Thank You, Tim Smith

| By Gordon Mott , Marvin R. Shanken | From Dennis Haysbert, Nov/Dec 2006

In "Out of the Humidor" this issue, we encourage you to read a letter from Tim Smith, who, like many of us, paused on September 11 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Mr. Smith speaks eloquently of the personal effect that 9/11 had on his life, but he also reminded himself, and thus us, about some of the important lessons Americans should take from that day.

His most important message is profound: we should all be thankful for living in the greatest nation on earth. It is the time of year when Americans enjoy the plenty around a Thanksgiving table, and then the holiday festivities of Hanukkah and Christmas. It's a time for family and friends, and a time to reflect on all the good things that have happened during the preceding year. But we too often forget that the privilege of being able to freely celebrate those holidays is, in good measure, the result of where we live.

Mr. Smith talks about being able to freely agree or disagree on subjects of national and political importance. Much of the world doesn't enjoy that kind of freedom. We can speak out publicly about our politics, and we don't have to worry about being jailed or dragged off into the night. And, as he says, we may not like our leadership, but we always have the option of stepping into a voting booth and voting them out of office.

As New Yorkers, we live with the tragedy of 9/11 every day in ways that the rest of America doesn't. The memories of that day, and the days following, are a constant companion as we go about our business. As a result, Mr. Smith's reminder is all the more pointed for us. We long for the terror-free days prior to 9/11. But we, maybe like all Americans, don't pause often enough to focus on the good things that remain paramount in our lives.

Our freedom is one of the reasons that we remain so adamant about the rights of our readers to enjoy a legal product in public places. We've stood up for the rights of the majority who don't want to be assaulted by cigar smoke, but we also believe in well-ventilated spaces dedicated to providing a haven for smokers.

While it may be unseemly to tie a discussion of our personal freedoms together with 9/11, debates often begin and end over what appear to be small, unimportant issues. If Americans willingly give up one right to choose, where does it stop? We must return to a more balanced discussion over the regulations that control personal behaviors, and give voice to the rights of adults to enjoy life's greatest pleasures. We've argued for years that tobacco is just the first target in a campaign to limit everything from fast-food restaurants to the never-ending fight against alcohol consumption.

It would be all too easy to find ourselves on a slippery slope that leads to the loss of many of our freedoms. By rededicating ourselves to the preservation of those freedoms, we honor the memory of 9/11, and what this country really stands for.