April 15, 2008

Summary of My Discontent: A cry for secession

The time has come for Louisville to secede from Kentucky. The two have been at philosophical odds ever since our forefathers chose Frankfort as the state’s bucolic capital in 1792, ensuring a salt-of-the-earth-if-mildly-retarded state-worker pool forevermore. Because Louisville is a vibrant, progressive city (not counting Dan Seum) in a dirt-poor, third-world state*, it’s only natural that our tax dollars whisk to Frankfort each year, while only a small percentage hobble back in the form of evolution-agnostic textbooks and posh dormitories for college athletes.Sure, it’s awesome knowing our tax dollars are going to help coax the worms out of some Appalachian kid’s toenails because his people can’t provide shoes. It’s the same sort of glow that comes from writing a check to the Red Cross for Darfur. Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but I don’t mind buying school lunches for children in Monkey’s Unibrow because I think it’s important to give them something to look forward to besides listening to their daddys’ Bocephus records while making out with their siblings.But at some point, Kentucky has got to stop holding Louisville back. It’s fine for our country cousins to smoke their Luckies and shoot their tater cannons and snort their Oxy and recite the Ten Commandments off a tombstone in the town square while hating gays, but why do I have to pay the emergency-room tab with my tax money? Louisville wants to be a progressive city; Kentucky wants to be a regressive state. Why don’t we both own up to it and part company amicably? The refusal of the 2008 General Assembly to raise the cigarette tax was the last straw. The commonwealth is perpetually desperate for roads, education, healthcare and social services, while leading the nation in smoking and smoking-related illnesses. One in four pregnant women smoke. Forty percent of our poorest citizens smoke. The state incurs $1.5 billion each year in smoking-related healthcare costs. By raising the cigarette tax, Kentucky could’ve generated desperately needed revenue while simultaneously improving health. There is a classic ethical quiz put to philosophy students called The Cave Dilemma. The story goes like this: You and four others are exploring a cave when water begins to rise. The first person to flee the cave is a morbidly obese Kentuckian who gets stuck in the mouth of the cave, trapping everyone inside, where they will surely perish from the rising water and/or his Taco-Bell flatulence. Being a Kentuckian yourself, you discover a stick of dynamite in your back pocket. Do you blast the corpulent bastard out of the cave, which would kill him and set the others free? Or do you leave him to survive and let the rest drown?The Cave Dilemma presents ethics students with two bad options: Kill one person or let five die. When philosophers discuss the dilemma they say there are no wrong answers. But there is a wrong answer, and Kentucky senators found it. In refusing to raise the cigarette tax, the General Assembly chose to both kill the fat guy stuck in the cave and everyone inside. Is that the kind of state you want to live in?Unfortunately, the system is stacked against us. Rural lawmakers — both Republican and Demopublican — don’t just work against our city’s interests, they gleefully urinate in any Louisville-flavored Cheerios they can find, then celebrate on lobbyist money at Thunder and Derby parties. And they have us woefully outnumbered.So it’s time to secede. We could bolt for Indiana, but that wouldn’t help: same hicks, different accent. Instead, imagine:Louisville, the city-state. OK, so modern city-states don’t have a great track record. Vatican City and Singapore are living in the same century as rural Kentucky. And Washington, D.C. attracts miscreants like Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell. But it could be a perfect solution for pulling Louisville into the future without dragging the bulky deadweight of Kentucky along. Imagine a Louisville without Kentucky. We’d have the arts, the economic engine, the educated workforce and the talented homosexuals without all that pesky redneckery. And imagine a Kentucky without Louisville. They could handle their rattlesnakes and teach their little bullies creationism and root for their Wallcats on their topless mountains without having to fight off hippies and atheists. See? Win-win. Maybe we could even swap Fairdale for Bernheim Forest … * Not counting the equine, coal, tobacco, liquor, banking, energy, fast-food, automobile and marijuana millionaires. Contact the writer at jimwelp@gmail.com