The City of Mesquite continues to wander unguided around the apocalyptic economic plain, desperately but aimlessly in search of an idea or identity to help resurrect its former greatness and recapture its glory as a growing, vibrant tourist destination and retirement Mecca. Those in and out of power continue seeking the mythical Holy Grail that will magically bring the throngs back to the city.
"We don't have a lot of kids or young people here, but let's build a youth sports complex, because young people LOVE flocking to places where old people live." "We don't have any transmission lines, facilities, or a technically enhanced labor pool, but let's become a player in the alternative energy game." "We don't have a majority of soccer players or fans here, and we don't have any money, but let's use $5 million worth of taxpayer money to buy a used, plastic soccer tent so thousands of those wealthy, cash-heavy, money-spending pre-teens will race to our otherwise empty sports complex."
Since we're continuing to entertain folly, here are a few more ideas for Mesquite to try:
The amphitheater in front of City Hall is rarely used other than for the annual Christmas, er, Holiday Tree lighting ceremony. In its place, let's erect some stocks. You know, those wooden contraptions from the days of the Pilgrims, where citizens' heads and hands are publicly imprisoned and subjected to target practice with rotten vegetables.
Or, still at City Hall, we can deepen the small fountain that rarely gets used anymore because of worries about the political incorrectness of an open spigot in the middle of a desert. Once we finish that municipal project, we can start selling tickets to rigged trials and public drownings. It was a successful means of ensuring the tiny town of Salem, Massachusetts remains forever in the history books, and is still a major tourism draw to this day.
And a collection of local zealots have already designated the perfect iteration of 21st century witches:
There is a new campaign going around town insisting that the answer to all our tourism troubles is to make Mesquite "smoke-free."
That's right, in a remarkably insightful reversal, they claim that the way to get people to come to our town is by telling a large segment of tobacco-using residents and visitors that they're not welcome here.
Apparently, according to these folks (some of whom are good friends of mine), the problem with Mesquite and its casinos is that there are just too many smokers.
I don't mean to be overly dramatic or Glenn Beck-ish here, but I seem to recall a certain European country deciding that all of their economic and cultural woes could be cured with the eradication of one particular kind of citizen back in the 1930's, and if I remember correctly, that didn't turn out so well.
For the record, I am not now nor have I ever been a smoker (just in case some Marlboro McCarthy is out there checking into un-Mesquitian activities). However, my wife is a smoker, and my father was a lifetime smoker, so maybe I'm guilty by association - a smoker-in-law.
I'm sure that my dad's nicotine habit contributed to his death. But the bigger culprit was diabetes. Yet I don't see a lot of these "we're gonna tell you how to live" activists marching around with "Ban Twinkies" or "Secondhand Creme Filling Is A Killer" signs.
I also don't have any patience with people who claim employees at casinos, bars, and (used to be) restaurants shouldn't be subjected to secondhand smoke.
For starters, I believe secondhand smoke is about as real as global warming, vampires, and the heterosexuality of Ryan Seacrest.
But more importantly, we've forgotten an important truth in a capitalistic society: customers don't gather in a place simply to create jobs for employees; employees are hired to serve customers who gather. Customers should be welcomed and served, not discriminated and dictated. There isn't a single waitress, bartender, roulette roller, or blackjack dealer in Nevada who took a job not knowing that some of those customers will be smokers.
Personally, I'm beginning to feel like Martin Niemoller, the guy who coined the famous phrase that includes the line "then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew." I'm not a smoker, but I'm sick and tired of watching smokers being used as political pinatas by an arrogant collective who wants to impose their will on other people who are simply minding their own business and trying to get on with their lives. Smokers have been kicked out of the workplace, kicked out of the sports arenas, kicked out of the restaurants, and basically kicked out of all public places for purchasing and using a legal, highly-taxed substance; a commodity which was essential to this country's founding and early economic success, and continues to fill state and federal coffers with plenty of coin.
But that's not enough for this new crop of zealots. Now they want to run these people completely out of our town, like lepers whose waterfront colony has become too valuable. "Give up smoking or relocate."
Mesquite already has the undeserved national reputation of being a "mean town."
Is this really the message we want to send out to people seeking a good time? That if they smoke, they are a scourge and should avoid our town? That we are such a judgmental collection of people that we would really parse out the smokers and exclude them from our gaming and drinking establishments?
I pray not. I don't think I could live in such a city.
But if this is truly the track that Mesquite wants to follow, at least it gives City Hall one more new event that would be a sure draw for the soon-to-be-erected plastic tent.
All the zealots need to do is round up a few smokers every week and take them to the spectator-filled tent (which would have a sign hanging on the flap that says "Coliseum").
Then, just add lions.