A Plea For Plastic Grocery Bags

Susan Page
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Wednesday - February 06, 2008
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So many issues, so little space. From a bill banning plastic shopping bags to a revamped Miss America Pageant to the tragedy in Kenya to John McCain’s surge to my impending grandmother status, this is a “mixed bag” column week - no pun intended.

Recycle this:

I get some of my best topics in the checkout line at Longs, where just last week a guy ahead of me was grousing about the bill to ban plastic bags. We had a bonding moment.

This ban reeks of a Big Brother control that punishes Hawaii’s citizens and businesses in the name of environmental protection. Gun owners claim “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Well, plastic bags don’t kill turtles, people do, and people can be motivated not to.

Instead of a ban, why not a vigorous recycling campaign that includes plastic bags? H-Power Garbage-to-Energy plant officials say plastic bags make excellent fuel.

A ban will only stick it to consumers at the checkout line with higher prices and to businesses already over-burdened with regulations and high costs. Alternatives to plastic are expensive, and plastic bags are convenient. I reuse mine. But would I recycle them to become a fuel source or to help the environment? Of course. So would the rest of our citizens, if there were a good system in place.

Recycling works across the U.S., yet Hawaii lags pitifully. Why? Because it’s easier for elected officials to simply pass onerous costs and restrictions on to businesses and consumers using bans, instead of strategic recycling planning. This “ban” bill is punitive, just as the short-lived “van cam” was.

Project Pageant:

Speaking of recycling, last month’s Miss America Pageant, relegated to the landfill of irrelevance for the past few years, made a refreshing TV comeback - “an extreme pageant makeover,” so to speak. Now broadcast on TLC, the show’s ratings doubled last year’s. During its new, four-week, “lose-the-old-pageant-ways” boot camp, “Miss America Reality Check,” audiences followed the reprogramming of state queens as they “got real,” shedding stiff walks and plastered hair. Seeing contestants strut in skimpy bikinis like Victoria’s Secret models must’ve been painful to conservative Miss America die-hards, a dwindling bunch, but, hey, this ain’t your grandmother’s ratings war.

As a former - OK, ancient - “Miss America” contestant, I applaud the update. With education (the winner, Miss Michigan, scored a $500,000 scholarship), community service, God and country a focus, it still plays classier than rival “the Donald’s” Miss USA pageant. Unfortunately, most of the talent presentations were amateurish. American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance have spoiled audiences to good young talent.

Why not instead require a two-minute speech on a current topic? After all, Miss America spends her one-year term making speeches, not dancing jazz on toe shoes.

Real Reality:

Dominated by presidential primaries, our media doesn’t pay much heed to the potential genocide occurring in Kenya. My friends in the Naivasha area send daily reports of killings and retaliations on innocents, with nearly 300,000 displaced from the violence, according to the International Red Cross.

Blame for the violence is the alleged rigged re-election of Kenya’s president, but the real cause is deep poverty, joblessness, corruption and greed. One tribe thinks another is favored by the government, young men are idle, tribal war results. It’s 1994’s Rwandan genocide - a million killed in 100 days - in the making. To help mediate, Kenyan leaders have brought in Kofi Annan, head of U.N. Peacekeeping during Rwanda’s genocide, during which he did little more than wring his hands. Great choice. Please pray for Kenya and write your representatives and the president to engage in averting this potential blood bath.

Surge for a Surge Fan:

Maybe John McCain, who at this writing is surging like the Iraq strategy he favors, will become president and be responsive to crises in Africa. McCain, a friend and fellow Hanoi POW cellmate of my husband, Jerry Coffee, has made a stunning comeback since August when he was written off as a lost cause.

Think someone who survives five years and torture in a filthy Communist prison and returns with honor to become a longtime U.S. senator is one who gives up a fight easily? Don’t bet on it.

The Grammy Awards:

You can bet on the fact that I am deliriously excited about the birth of my first grandbaby, due at any moment. Off to Virginia to assume my new “Grammy” role, I might sing out my joy so loudly, I’ll win one - Grammy, that is.

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