E.B. White reportedly said “the most beautiful sound in America” is “the tinkle of ice at twilight.” In 2015’s twilight, fortify yourself with something 90 proof as you remember this year in which:
We learned that a dismal threshold has been passed. The value of property that police departments seized through civil-asset forfeiture — usually without accusing, let alone convicting, the property owners of a crime — exceeded the value of property stolen by nongovernment burglars. The attorney general of New York, which reaps billions from gambling — casinos, off-track betting, the state lottery — moved to extinguish (competition from) fantasy football because it is gambling. Florida police raided a mahjong game played by four women aged between 87 and 95 because their game’s stakes allegedly exceeded the $10 limit set by state law. A Michigan woman was fingerprinted, had her mug shot taken and was jailed until released on bond because she was late in renewing the $10 license for her dog. New Jersey police arrested a 72-year-old retired teacher, chained his hands and feet to a bench and charged him with illegally carrying a firearm — a 300-year-old flintlock pistol (with no powder, flint or ball) he purchased from an antique dealer.
The University of Georgia said sexual consent must be “voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest.” Imaginative consent? Connecting climate change to sex, the National Bureau of Economic Research warned that hot weather leads to diminished sexual activity. Elsewhere in “settled science,” the government’s dietary rules were revised, somewhat rehabilitating red meat, sodium, eggs and other good stuff. Undaunted, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee produced a 571-page report calling for “bold actions” and “dramatic paradigm shifts” until mother-hen government yet again says, “Well, never mind.” Since federal food police dictated changes in school lunch programs, food tossed in the trash is up 56 percent, salt shakers are being smuggled into schools, and there are black markets in potato chips.
The IRS persecutes conservative advocacy groups but does not prosecute IRS employees who are tax cheats: An audit revealed that over the last decade, the IRS fired only 400 of the 1,580 employees who deliberately violated tax laws, rather than the 100 percent required by law.
New York’s City Council honored the “bravery” of Ethel Rosenberg, the executed traitor who spied for Stalin. Declaring her candidacy, Hillary Clinton said she will fight for, among many others, “truckers who drive for hours.” Yes, hours. Elsewhere, she rejected the presumption of innocence, aka due process: Those alleging sexual assault have “the right to be believed,” which she did not believe when her husband was the accused.
A 9-year-old Florida fourth-grader was threatened with sexual harassment charges if he continued to write love notes telling the apple of his eye that her eyes sparkle “like diamonds.” A Texas 9-year-old was suspended for saying his magic ring could make people disappear. A young girl was sent home with a censorious note from her school because her Wonder Woman lunchbox violated the school ban on depictions of “violent characters.” An Oregon eighth-grader, whose brother served in Iraq, was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that depicted an empty pair of boots representing soldiers killed in action. The school said the shirt was “not appropriate.” A Tennessee boy was threatened with suspension from elementary school because he came to school with a military-style haircut like that of his stepbrother, a soldier. A government arbitrator prevented the firing of a New Jersey elementary school teacher who was late to school 111 times in two years.
A suburban Washington high school promoted self-esteem by naming 117 valedictorians out of a class of 457. Two Edina, Minnesota, elementary schools hired “recess consultants” to minimize “conflict” — children saying “Hey, you’re out!”rather than “Nice try!” The principal of a San Francisco middle school withheld the results of student elections that did not produce properly “diverse” results. When some deep thinkers in academia decided that yoga, like ethnic food, constitutes “cultural appropriation,” a clear thinker wondered whether offended cultures would send back our polio vaccines. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported that 48 of the top 52 liberal arts colleges and universities do not require English majors to take a Shakespeare course.
This list of 2015 ludicrousness could be lengthened indefinitely, but enough already. The common thread is the collapse of judgment in, and the infantilization of society by, government. Happier New Year.
George Will writes on politics, law and social character. Will began writing for The Washington Post in 1974. He is a contributor for Fox News, a Pulitzer Prize recipient for commentary, and is the author of 12 books.