16 January 2006

Leaf Blowing In The People's Republic

In the other day’s fulminations about leaf blowers I forgot to mention how the City of Berkeley dealt with the issue a few years back.

Berkeley, as you will know, is a tale of two cities (and no, you won’t be the first to observe that this sounds like a PC way of saying the place is schizophrenic). On one hand, it’s a kind and gentle town, full of environmentally conscious, caring and sharing people who want nothing more than to live in quiet, considerate harmony with their diverse and multicultural neighbours. On the other, it’s a passionate, rumbustious outpost of freedom and rebellion, committed to the never-ending struggle for justice for all downtrodden and oppressed people of the world.

Not surprisingly, these values occasionally come into conflict. As, for example, when a Berkeley city councilperson proposed banning the pernicious leaf blower on the grounds that the sensitive ears of Berkeley folk shouldn’t have to be subjected to such noxious noises, any more than their sensitive noses should be subjected to such noxious fumes, or their sensitive eyes have to witness the wanton squandering of petroleum in pursuit of suburban-style vanity.

All well and good, you’d think: a law that would surely pass unanimously. Well, not so fast. A rival faction arose, contending that the proposed leaf blower ban was racist, on the grounds that the gardeners employed by many of Berkeley’s champagne and/or sinsemilla socialists were largely illegal immigrants – heavens, what was I saying; I meant, of course, undocumented workers – of the Mexican or Central American persuasion.

Had it been able to find a way around the US Constitution, I’m sure the Council would have solved the problem by making the use of leaf blowers contingent on one’s race, immigration status, and income level. But that not being possible even for the ever-inventive minds of Berkeley’s guiding lights, I believe they fell back on the time-honoured method of passing the law while simultaneously agreeing that it should not be enforced. And as far as I know, it never has been, so presumably both sides are satisfied and continue to live and blow leaves in diverse and multicultural harmony, because that, after all, is the Berkeley way.

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