Shaffer: Smokers are people, too

Everybody blames the smokers. One little fire in Branford and the hegemonic, white-lunged majority hurls hatred at a threatened and dwindling, black-lunged minority. The comments on the News’ Web site disturb me. One poster, an anonymous coward, even used the slur “hipster.” That hurt.

Then things got worse. Last week, Julie Kunrath SPH ’11 lashed out in a fumophobic column (“Making our Campus Tobacco Free,” Oct. 28). If she had her way, smokers wouldn’t be welcome at Yale. It’s like when Sarah Palin tried to deport every Muslim after September 11. I suspect the religious right is behind this, too. (Curse you, Bush! Is there no end to your evil?)

Every generation has its own moral panic. Once, leagues of Virtuous Victorian Mothers invented elaborate surveillance techniques and physical contraptions to stop their darling boys’ onanistic transgressions. Today, Virtuous Modern Mothers demand exorbitant taxes and sophisticated propaganda to stop smoking.

Victorians devoted entire industries and genres of literature to the cult of chastity. Today, multi-million dollar lobbies and vast industries promote the cult of health fetishism. “Keep your lungs clean! Buy our healthy product! Aerobic exercise is the way, the truth and the light! Only the toned and soft-skinned shall achieve salvation!”

In New York, my home, the mothers are particularly virtuous, particularly desirous of raising virtuous boys, and particularly adamant in ensuring that the legislature cooperates. So, in high school, we don’t learn American history, or math, or grammar, or other reactionary subjects, but instead do three things: watch anti-smoking videos, make banana-condoms, and celebrate the diversity of our nearly all-white suburbs.

As far as I could tell these were the only requirements for graduating. If you were really good — applying a sex-ready condom in 5.0 seconds flat, and never thinking about considering trying smoking — you got sent to the Ivy League. My friend got so sick of the propaganda he smoked for spite. He got sent to a state school. I, however, kept the faith. Once I saw a man smoking while driving. I told my mother to call the cops. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was thinking. But, boy, did I hate smokers. I got sent to Yale.

Smokers are a marginalized minority here. Literally marginalized. They pepper the edges of courtyards, cast out by intolerant suitemates into the frigid and perilous outdoors, where there is weeping and chattered gnashing of cigarette butts. They’re not allowed in restaurants, and some people won’t hire them.

Let’s fight back. Across campus there are bags of free condoms. If you’re going to copulate, do so safely. Why not add bags of elegant cigarette holders? If you’re going to smoke, at least do it in style!

And how about a smoker’s center or at least a lounge? Everyone just needs a health-fanaticism-and-judgment-free zone in which to assume an elegant posture, hold fire between the fingertips, savor that succulent flavor, watch that blue-gray smoke dance like Salome, and enjoy that hit of nicotine, without fear of medical students, or the beautiful, toned people from magazine covers. We could have a veritable Lethe in which we forget our many troubles, our problem sets, our joblessness and the withering of our youthful vitality. How better to capture that old Yale aesthetic of squandered privilege than a lounge for gratuitously squandered health?

For the record, I’m not a smoker, in case you were wondering. But it’s not like there’s anything wrong with it, so I wouldn’t be ashamed if I were. But I’m not. Just so you know.

I respect the smokers, though. Some of history’s greatest figures were smokers. Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Sherlock Holmes — evidently nicotine helps you solve problem sets and murder mysteries — Sartre, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and our current President, Barack Hussein Obama! If smoking were banned at Yale, none of these people would feel welcome at our esteemed University. They would get headaches after a couple hours.

Why do anti-smoking zealots really want to keep Barack Obama away? I don’t remember them whining about smoking when FDR was President. So is it really about smoking, or is it just that Barack is Hawaiian? Let the reader decide.

Fight fumophobia. I have a dream that my fellow Elis will one day live in a dorm where they will not be judged by the color of their lungs but by the content of their character.

That day isn’t here yet. I blame Sarah Palin.

Matthew Shaffer is a senior in Davenport College.

Comments

  • joeyale

    I hear they pass the pipe at Skull&Bones.
    Thanks for the laugh.

  • ?

    I have absolutely no idea what this column is trying to be about.

  • ’12

    HAHA

  • the ironist

    I can’t wait to see how many people the irony of this piece is completely lost on. I suspect the comments for this piece will be hilariously confused.

  • Huh?

    I’m guessing that this was an attempt at satire or comedy, but that was hard to figure out because it’s so incoherent it almost seems like a poorly-written opinion piece. YDN opinion editor: get your act together and start picking pieces that actually should run in the paper – if it’s satire, make sure it’s well done, and if it’s not, make it about something more interesting that who likes the Yankees!

  • Y11

    Yessssss

  • anon

    smoking is gross and hipsters are grosser

  • ’10

    Like the second poster, I’m not sure what the point was, but this column was the most hilarious thing in the YDN in a long time. Good job, Mr. Shaffer.

  • umm

    parts of it were really funny. “or is it because he’s Hawaiian”… the constant Biblical references reached a point of being kind-of annoyingly inappropriate in context, but funny before they went over the top. nice writing style, yo…

  • Goldie ’08

    As a smoker, I found this to be spot on and found myself nodding along as I read it…

    which is why I’m shocked to see the author is not a smoker. Bravo, for you have truly captured the essence of something of which you know nothing about (no sarcasm – I’m giving a complement).

  • LSA

    But if smoking becomes socially tolerable, then everyone will start doing it! And if everyone starts doing it, then the poor hipsters will have to find SOMETHING ELSE TO DO!

    Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the hipsters?!?

  • MV

    Mr. Shaffer you are one good writer.

  • MC

    Huh? and post #2, perhaps the problem lies not with the author, but with your comprehension of his vocabulary. Pull out a dictionary and try again, I promise its funny.

  • @13

    As a summa cum laude graduate of Yale College with substantial English course background and a deep comprehension of “Lethe” (shall we talk Poe?), I can tell you that the “good” satire was lost on me as well. Mr. Shaffer has written several great pieces this year (the one on the cartoon controversy was particularly well written), but I must say that this is not one of them.

  • point

    if you’re looking for the ‘point’ of this ‘satire,’ then you’re missing the point. it isn’t satirizing a point of view or making a polemical point. this is irony, not satire; observation, not polemic. it humorously takes aim at a number of things without revealing the author’s actual point of view, makes some hilarious observations, has good punch lines.

    agreed that this is one of the funniest thigns in ydn in a long time.

  • #14

    Well then, “point,” you just made my point for me – if this is not a poor attempt at satire, but rather a humor piece with “irony” and “some hilarious observations,” then what the hell is it doing on the op-ed page of a respectable paper? Op-ed pages are for people to express opinions on issues, not perform a mediocre comedy routine. Good satire (you know, the kind with a point) can earn its way onto an op-ed page, but this is not good satire, and, as you say, this is not even satire.

  • Dazed and confused

    The comments here illustrate the problem of satire in an age of insanity… plus the fact that admitting to a sense of humor these days is worse than being a smoker (irony is OK, but irony is just a sad substitute for an authentic point of view).

    Keep it up, Matt. Even when you are not funny, you are at least trying.

  • ? (#2)

    @#13-

    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

    I know what all those words mean, but the sentence still means nothing.

  • @14

    There are a number of terms that come to mind when I attempt to describe you. Unfortunately, the YDN comment profanity filter stops them all. So in lieu of being honest, I’ll simply ask that anytime you find yourself beginning a sentence with “As a summa cum laude graduate of Yale College with substantial English course background and a deep comprehension of Lethe,” you stop and reconsider your value to society.

  • @19

    That comment was written to describe that I felt #13 was being an obnoxious, condescending prick. Seeing as you are probably that individual, here you go.

  • moderate man

    I think there’s one thing we can agree on: the best use of our time, and the best, and the best way to improve the YDN editorial page, is to continue posting snarky insults against people we don’t know using pseudonyms. That will effect an immediate improvement.

  • @14

    You’re just insecure because you majored in a non-rigorous humanities TTT subject.

    Shaffer wasn’t writing satire, my dear…he actually feels this way.

  • lungsy

    I’m a very infrequent smoker but hate still hate the way it’s acceptable for people to call smokers out and tell them they’re going to die…DUH. That’s just rude.

    Satire or not, it’s nice to see someone writing about smoking on campus. Although I really don’t think smokers are as marginalized as some think…they’re out there on Cross Campus, brightening my day with a whiff of nicotine…mmmmmm

  • Forgot one

    Fall of 2005, there was a fire on the Branford side of Vanderbilt. The culprit? idiot threw a cigarette into a trash bin that had a plastic bag on it. Can we make a PSA for smokers about how to properly dispose of their cancer sticks? or at least one for Branford kids? i mean really, it’s not that hard…

  • The Owl Shop

    The author called for a haven for smokers- they have one- The Owl Shop on College St., next to Claire’s. Just walking past that place will give you stage 3 lung cancer,but it’s on campus for the most part, and the place is packed with students and alum alike. They need’t have a spot within Yale too. (also, I’m aware this piece is comedic, I’m just stating a fact…)

  • Meh

    I’m a huge fan of satire, irony, and facetiousness in general, but this piece is tedious, and really only average at best. I don’t think it’s the case that people who don’t find this article hilarious just “aren’t getting it”. Sometimes average writing is just average writing.

  • Smoking Mom

    Bravo to the author, Mr. Shaffer. I just began subscribing to YDN and I was happy to read this article. Boy, with all of these comments here, there are a lot of pompous “Yalies” out there! Some of you kids are too much! The author wrote an article, doesn’t even smoke, felt he had something to say, and everyone is picking it apart. How about reading it just for the sake of reading it. Isn’t that what “articles” are all about? I think it was a great; and I, for one, am going to use Mr. Shaffer’s line the next time someone complains about my smoking: “Don’t judge me by the color of my lungs, but on the content of my character.” Great line! Thanks for the article, Mr. Shaffer, most enjoyable.

  • livestrong

    cancer

  • Tanner

    Please we had these arguments before government’s have restricted smoking in everything but your bathroom. And their going after that, seems all those smoking clatches have increased the 2ndary smoke around them so police will be dispursing you all soon. Sorry but the horse left the barn long ago.

  • Higher standards

    “The author wrote an article, doesn’t even smoke, felt he had something to say, and everyone is picking it apart. How about reading it just for the sake of reading it. Isn’t that what “articles” are all about?”
    I don’t think people are being unduly critical when commenting on this article, or other recent articles by the YDN. It’s not a bad thing to want the YDN to have really high standards for what it prints, and only run the best writing out there, regardless of the genre. I for one would like the YDN to read more like the NYT than my high school newspaper.

  • …hmmm…

    I can see how someone might say that this didn’t really belong on the editorial page because it doesn’t have a single, authentic editorial thrust. But it’s still effing hilarious.

    I LOLed. Hard. A lot. Thanks.

  • The problem

    the people is people aren’t accustomed to hearing themselves, the left, satirized.

    smug upper-middle class east coaster will laugh at tired joke after tired joke about Palin being a creationist, but they don’t know what to do when somebody satirizes their own stupid stereotypesof Palin.

    same smug upper-middle classers will laugh at stale tasteless joke after joke about hysterical religious fundamentalists, but are unable to get it when people point out the ways in which they are exactly like religious fundamentalists.

    this is good satire/irony/commentary… most people just lack the self-knowledge necessary to get it

  • problem

    the problem is people aren’t accustomed to hearing themselves, the left, satirized.

    smug upper-middle class east coaster will laugh at tired joke after tired joke about Palin being a creationist, but they don’t know what to do when somebody satirizes their own stupid stereotypesof Palin.

    same smug upper-middle classers will laugh at stale tasteless joke after joke about hysterical religious fundamentalists, but are unable to get it when people point out the ways in which they are exactly like religious fundamentalists.

    this is good satire/irony/commentary… most people just lack the self-knowledge necessary to get it

  • th eprob

    the people is people aren’t accustomed to hearing themselves, the left, satirized.

    smug upper-middle class east coaster will laugh at tired joke after tired joke about Palin being a creationist, but they don’t know what to do when somebody satirizes their own stupid stereotypesof Palin.

    same smug upper-middle classers will laugh at stale tasteless joke after joke about hysterical religious fundamentalists, but are unable to get it when people point out the ways in which they are exactly like religious fundamentalists.

    this is good satire/irony/commentary… most people just lack the self-knowledge necessary to get it

  • LOLRCOPTER

    LOL!!

    ROFL!

  • Pete

    Cheers to this! I am presently trying to quit for health reasons (asthma), but the fact of the matter is I’ve smoked this far because it is my CHOICE! If someone fancys tobacco and chilly dogs, fine! If someone prefers earthy greens and distilled water, go for it! The point is, we are supposed to be living in a FREE COUNTRY! Even if I am successful quitting, I will glady tolerate someone lighting up next to me at the local park, or wherever. And a word to Yale, maybe they should consider banning Bentlys and BMW’s, they produce much more carbon monoxide than cigarettes!