Scene — A local bar where patrons are staging a “play” to exploit a loophole in the state smoking ban. An author of the ban, Sen. Kathy Sheran, peers through the window.
Sheran: Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
These peasants dare to mock the law
That would deny their choice to draw
Into their lungs what ere they choose
While they imbibe in devil’s booze.
To end their joy is our pursuit;
A prince, a clown, a doc ought do it.
Enter smoking-ban supporters Sen. Ron Latz, a real prince, and St. Paul Councilman Dave Thune, a real clown.
Thune: Is this a cigarette I see before me,
The butt toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I gave thee up, and yet I crave thee still.
Thy law, fair Prince, thou promised me
Would keep me from temptation;
For I be too weak to mind my own mind.
And so, although they mind, we must the minds
Of peasants mind for them.
Latz: Fie. Indeed, Clown, thou doest well play the fool,
And fools can be most useful
In pursuit of stallin’ liberty.
Thune: Pray, sir, do not pun-ish thy clown with harsh irony.
For ’tis this play on words with which we must be harsh.
We must raze this bar: To make it thus
We must in law punish thusly, and raise the bar.
Our hole is looped. Our law is breached.
Latz: Once more unto the breach dear Clown, once more
We nick away at liberty and wall them up with laws!
In theory, there’s nothing so becomes a man
As happiness and liberty;
But when freedom lays siege to common good,
Then imitate the action of a king.
Thune: Here, Prince. Well spoken thus.
But there are some t’would make a fuss
Were we open in sincerity
To strike against their liberty.
A harder sell will make them buy
We need another, more strong ally.
Enter smoking-ban supporter Dr. Brian Rank, a bleeder of men.
Rank: Have data. Will travel.
Reads the card of this man.
A soldier of science in a savage land.
A Rank opinion I have always at hand.
A bleeder of men, until all is bland.
Thune: Fie! I understandth not
Of what oozes from the bleeder’s lips
Like from the nose, snot.
Latz: ‘Tis science, Clown!
One need not know. One need but accept.
Rank: Secondhand smoke the peasants toke
Is no laughing matter; it is no joke.
In mere seconds it will kill you dead
And therefore is something all should dread.
Thune: But I who lit the weed and put it to my lips
Am still around — the butt of jokes and quips.
I have not been put beneath the ground.
Pray, why am I still around?
Latz: Do not trouble thy mind, Clown.
Did not you say that science finds no home in thee?
Who can there be to question this bleeder’s pedigree?
Enter former candidate for governor and former bar owner Sue Jeffers. She is followed by Mark Benjamin, a lawyer who originated the idea of smoking performances.
Jeffers (to Rank): Of a strange nature is the science you follow:
The quality of your science is quite strain’d.
It droppeth as spittle from your lips
Upon this place beneath: It is twice cursed.
It curseth he that knows and he that seeks the truth.
‘Tis most damned in the mightiest: it serves
Both clown and prince — one the fool;
One with power and might to fool.
And therein lies the threat to liberty:
Truth enslaved to a stately vision
Is an attribute of the Devil himself;
And heavenly visions doth then show like Hell
When politics enslaves science.
Benjamin (to bar patrons in general): Light up, McDuff!
Latz raises his hand and a mob of state inspectors enters the bar and begins inspecting with a vengeance.
Thune (to Jeffers): Regs and laws will make my bones,
Your words will never hurt me.
Clearly, Sue, it’s French fry grease
That lubricates your tongue.
Latz: Call the police.
Enter a platoon of soldiers who hustle away Jeffers, Benjamin, the bar patrons and the bar owner.
Thune: If this piece has you offended
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While this column did appear.
And while you sleep, the Prince and me,
Will put the clamps on liberty.
The bar goes dark.
Craig Westover is a contributing columnist to the St. Paul Pioneer Press Opinion page and a senior policy fellow at the Minnesota Free Market Institute.