A Leap of Faith and Freedom

The news was full of artful evasions about “violent extremism,” a judicial order against the president’s executive order on illegal immigration, Bruce Jenner’s sexual transformation and automotive misadventures, and similarly weighty matters, but our eye was caught by the story about people jumping out of windows in Boston. It’s not a mass outbreak of suicide attempts, although we can easily imagine how a Boston winter might cause one, but rather a rash of thrill-seekers diving from two- or three-story dwellings into the gigantic snowbanks that have piled up over an especially snowy season. There have been no injuries or fatalities as a result of the pastime, so far as we can glean from the press reports, but the Mayor of Boston nonetheless felt to obliged to tell his constituents to “stop their nonsense right now.”
Which struck us as precisely the sort of bossiness that is bullying America into an increasingly risk-averse, compliant, and joyless state. The days have long passed since we would be tempted to defenestrate ourselves into even the fluffiest pile of snow, or have any more interaction with the stuff than is strictly necessary, but it’s not the sort of nonsense that a mayor should demand free citizens stop right now. If you’re young enough, and bored enough, and don’t mind being enveloped in frozen water, it might even be fun.
It could prove dangerous to jump from a second story window onto a sports utility vehicle or other hard object that is covered by just enough snow to make it look like a fluffy snowbank, and we don’t doubt that there are people in Boston dumb enough to do that, judging by the students and faculty at the city’s most elite universities, but that’s no reason not to jump into a snowbank of confirmed fluffiness. If the mayor is going to demand a stop to all the specific sorts of nonsense people are doing in his city that might prove injurious to those who are dumb enough, his press conferences are going to stretch long into the night.
Popular culture has always depicted parochial small-town Republican conservatives as the blue-nosed scolds telling those crazy youngsters with their rock ‘n’ roll dancing and free love and leaps from second story windows to “stop their nonsense right now,” but the stereotype is long out of date. Boston is about as big city and sophisticated as America gets, there hasn’t been a Republican mayor there since 1930, the last conservatives in the city were the ones who threw the eponymous “tea party” prior to the Revolutionary War. and yet it retains the traditional “banned in Boston” impulse that small town folk still chuckle about as they jump from barn lofts onto haystacks and ride sleds tethered to pick-up trucks and do backflips on motorcycles and all manner of redneck bravado. The impulse to tame such rural exuberance is not to unique to Boston, though, but typical of urban and sophisticated America.
Bans on public smoking and children playing in parks unattended and anyone riding a bicycle without a helmet are not a product of parochial small-town Republican conservatism. Nor are the consent forms that college students are being asked to sign before coupling and the speech codes being promulgated to make sure that no one is offended by anything anyone else might say, or any of the rest of the on-going effort to keep everyone safe and un-offended and not a cost to the socialized health system, no matter how dumb they might be. The small towns still have salt shakers on the table at the local diner, unlike the elegant eateries in New York City, and you can fill as a big a bucket of soda as you care to drink at the convenience store, and we daresay there’s a wider range of opinions that you can express as well.
So we are delighted to hear of Bostonians leaping from tall windows, a welcome sign that a bit of that risk-taking rebellious small town spirit still exists so far northeast as Boston. We wish them a pleasant journey on their way down, hope that they land safely in cushioning snow rather than injuriously onto a sports utility vehicle, and urge that they ignore their bossy old scold of a mayor.

— Bud Norman