August 14th, 2006


The End of Personal Responsibility.

This from The Providence Journal (Saturday, August 12, 2006):

The town of Milford, Conn., has announced that three beautiful towering hickory trees on a street are being chopped down, because one child in the area is allergic to hickory nuts. The town was driven by fear of litigation spawned by a letter from Una Glennon, a grandmother of the child.

Must we move all children into a sealed, air-conditioned vault so that they won't face anything that might be dangerous? Perhaps all buildings over ten feet high should also be banned — a child might fall out the window. Or all vegetation.

Must the great mass of people suffer just because one person has a problem — and often a lawyer, or one waiting in the wings? Let us hope that the people of Milford in the future demand that their rights be given some attention.

Mr. [Philip] Howard put it eloquently in op-ed he wrote on this idiotic situation for the
New York Times ("A Tree Falls in Connecticut," July 30th):

"Running a society requires the ability to make choices based on an honest assessment of the tradeoffs in each case, often balancing an individual's predicament against the common threats put a thumb on the scale and drive decisions toward the lowest common denominator."

I do urge you to read Mr. Howard's editorial by following the link above, as it contains a good deal more information and is better written than this bit I've quoted from The Providence Journal. I should also note that Howard is a lawyer. It goes without saying that I find this affair sickening. Three mature trees were murdered because one child's parents and guardians were unwilling to take full responsibility for its welfare. I must wonder if Milford supermarkets will now stop carrying peanut putter and dried almonds, since, after all this child will be risking its life by entering nut-tainted markets. Will the child's school now demand that no student may bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, since Glennon's grandchild might conceivably come into contact with such a deadly sandwich? If you think these questions are absurd, read Howard's op-ed for some equally bizarre and real-world examples of the lengths that some cities have already gone to in an effort to avoid frivolous lawsuits and convert the world into a great every-child-safe environment.

Blah Blah Blah

In theory, we have six days of this trip remaining.

There's been nothing to report since the drive up to Gloucester on the 10th. The sun has kept us indoors, which would have been fine, except I've discovered that I was entirely mistaken in my belief that I could write in a make-shift office amid the peace and quiet of rural Rhode Island. Indeed, more and more, it seems I am incapable of writing anywhere but at my own desk, in my office, at home. This experiment is, in that regard, a resounding failure. I've written not one word of fiction since arriving here on July 26th. I know that many other writers do it — write outside that "room of one's own." I know that for a fact. Too bad I'm not one of them. I haven't even gotten around to proofreading The Dry Salvages for the e-version. I have, in the main, been quite frelling useless. And I could ill afford a month without work.

We have tried to watch the Perseid shower, but a very bright waning moon, nocturnal clouds, and a bit of light pollution have combined to make the meteors all but invisible from where we are. We've been out two nights straight and have counted a paltry nine meteors between us. I will admit that #9 was perhaps the most brilliant meteor I've ever seen, but on the whole it's been quite a disappointment.

We'd thought about making it up to Salem and Marblehead today, but neither me nor Spooky were up to the wild Bostonian traffic and the brilliant shining sun.

Right. Enough of the public displays of glumness. More later, inevitably...