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An Open Letter to Ron

Okay, Ron, you ask whether you’re allowed to sneeze. A tendentious way of presenting the issue. Of course you’re allowed to sneeze — it’s not as though anyone can stop you. If you’re in a closet with your family hiding from intruders bearing pistols and daggers, you’re allowed to sneeze, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

What’s that? Watching deer eat from a feeder isn’t like hiding from violent criminals? You’re right, Ron, it isn’t. Not very much, anyway. But again you’re missing the key point that you should be focusing on. We’re trying to establish a principle here, Ron, and the principle is that you can suppress a sneeze if you want to. But — and here we’re approaching the crux of the matter — you didn’t want to.

Go back and watch that video again, Ron. Look at those beautiful creatures: their delicate faces, their gentle demeanor, their polite interest in the contents of the feeder. And then the white snow in the background. There’s serenity there, a peaceful interlude in our lives that are so full of conflict; a chance for the deer to forage a bit — always more difficult for them in the winter — and for us to have a moment’s communion with the natural world.

And that’s when you decide to let one rip, Ron. Great.

You are what’s wrong with America, Ron, did you know that? You could have suppressed your impulse to sneeze, suppressed it for the greater good, for the good of the deer and your wife (if that’s your wife) and for all the good people of YouTube; but you chose not to do that. You didn’t even turn aside, or sneeze into your sleeve. You thought indulging your impulse was the most important thing in the world, and you got positively angry when someone suggested to you that it just might not be. A total lack of impulse control is what’s sending our country into what may be a permanent moral decline, and you’re the poster child for that vice.

Thanks, Ron. Thanks a lot.

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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