When safety becomes evil

Via The Llama Butchers' link to Michael Graham, I found something so vile, so ominous, that the seemingly innocuous nature of its "good intentions" made my head spin with rage. It shouldn't have, really, because it's just one more of many examples of bureaucracy run amok.

Just a report that in the name of safety, playgrounds are removing swings and teeter-totters, and promulgating a new rule: No running on the playground!

"It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

"Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."


"Nope. That's moving too."

I'm afraid this is too much for me. A simple phrase -- "No running on the playground" -- is making me lose my customary cool which I do try so hard to maintain.


Because this mentality is ruining the country, that's why. And I know it all too well, as I used to make my living (an expression I use advisedly) as a plantiff's personal injury attorney. I did appellate work too, which means that I did my part to help assist this monster that threatens to strangle American freedom and independence in the name of safety. I feel very ashamed of my past. Ashamed that I was one of those lawyers who "makes a living" by making the world a much worse place. (Don't get me started; homeless people contribute more to society than PI lawyers, as they drain less!)

"To say `no running' on the playground seems crazy," said Bartleman, who agreed to be interviewed on a recent outing at Everglades. "But your feelings change when you're in a closed-door meeting with lawyers."

My feelings changed after too much time in the same room with the lawyer that was my self.

The problem is, I can do nothing about it except complain in another blog post which will spend a week on this page, then fade into cyber obscurity.

No running on the playground.

Some things are so safe that they're evil.

MORE: Lawyer haters and other interested readers might enjoy my previous posts on the destruction of swimming holes and the exaggeration of the dangers posed by lead.

Thanks for the comments! (I'm glad I've struck a couple of nerves, for that makes this worthwhile.)

AND MORE: Be sure to read the sickening "zero tolerance" cases Sean Hackbarth cites in his InstaLanched post about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

Please don't misinterpret this as an argument against Roberts because he upheld a child's arrest for eating French Fries on a subway. Judges being mere functionaries, they become somewhat analogous to apparatchiks when freedom is taken away by bad laws, because it really isn't their job to second-guess the legislators. (This is one reason I could never be a judge; imagine having to sentence someone to 25-years-to-life for marijuana under "mandatory sentencing" provisions!)

If a judge refused to go along, he'd never get a shot at a higher court. It stinks. I don't like it. (So I blog.)

posted by Eric on 07.19.05 at 12:38 PM


What do you mean you can't do anything about it? Have you tried any sort of political activity, say, to influence state-legislature elections, or to expose dumb judicial rulings on the matter? I don't have much use for the Libertarian Party, but I think they'd be happy to help here, as they were in DC in relation to some of our dumber drug laws.

Raging Bee   ·  July 19, 2005 1:58 PM

I remember diving-boards at swimming pools, before you rotten bastards killed them off.

I know goddamned well that there are whole generations living in America now who have never even seen a diving-board except on TEEVEE. And they will never know the triumph of finally throwing a full gainer off a two-meter board after hitting the water like a sheet of plywood all summer long. (That was me, at about thirteen.)

I remember America. I'm going to miss it dearly for the rest of my life.


Billy Beck   ·  July 19, 2005 2:38 PM

Layers may foment litigious excess, but judges and juries are ultimately the ones squandering our birthright. Some day our lives will become so restricted by litigation, that the cry of "shame" will no longer fall on deaf ears. Perhaps the lottery dream mentality is really to blame for this.

Elliot Essman   ·  July 19, 2005 3:52 PM

I wonder if there might be a connection between this growing obsession with "safety" and the worsening epidemic of childhood obesity?

Once, at around age ten or so, I fell out of a slide-pole tower and got the wind knocked out of me. It scared the crap out of me at the time, but to my knowledge, there was absolutely no talk of lawyers or lawsuits. My mom took me home and made sympathetic noises until I forgot about it and found another game. I can't think of ANY strenuous or really enjoyable play activity I have ever done that wasn't also at least a little dangerous. I rode bikes, waded in creeks, climbed rocks and trees, swam in the ocean, played in the woods, on residential streets, and in storm-drainage tunnels. And the most enjoyable playground I ever saw had a wood structure with multiple levels, rope-ladders, chain-ladders, slide-poles, ramps, stairs, crawl-holes, etc. And I was one of the "wussier" kids of my generation!

Raging Bee   ·  July 19, 2005 4:01 PM

Raging Bee is correct, there has to be some danger as a child, or what's the point?
But cities are becoming terrified of lawsuits. Sure it was good for the kids when they put them up, but it could destroy the city if one little kid falls and hits his head. Hell, you can be sued for a child drowning in your pool IF YOU DIDN'T EVEN ALLOW HIM IN TO BEGIN WITH!

alchemist   ·  July 19, 2005 4:32 PM

I twice gave myself massive bruises on my side and back (probably greater than a 6x12"), once while attempting a backward somersault into a pool from the ledge (there was no diving board) and slamming into that same ledge (knocked the wind out of me as I plummeted to the pool floor), and once swinging wildly on a chain link swingset, twisting from side to side and climbing in height, only to slam back into the thick steel pole of the frame.

I walked them both off and have had no long-term effects. The bruises hardened and blackened for awhile, but the human body is resilient, particularly the body of a child.

One of my old professors used to say that we start out small so that we don't fall so far, because we're meant to fall and get back up again. That's how we learn.

Dennis   ·  July 19, 2005 4:39 PM

I have had it. Diving boards, swing sets, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds, etc., etc., were ubiquitous when I was a boy. I've heard that in some Politically Correct schools they're abolishing recess altogether -- intolerable and despicable. We need tort reform and to get Political Correctness out of our schools.

We obviously also need more private schools, home schools, and vouchers. And do away with the teachers' unions and public employee unions in general. It's time for another Tea Party.

I'm very glad to see Billy Beck reading and commenting here in Classical Values.

Jaysus on a Pony

I spent the better part of my childhood trying not to itch the ubiquitous scabs I always had on my elbows and knees.

I rode my bike off curbs without a helmet, careened down the sidewalk (home was on a gentle hill) in a metal red wagon (which I always seemed to dump trying to negotiate the corner at the end of the cul-de-sac..hence more scabs), skated (again sans helmet or elbow/knee pads) with metal skates that one tightened on one's shoe with a skate key, continuously climbed the tree in the front yard, played pickup baseball in the street (no helmets, rarely a mitt) ...

Heck... summer was out the door after breakfast and play long and hard until dinner (with a break for lunch).

Today's Government Nannies would have had conniptions.

They allow child molesters to roam neighborhoods at will and lock up children in their homes.


Darleen   ·  July 20, 2005 12:00 AM

I miss no pads tackle football! And racing downhill to some fishing hole on a second hand bike with no hand brakes. The soles of Chucks were worn through from acting as brakes.

Ah, thems was the days.

Dennis   ·  July 20, 2005 7:41 AM


"They allow child molesters to roam neighborhoods at will and lock up children in their homes."

How true.

But they also allow criminals to roam neighborhoods at will -- which keeps ADULTS (increasingly deprived of guns) locked up in their homes.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 20, 2005 8:07 AM

"Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve and will obtain neither."
-Benjamin Franklin

"I miss no pads tackle football."

I've never forgotten the day when my friend Scott Osbourne got his two front teeth knocked out in one of our regular sandlot football games. No gear at all except a football. He'd taken a bashing alright, but Scotty was at least as tough as the rest of us and he was back in action a couple of weeks later.

We played with explosives when I was a kid. When we lived in Hawaii, I could -- at the age of twelve -- buy ten thousand firecrackers at a time. We used to peel 'em for the gunpowder, which we piled up in all kinds of different ways. We shot bottle-rockets at each other.

There was no tree too big for us to hang a rope from for a swing. We got bored of jumping off Bobby Miller's garage roof on a swing from the monkey-pod tree, and Scott Tachera was the first one to jump off the roof of Bobby's house. That was at least twenty-five feet high; the takeoff of a rope swing. Think about that.

Bikes? We were constantly building and modifying bicyles, experimenting with long front forks, endless variations of seat and handlebar geometry, silly shit like drag chutes, even. (My brother Michael was watching a chute instead of where he was going down a hill and went face-first into a mailbox, knocking it right off its post. Marietta, Ga., c. 1966.) We were miniature Kneivels: we'd pile up boards on cinder blocks for ramps and go flyin'. We played ramp games with the rope-swing in Hawaii: setting ramps just at the bottom of the swing and then jumping a bike as close to before or after as we could get to some dope on the swing flying between the ramps at a right angle.

Skateboards: fuggetaboudit, already. These brats today are pampered. Our boards didn't flex at all and they were tiny. Metal wheels. Try that on a long curvy driveway hill with surfaces funning from broken concrete to swatches of smoother asphalt here & there.

Wagons. Down hills. Go-carts from various cratery and boardery; lashed-up rope steering, sundry nuts & bolts banged through two-by-fours, bent nails securing steel rebar axles. Tweak a design; watch it crash or fall apart, cross our fingers against serious injury (like; stop the action, go home and get peroxided and band-aided), sort out the bits and go again.

You know what? I think it might have been cool if personal sport armor had developed its market back then. But here is a fact and an assertion: we made it, and; I'll be damned if I'd have some judy-ass do-gooder come around with a grin and a clipboard, telling me my affairs, even as a kid. I would have relied on my Old Man to put 'em straight.

"Let the children play."

That's because, later, they have work to do.

Billy Beck   ·  July 20, 2005 12:08 PM

The style of it all....!

Brings back fond memories of my boyhood. Summer evenings on the swings in the playground of Monmouth (Oregon!) Elementary School. Climbing the "monkey-bars". Getting in a fight with a girl who held me down on the ground. (Yes, I still love to think about that....) Playing on the beach. I was a sissy when I was a boy, but I used to wrap garter snakes around my arm. We found those snakes in the field out back where we played. A big neighbor kid used to throw me around because I was such a pest, and I enjoyed it and always came back for more. When we weren't doing that, we were reading his comic books.

The style of it all....!

I collected snakes in high school.

I'd probably go to jail for that collection, now.

Billy Beck   ·  July 20, 2005 2:17 PM

But not a "pressed lizard collection" a la Terry Pratchett? :)

B. Durbin   ·  July 20, 2005 2:47 PM

Must be snake day around here. I have no idea how many snakes I've owned, but it was a lot (including venomous snakes I collected in the Congo; I guess the statute of limitations has run by now).

Some snakes are still legal to own -- in some states. But everything that isn't illegal soon will be.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 20, 2005 4:10 PM

My point about collecting goes to how environmentalism is outlawing humans. Used to be: a kid could wander the countryside and collect wild specimens without a goddamned greenie-SWAT team horsing-up in SUV's with automatic weapons and infra-red satellite imagery. It's not about owning snakes, Eric. It's about authoritatively and directly acting in nature without the sanction of the state. I collected wild specimens of rat snakes and king snakes, for instance, that cannot legally be touched now.

Billy Beck   ·  July 20, 2005 5:52 PM

Billy, I'm with you. I was born in 1954, and my dad was born in 1909 and grew up on an Indian reservation. The "environment" used to be nature, not government.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 20, 2005 8:10 PM

As my grandfather (b. 1900) used to say, "Then, you know."

Anonymous   ·  July 20, 2005 9:22 PM

Let me add my aging voice in fruitless protest against the obsession of my poor country with HEALTH AND SAFETY. I'm afraid some day we'll all just implode from this kind of righteousness.

EssEmm   ·  July 20, 2005 11:27 PM

This is the day of Nietzsche's "Last Man".

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