POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Statewide Smoking Ban

by David Trumbull

July 16, 2004

One of these days I have got to go and see a doctor about my cigarette smoking. I am slowly but surely losing the knack.

--Robert Benchley

So I'm lying in bed and, just for the fun of it, reading Sigmund Freud's lectures on psychoanalysis. He says that our dreams are full of symbols--mostly phallic symbols, such as, to use Freud's examples, sticks, umbrellas, poles, trees, balloons, airplanes, Zeppelins...Well, you get the idea.

Poor old Sigmund. The chap built a career on finding sexual meaning behind every seemingly innocent dream image or slip of the tongue. It all has to do with repression, you see. Nowadays we cut out the carbs, avoid salt, limit our alcohol intake, and mind our tongues lest we offend some politically correct minority. Sex is the about the only thing we don't repress. What would Freud make of that?

The scene is Freud's consultation room in Vienna. The year is 2015, the centenary of the lecture I've been reading.

Dr. Freud: Ah, I zee, und vat vas the object you zaw in der dream.

Patient: It was a penis. That's all.

Freud: Ah yes. Under our theory of the interpretation of dreams the penis is a zymbol für die zigarette. The dream means you vant to have a schmoke.

Patient (agitated): You shrinks are all alike, trying to find some hidden nasty or forbidden meaning behind the most innocent of objects.

Well, times do change. Sexual activity which, as recently as 2002 in Massachusetts, was a felony carrying a 20-year prison sentence, is now a constitutional right. Smoking, as of July 5, is banned in nearly all Bay State restaurants and bars, resurrecting a Puritan era 1638 prohibition on smoking in inns or public houses.

And what shall we make of our bipolar electorate who, in 1918, voted for national prohibition of intoxicating liquor, only to turn around in 1920 and pass a ballot question defining beer as a "non-intoxicating" liquor?

Perhaps we should not try to analyze too closely the messy business of democracy. After all, as Freud is supposed to have said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Make mine about ten inches long and thick as a tree-branch. Analyze that!

David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.