Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Gene Hackman, Sep/Oct 00
I was ecstatic to read your comments regarding the private lives of potential leaders of this country. I have long advocated exactly the same stand you made in your comments. It's too bad the "Powers that Be" will never come to our view as long as we have the best Congress money can buy. After your thoughts, I was carried to even higher levels of political ecstasy when I read the words of the Honorable Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota. Why, after years of my believing this and having the support of many of my peers, is there no groundswell of support for honest, capable, but imperfect candidates? I doubt if many of the critics or journalists who wave the flag of pot or sex would be willing to submit their own lives to such scrutiny.
William A. (Bill) Muller III
I can't help but comment on your editor's note in the August 2000 issue. While I agree with many of your points, I think your definition of "youthful indiscretions, or errors in judgment that are the fabric of the human experience" misses the mark. In fact, some of these indiscretions or errors in judgment are quite telling about an individual's honesty and integrity. Anyone who would purposely violate state and federal laws by using narcotics should be viewed as untrustworthy. Anyone who would stand before God and pledge an oath of fidelity to his or her spouse and then turn around and cheat is capable of anything. Who wouldn't they lie to? We must never forget that respect is earned, not bestowed. If someone does make a mistake, repents and asks for forgiveness, they have taken the first step to regaining their integrity.
However, it can take years to regain the same level of trust or respect that they chose to risk. Nearly everything in life is a personal choice, and it is our actions and how we face our "youthful indiscretions and errors in judgment" that develop us into the people we are today. While I certainly don't consider myself "perfectly ethical" or someone who has "never strayed from absolute righteousness," I have learned from my mistakes. I have also learned that there are some choices that can lead to utter self-destruction. I choose to avoid these. Thank you for your thought-provoking articles and furthering my enjoyment of smoking delicious cigars, a risk I choose to accept.
Editor's response: You make our point again. What has happened in this country is that potentially effective leaders who have learned from their youthful mistakes and are not repeating them as adults fear stepping into the political arena because of vicious personal attacks about their past that might come their way.
On the one hand I, too, pine for the day when people of merit and character once again feel secure enough to run for political office. And I agree, in spirit, in a wholehearted fashion to your editorial. I would, however, offer the following: Has it not occurred to anyone yet as to why people with courage and quality do not run for political office much anymore? It would appear that the country is finally waking up to the painful reality that empty suits in the Congress and White House are making policy and laws. It goes well beyond the scrutiny of politicos by the media and points directly to the deep pockets of political pundits hell-bent to undermine their enemies.
Specifically, the radical right and Christian Coalition have done more to destroy our nation with soft money and clandestine politics, all designed to ruin the Democratic Party and its candidates. Need proof? All one must do is look back over the past eight to 10 years of Rush Limbaugh and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and company laughing up their sleeves as America burns. Say what you will about Clinton's lying under oath, but it was a direct result of digging up enough dirt on a man's private affairs to catch him in a lie. It is absolute gospel that no president (or any other politician for that matter) has been subject to the level of mean-spirited, conniving and ruthless scrutiny as President Clinton has. Bar none. It was shameful how Newt manipulated the cameras at Clinton's State of the Union address culminating with Gingrich grinning directly into the camera like a school boy on time-out.
It was equally reprehensible how Limbaugh, Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy turned an entire nation of voters into completely jaded cynics. It was unbelievable how the GOP got into bed with the Christian Coalition and Jerry Falwell's Silent Majority and shamelessly misrepresented the truth, over and again, on radio, Trinity Broadcasting, 700 Club and in video via the Clinton Chronicles, all in the name of God. Personal attacks, questioning his religious mettle, ridicule of Hillary and Chelsea--those are not family values. Then there are the philanderers who spent millions on ads and literature for front organizations such as Family First and supplied lawyers to harass and belittle the president.
The hypocrisy of Rep. Lee Burton (R-Ind.), Gingrich and others who slammed Clinton for his misguided sexual dalliances when they themselves either fathered children out of wedlock or had affairs before divorcing their first wife! I could go on.... And we wonder why nobody good runs for office anymore. But this magazine's coming forward now bothers me. Where was Cigar Aficionado when all this was going down? Afraid you might have lost subscribers, perhaps? Maybe, Marvin, you have answered your own question with your inaction. I'm voting Democrat. Care to join me?
Tim S. McGlasson
Editor's response: It's tough to win these days. The subject came up this year because it's a presidential election year. Would it have been appropriate in the 1996 presidential race or 1998 congressional races? Yes. And, in 1994, 1992, 1990 and in 1988. If we were worried about losing subscribers for every word we printed, we wouldn't be in business.
In reading Governor Ventura's column, something very simple should have been made evident to the other 99.99 percent of elected officials in the United States--Americans have a growing dislike for the dysfunction that has become endemic in our political system. I made a bet with several friends that if Hulk Hogan succeeded in getting on the presidential ballot, he would win the presidency. My rationale was that the "serious" vote, the 36 percent of America currently voting, would split between the Democrats and the Republicans (with probably some serious defections within these groups) and the other 64 percent of America would go for Hogan as a major "stick-in-the-eye" of politics as usual.
It would only take 18 percent of the vote in this three-way for a Hogan-type candidate to win, and I'd predict him getting 25 to 30 percent, because there are truly that many embittered and poorly represented Americans. My grandfather once said, "If doing the right thing is a habit it is as easy as breathing. But if it is an option than life will be hard, long and brutish." The latter sounds like someone's life view for many of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Mark L. Walker
I so much appreciate Cigar Aficionado magazine, and have for years. As an aficionado for more than 10 years, I have found this magazine such an insightful encouragement to my love of cigars. With the new format, I was at first taken aback seeing that you were backing away from your (our) prideful love of history's finest relaxation: cigars. But faced with the reality that the cigar boom has eased and that readership may be off, I came to a new realization: I would rather enjoy the same articles and insights about cigars with the new masthead and layout than to do without Cigar Aficionado magazine!
After all, the content has the same space and punch, but the packaging is broader-based. The magazine is not that much different. So thank you for finding a way to keep fueling the love that many of us have for cigars! Keep up the good work! I would just ask that you keep the passion for cigars coming through each issue. That will continue to help readers like me keep in touch with cigar news, profiles of other cigar lovers (past and current), and stories of cigar lovers with their pictures.
North Canton, Ohio
After reading your article in the August issue on the political wind blowing against cigar smoking in Los Angeles, and sensing the antismoking mood in the country, which borders on hysteria, I would like to relate a story from my days as a medical intern. Although it involves a cigarette smoker rather than a cigar smoker, the point should come across well. I hope it demonstrates that sometimes, perhaps often, someone else's right to smoke may actually be more important than the antismoking person's "rights" to a smoke-free environment.
Sunday mornings can be a fairly quiet time in hospital wards, as many physicians prefer to start their rounds later than usual on this day of rest. This leaves the interns, who work around the clock, to provide most of the patient care during these hours. I was just such an intern once, fresh out of medical school doing my first rotation in general medicine at a major Chicago hospital. I had been working since the previous morning and was looking forward to heading home after morning rounds for some well-deserved sleep. But shortly before rounds were to start, I heard the "code blue" call come over the PA and my heart leapt into my throat.
Although I had taken cardiac training classes and assisted with other codes, I had yet to manage a full code. But this morning, for the first time, I would be completely responsible for saving someone's life. My pulse quickened and the sweat began to break as I began mentally rehearsing the correct medical protocols for cardiac arrest while running to the room. Squeezing between the nurses crowding the doorway and stepping to the bedside, I suddenly recalled the patient lying on the bed from earlier in my shift. It was about six hours before, and I was sitting in the lobby going over charts when a thin, gray-haired figure shuffled in.
He had the gaunt frame of a chronically ill cancer patient, and the gown he wore over his frail body gave him a ghostlike appearance as he passed. He mumbled a friendly greeting and sat wearily down in a lobby chair. Then I saw him reach into his gown and produce a crumpled pack of cigarettes. His thin fingers removed a single one, which he placed to his lips and lit. I was astonished! Smoking was not only forbidden in the hospital, but was rapidly becoming a moral anathema in society.
Yet, here I was, a physician, watching him fill the lobby with smoke. As a physician and a runner, I'm not a big fan of smoke, secondhand or otherwise. I was sure that many patients on the floor would have shared my feelings, since in addition to the health risks, there was also the concern about combustible oxygen. I considered this as I watched him smoke and soon began to feel the indignation of one who has had his "rights" violated. And as people cherish their indignation, so did I mine.
So my immediate reaction was to demand that the effrontery be removed. But as I watched this pale figure smoking in silence, I couldn't help but wonder if, at this particular moment, his contentment was more important than both my rights and the hospital's rules. Like everyone else, I have my rights, including the right to breathe clean air. But does every one of my rights need to be constantly guarded and fought for? And why should I be so anxious to push my rights in the face of another? After getting over my initial indignation, I realized that perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult for me to put my own desires aside and let him be. I continued my paperwork, finding that the smoke wasn't so stifling after all. It didn't drift back to any other rooms and was safely away from any source of oxygen.
I specifically recall thinking, for one brief moment, that this could be the last smoke of his life. After he finished his cigarette, he lifted himself with great effort and shuffled back to his room. I finished my work, collected my things, and left. I considered the irony as I walked through the smoke-filled lobby to the elevator. As a physician and hospital representative, shouldn't I have stood for good health, and enforced the hospital's sensible no-smoking policies? And as a bystander, should I have had to endure that smoke? But rather than ponder those questions at that late hour, I decided to forget the whole thing. No harm had been done, and I assumed that I would never see him again. But here he was staring up at me, his eyes only slightly more vacant than the night before. This ghostlike figure, whom I had deigned to let smoke only a few hours before, was now dying in front of me.
Determined to save my new patient, I went to work. My hands trembled as I pounded his chest with my fist, his vomit splashing onto my face as I desperately tried to bring some rhythm to his fading heart, some life to his stiffening body. IV lines were started and medications were given as I tried everything I could to stop this man from dying. After struggling for over an hour, I slowly realized that I would not be able to save him. I stopped the code and somberly signed my name on the chart, formalizing the first time I lost a patient. I eventually went home, but still couldn't stop thinking about the morning's events. At home, I sat on the side of my bed and tears filled my eyes. I had done my best, and failed. Despite all of my efforts, my first coded patient had died. I'm sure that it was not that final cigarette but the countless ones that came before that ultimately took this man's life.
That final one was simply his final pleasure. A pleasure that I could have taken from him by exercising my rights or enforcing the rules. During the years of intense training that a physician endures, there are certain moments that are burned into one's memory. Yes, I will never forget the look on his face, the sweat in my palms, and the fact that I could not save his life. But with those painful memories comes the comforting thought that at least I let him enjoy his last cigarette in peace and did not force him to go to his death with the bitter rantings of a self-righteous intern fresh in his memory.
Marc Deshaies, M.D.