wal-Mart vision center, make a deposit or pay your bills at the Wal-Mart bank and get your income tax done while you wait — all under one roof.
And now Wal-Mart may be on the verge of adding one more service to the list of what it provides.
Banks County, Ga., is a rural enclave up Interstate 85 from Atlanta. It does not have a hospital, but it does have a Wal-Mart. And in that Wal-Mart, the first Banks County baby of the New Year was born.
This was not the first time Wal-Mart has been a delivery room. A few weeks earlier, a baby was born in a Kansas City Superstore.
I think we have a niche market here.
Therefore, it would not surprise me if I wander into a Wal-Mart one day in the not too-distant future and see, right next to the optometrist, the OB-GYN office, “walk-ins welcomed.”
It is a brave new world out there.
And it may arrive in 2013.
Happy New Year.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.