Public Interest Advocacy

Alice's Restaurant - Part Two

trashI was helping my 11-year-old with his Social Studies homework. His textbook referred to songs written during the Great Depression and used Woody Guthrie as an example. I tried to explain who he was and figured I would do better by playing an example of Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie, and thereby introduced by son to the classic protest song, Alice’s Restaurant.

When we got home from our drive, to see if he really understood what he was hearing, I asked him to explain the song to his eight-year-old sister. He explained, “Alice’s Restaurant was a song of protest against the Vietnam War. The singer talks about going to be drafted, and getting a physical and how he has to answer the question of whether he has been 'rehabilitated' after having been arrested for littering.”

With complete deadpan my eight-year-old replied, “What’s wrong with that? People should be arrested for littering.”

Now I’m not using this forum to come out in favor of littering, but her innocent (but well-trained) response shows the lengths to which public education and the environmental ethos that controls public education have gone.

Guthrie also didn’t sing in praise of “litterin',” of course. His point was that the immorality of war and the draft was far worse than the immorality of littering.

The current environmental movement, which finds its home today in arguments favoring laws in the name of global warming, places its highest value on an idea of a pristine and human-untouched environment. Human action that affects the environment, including manmade emissions, are “immoral” and should be stopped. Because a program of controlling and restricting human action is a profoundly anti-libertarian program, environmentalism and environmental education subordinate the idea of human freedom to the idea of environmental sanctity.

So while I can have a good-natured chuckle at my eight-year-old’s quip that “people should be arrested for littering,” it’s a little harder to laugh when Al Gore says that “climate change deniers” should “pay a price” for their opinions.

If laws can cause people to “pay a price” for their opinions, then there are no lengths to which the majority cannot go to punish the disfavored views of the minority.

Al Gore’s idea to punish non-believers in his environmental orthodoxy is itself far more offensive than littering.

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