Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Fine Art of Irony

Every once in a while, something appears in the media that is so over-the-top, that it seems it must have been written by a tongue-in-cheek dark humorist. My favorite has been Kurt Vonnegut Jr, who was responsible for such dark insights as: "The only acceptable form of suicide in this society is Pall Malls." And, yes, that is what he smoked, and I am sure contributed to his death in some measure.

But, just a few days ago, I read an astonishing nugget of irony (click on the title above to read the newspaper story). A large group of motocyclists were staging a 'protest' ride, to, of course, protest the mandatory helmet law in New York state. There were about 550 of them, and I would suppose that more than 90 or 95% were riding Harleys...most of them making that lovely--to some--staccato 'potato, potato' noise that they so love, and which is seemingly somehow exempt from noise laws in communities across the country.
So, as this defiant motorcade proceeded through the town of Onondaga NY, a rider, Philip Contos, from Parish NY, had to brake hard...no explanation why, but from experience I will guess that he suddenly saw that he was going faster than the rider in front of him. So, he grabbed a handful of front brake...and his '83 Harley snapped sideways and tossed poor Philip over the handlebars. This could happen to anybody who rides, regardless of how many years they've ridden, and how good they are. But, on this day, poor Philip landed on his head, and suffered a head trauma. He was transported to a local hospital where he was declared dead. The police issued a report stating flatly that had he been wearing a helmet, he would have very likely survived.

Now, I am not making light of this man's death. I am sure that he will be missed and that it is a tragedy on multiple levels. But, the irony in this instance is so humongous, so inestimably VAST...that it should not go un-noticed or ignored.

I have ridden motorcycles since I was in my teens. A rough guesstimate of miles passed under me would be somewhere around 300K. I also live in a state that steadfastly refuses to mandate helmets for motorcyclists.....despite the fact that there is a detailed and undeniable body of proof that helmets do save lives, lessen the severity of injuries and are just a damn good idea. Every time this issue is brought back to the Maine legislature for consideration, all the heavy-metal Harley types turn out in their most troglodific outfits and threaten mayhem if such a law is put on the books. Okay, I get it. It is a choice.

What I don't get is that so many younger riders, just getting started in the sport, follow the macho example of these bare-headed riders and venture forth into the dangerous environment of steel, concrete, asphalt, and sundry unforgiving objects....without a clue that even a seemingly 'gentle' tap on the noggin will render them cabbage-like sacks of flesh. The lucky ones are killed, never know the joys of spending decades being fed from a tube, having a ventilator forcing air into their lungs.

It seems, on balance, one more example of the dumbing of America in its final stages of completion. And, this poor fellow in upstate New York has just become a symbol of how utterly unforgiving and wildly ironic life can be.......especially when you approach it with your brains in the seat of your pants.

After owning 16 motorcycles, riding more than a quarter million miles, I can state with absolute certainty that I would have been killed AT LEAST three times, possibly four, and I might have been paralyzed another two. I still ride..sometimes faster than I should. And, I wear one of the best helmets money can buy.

But, apparently, in America today, we have perfected the idea that Truth is what we want it to be....not what it factually is. And, we put greater store in showing off our defiant machismo, than we do in the value of human life. So, what else is new, right?

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