That Stupid Smoke Alarm!

When my wife and I watched the test-strip turn “pink” on a cold winter evening in January of 2000, we immediately went into full “Expecting our First Child” mode: We bought life insurance, car baby-carriers, kitchen cabinet safety latches, the works.

We even bought new smoke detectors. The old ones were yellowing, and the batteries were all crusted with green corrosion. Not good. But, as non-parent newlyweds, the particular shade of the injection-molded plastic of our smoke detectors was not especially high on the Honey-Do List. That all changed, of course, when wanted to turn our house into Fortress: Baby.

Ah, yes. Those were the halcyon days. Our son is ten years old now, and his little brother is eight, and we scarcely notice when he comes home from school with a goose-egg on his forehead that properly belongs on an excavator tire.  And the only remembrance of those careful-tiny-baby-days are the splintered shards of the safety latches on the cabinets, five albums of photographs, and the smoke alarms.

While the plastic of those once-new smoke alarms has remained fairly white over the intervening ten years, the technology never improved. From the day they were installed, the new smoke alarms never worked as diagrammed: We installed them where the instructions suggested, taking care to note the distance from sleeping quarters, possible sources of ignition, blah, blah, blah. But: just the slightest waft of steam from the shower down the hall, or a vapor of thin smoke from the toaster in the kitchen will set those things off like banshees, screaming hysterically.

We learned pretty early on that all we had to do was slap and wave a kitchen towel around the thing, and it would stop screaming at us.

The only problem, of course, is that we pay absolutely no attention to the stupid things. Other than to annoy the giblets out of us, the smoke alarms do less than nothing: If they go off in the middle of the night, we simply wander over with a towel, wave it around like a semaphore of ridiculousness, and fall back into bed. We’ve stopped paying attention to the point where ignoring the smoke detectors has left us rather defenseless against, well, a real fire.

At the moment the piece of filthy human debris in Tuscon, Arizona was done firing his gun at Congresswoman Giffords, the Leftist Smoke Detectors started screaming hysterically: Hate-filled rhetoric! Talk Radio! Sarah Palin! The Tea Party! Glen Beck! and so on. The reaction was as predictable as sands from an hour-glass. This sort of baseless, libelous, pointless slander has been going on for fifty years. We expect it, like that stupid smoke alarm down the hall.

We are losing the language here; worse than that, we are losing the mere ability to size up devastating events, and accord them the serious analysis they deserve because the smoke alarms are falsely screaming at us, and we can’t think straight above the din. Sarah Palin isn’t the problem in Arizona, and she won’t be if another kook pops up in Bozeman, Montana. The real problem that this is a fallen world, and it is now governed by situational ethics, and the permissiveness of a society that countenances the equal validity of all religious and moral viewpoints.

But, we can’t discuss this rationally because the damned faulty smoke detectors are going off all around us.

Instead of figuring out what we can do as a society to fix the real problems of Tuscon, we go on about the business of trying to carry on a conversation about how to quiet down the smoke detectors, waving towels at them, trying to calm them down, rather than point out that they are broken, and maybe we ought to get some new ones. For in the interim, we are left defenseless against what to do when there might be real political violence, and what it would really mean for us as a society, and what our serious, sober reactions ought to be.

So far, (other than the notable exception of Sarah Palin) the Right has been a rather damp squib in their reaction to the Tuscon Episode. We have nothing to hide from, and we shouldn’t start the conversation with “of course we reject all forms of violence”. It’s like starting a political debate with “I’m sure we can all agree we like oxygen”. Well, duh.

I might suggest that the Right frame this incident for what it is, and not respond AT ALL to the predictable, baseless charges, and instead go after some of the primary culprits: this is what happens when you elect Democrat cartoon characters to law enforcement positions who run around like Colonel Blimp;– and if we don’t get a handle on it soon, we can expect even greater things from the likes of the biggest cartoon-character in a law enforcement position of them all: Eric Holder.

Something tells me that, with this buffoon in office, were in the land of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. And these sorts of political hacks are at the top of our big-city law enforcement administrative apparatus all over the country. Just ask the rank-and-file beat cops what they think of the Democrat sheriff. They will tell you during their more candid moments.

The real problems of crime and punishment, victims and justice are lost under an avalanche of political jabberwocky. And yet the Right engages the conversation, and when we do, we undermine our ability to fix the real, substantive, societal problems.

What do we do as a nation when the smoke alarms are going off, and there really IS a fire?