There was a time, somewhere in the annals of male gentility, when a man could speak quite frankly and confidently to another man, while enjoying a good cigar and a glass of cognac. There was a concept known as social etiquette. The rules were very simple. Don’t pick your nose in public. Seat the ladies first. Excuse yourself when you use expletives in front of mixed company, and refrain from scratching your balls. Etiquette has changed drastically. The cognac is still acceptable, but smoking is barely legalized behavior. If you haven’t joined the smoke free campaign, you are jeopardizing National health. You can pick your nose any time you please. The ladies will sit down when they please and swearing has become an open market for who can do it best. Ball scratching has become the single, dominant sign that you are a male and not a woman and the most liberated sign you can hope for in this new arena of social politeness.
You need a handbook and a road map to navigate the labyrinth of sensitive awareness, as the rules are mired in a sea of contradictions and double meanings. Although nudity and overt sexuality are advertised and encouraged in the media, if you so much as offer a cup of coffee to an opposite gender employee, it’s sexual harassment. You don’t call people yellow, red or brown, but you may say black or white. Your children are taught that daddy’s weekend fishing trip constitutes cruelty to animals, yet they not only gobble down big Macs from cattle slaughtered on an assembly line, they wear leather, smear their faces with make-up, and eat pastries with eggs taken from hens who have never seen the light of day. These are but a few subtleties in the new social etiquette. As long as you don’t say you’re wearing dead cows and covering your face with animal by-products, it’s alright to champion for fish kindness diets.
Since these rules have been navigated by an apparently very acrobatic collective mentality, another challenge has been given that would tax the limits of any rational thinker. We have, quite willingly, accepted the enterprise of gambling, but just as we have smoke free zones and designated drivers, gambling must be confined to acceptable parameters. There is absolutely no field guide for determining these parameters. You may gamble on line. You may watch International gambling. You may go to casinos, but you must not stage gambling nights within your own home.
While the “no gambling in my state” conviction is very strong, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a weekend off for gambling on an Indian Reservation. Las Vegas, once the scandalous city of vice and mob killings, has been gently painted over as an amusement park so gambling fanatics can bring along their kids. If we must gamble, by all means, let’s make this a family venture.
The family venture includes State sponsored pull tab games and lotteries. Since it all goes to good causes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing your children how constructive gambling can be by attending weekend bingle night at the church or shelling out the last four hundred dollars in your savings account on a chance you’ll win a two hundred dollar ticket and a silver coin. However, placing a few dollars down on a game of cribbage or pinocle is just plain wrong. In the interest of equality, gambling should be a game of chance, not of skill. While the acrobatic minds jump over the analysis of practiced mathematicians who can calculate everything from the law of averages to pull tabs left within the box, it ignores the very basis of entrepreneur skills.
My invenerable grandfather, from whom I received most of life’s little words of wisdom, used to say, “I only bet on a sure thing.” While this kept him from the pitfalls of most gambling addictions, he didn’t mind investing in the real estate market. Sometimes, he was very successful. When an enterprise failed, he shrugged and said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” My poor old Grandfather was recently deprived of his table and chairs, along with seven other senior citizens for placing quarter a hand bets on a cribbage tournament. He was also taken away his cigar for threatening his arteries and lungs, even though he’s ninety-one.
The truth is, America is addicted to gambling. Dressing it to look polite is no different than calling an alcoholic a social drinker. The convenience of defining gambling only as a game of chance, is that poor gamblers can justify their losses in the interest of public good. The inconvenience is, we lose the powers of good judgment. We are no longer able to discern a good bet from a poor investment. We spin the roulette wheel, turn the cranks of the slot machines, place money on the sweepstakes winners, all in the glorious assumption that anyone could win, and that we, within that nihilistic law of averages, could be among them. My bets are, once enough middle class incomes have been dissolved through reckless gambling at casinos, the Native Americans will be blamed for the National debt.