Luna River Voices

When I’m Elected Benevolent Dictator of the Universe

With all this scary talk about the reemergence of strongmen rulers around the globe, I’d like to propose a kinder, gentler approach to authoritarianism: the Benevolent Dictator. Power is corrupt only if the persons who brandish it do so without regard to how their actions affect others. The Benevolent Dictator, however, uses her power for the good of all. When I’m elected Benevolent Dictator of the Universe (BDU), I will decree the following laws—for starters.

General Decrees

Abolish Daylight Saving Time

This nonsense of changing clocks twice a year not only makes for crabby people in early spring, its affects have been correlated with health issues. Some of the more serious issues include increased heart attacks, strokes, suicides, car accidents, and work-related accidents. Moving the clocks ahead is said to make the day longer. That’s like cutting an inch off one end of a ruler and gluing it to the other end to make the ruler longer. Hello, the day doesn’t get longer by moving the clock ahead one hour. (And we say people who buy lottery tickets are bad at math!) If you want more daylight in the evening, we can keep the clocks at Daylight Saving Time time—and just call it “time.” It might not make morning people, like your BDU, happy to lose the daylight earlier in the 24-hour cycle, but she’s willing to compromise.

Require Cashiers to Wait Until You Put Your Money Away

How many of you have ever fumbled to put your change or credit card in your wallet after making an in-store purchase because the cashier starts scanning the next person’s items before you have a chance to stow your dough? The cashier’s attention is now on the next person in line, and suddenly you’re persona non grata. (Yes, some of us old school folk still pay in cash.)

Cashiers will be required to wait until you are ready to walk away—money or card securely stowed—before scanning the next customer’s items. Store owners, before you complain about the potential to slow checkout traffic, your BDU would like to know, what’s the hurry? We could all benefit from slowing down, and your customers aren’t going to stop shopping at your place because you show them a little more care and attention. Besides, if you’re going under, blame it on online retailers, not the courteous treatment of your clientele.

Pluck Texting Drivers from Traffic

Using really powerful magnets, robocopters will pluck vehicles with drivers who are simultaneously texting. Robocopters will be equipped with sensors that can sniff out a driving texter from as far away as five miles. Vehicles will be dropped in a detention parking area sufficiently far away from the driver’s destination to make it punitive enough to deter that driver from ever texting again. To, uh, drive the point home, the driver and vehicle will be detained for a minimum of 30 minutes for a first offense. An additional 15 minutes will be added to each subsequent offense. At first, the skies may be darkened by robocopters because of the sheer prevalence of driver–texters. However, your BDU is confident that the punishment is enough to reduce the offense by at least half in the first six months. No, robocopters don’t exist yet, but your BDU can put as much money as she wants toward hiring really smart inventors to create them.

Reconfigure Public Restrooms

Tired of the bathroom wars? Women, have you ever eyeballed the Gents’, wondering whether you could just slip in there—no line!—while queuing up outside the door of the Ladies’ waiting for a stall when you really, really, really had to pee? Have you ever wondered why bathroom stalls are open at the bottom and top so that everyone can clearly hear everyone else’s business?

Full-length stalls are a start for privacy, but they don’t solve the problem of insufficient real estate to meet the needs of a certain population (i.e., the Ladies’), nor the issue of who is allowed to use which crapper. Contrary to fear-based belief, people who are born with boy parts but who prefer girl parts do not “change” their gender just so’s they can get a gander at girls doing their business. With that fact in mind, your BDU will make the following changes in public restrooms:

  • Restrooms will consist of a bank of full-length, fully-enclosed, gender-neutral stalls available to all. Each stall will contain a small sink and mirror.
  • Additional sinks will be located in a common area.
  • There will be a separate area for those who prefer to do #1 standing up.
  • There will be two separate lounge-type areas, one for those who identify as women and one for those who identify as men. Here, people can chat, groom, or make wardrobe adjustments. Non-binary persons are free to use whichever space they feel comfortable in. Binary persons are requested to use their own team’s area.

Require Citizens to Do Two Years of Public Service

If you’ve ever volunteered for a social services group, a religious community, school, or other nonprofit, you know how critical your contributions are to these organizations. Your BDU believes everyone has a gift to offer and she wants you to share it! You can choose how you’d like to serve, and you’ll get a living wage to do so. Serve the environment, children, the elderly, differently abled populations, animals, whatever. You can also serve in local, state, or federal government capacities, including the military. Your choices are endless and your gifts needed.

Offer Free Sterilization to All Adults

Getting the snip is probably not foremost on many people’s minds. For one, it can be expensive, especially if you’re a woman, which for obvious reasons takes more anesthesia and is riskier. Secondly, the thought can induce the heebie-jeebies, even for those who don’t want children or are done having children but fear the potential of a pollywog of passion slipping through the gates. But what if sterilization was free? Getting something for nothing if often incentive enough to persuade people to reduce their genetic contributions to the world. Who doesn’t want free stuff? Having fewer unwanted children would have numerous benefits, including fewer parents developing financial difficulties or needing welfare; fewer unloved or neglected souls growing into troubled adults; less demand on resources; and simply fewer people to add to the already overburdened Earth.

Limit Prescription Drug Prices to a Maximum of $10

Drug-makers claim their prices are high to “recover” expenses incurred from research and development (R&D). However, there is evidence that much of their expenses go toward drug marketing—not development. Further, many drug-makers get federal funding or public grants to help with R&D, so it’s actually your money at work to create the drug. That’s like someone charging you to store your bicycle in your own garage. Worse, ever notice how the more a drug is needed to save a life, the more money manufacturers charge, even though it doesn’t necessarily cost them more to make? That’s like someone charging you to ride your own bicycle because it will make you healthier.

Manufacturers know that we believe our and our loved ones’ lives are priceless, so we’ll spend whatever it takes to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive. Yet people still die because they can’t afford the medication. Or they’re forced to choose between eating or paying rent and taking their medication. What kind of person would put another person in this situation? A greedy, heartless wrongdoer with ice water in his veins.

So let’s break this down into its constituent parts.

1. There is a lot of money in drugs, (we’re talking legal drugs here). Limiting the amount charged would force manufacturers to focus on truly making people better rather than seeing how much they can squeeze you for before you die. Those who are in it for the money would either get religion or get out.

2. Some of the most prevalent drugs either treat or mask symptoms of common lifestyle ailments (e.g., heart conditions, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stress and anxiety). My people, your BDU would humbly like to point out that these conditions are almost entirely under your control. In other words, change your lifestyle, change your health, abandon your need for drugs. It is no secret that eating a healthy diet, exercising, and controlling your stresswould eliminate, or severely reduce, your need for many of these lifestyle drugs. Some conditions may be genetic; however, evidence shows that although a tendency toward high blood pressure, for example, may be in your DNA, in most cases you have the power to turn on or off that potential through your lifestyle choices (i.e., diet, exercise, and stress management). Time to stop paying drug manufacturers for an endless ride on the merry-go-round.

3. See Education-Related Decrees. With these in play, we will be less dependent on drugs to make us feel better. Also, we will be better equipped about how to control our lives.

Education-Related Decrees

Guarantee Early Childhood Education for All Children

Sufficient evidence-based studies demonstrate that children who get left behind in reading and other educational stimulation from an early age rarely catch up to their more-advantaged peers. Poorly educated children turn into adults who tend to earn lower wages, in often menial tasks, and sometimes have behavioral, cognitive, and/or physical issues that prevent them from realizing their full potential. Some turn to crime. In other words, if you’re still tying your shoes when the starting gun is fired, your chances of catching up to the rest of the pack are slim. How many brilliant minds are wasted, how many talented persons denied the chance to share their gifts, because we have not provided the necessary sunshine and water for children to flourish into healthy adults? It’s not money or resources we lack, it’s the will to make small but obvious changes that will significantly improve the lives of our most precious asset.

If everyone has a fair chance at education, you ask, who’s going to do the menial, yet necessary, jobs? Teenagers, of course! (Think character and skills building.) And people for whom a job is suited. Even with a fair chance at education, not everyone will want to be—or be capable of being—a brain surgeon or research scientist. A place for everyone and everyone in their chosen niche. Also, by putting value on all work, regardless what it is, your BDU will ensure her people know their service to the Universe is appreciated.

Make the Following Part of the K–12 School Curriculum

1. Physical Education, Playtime, and Healthful Cooking

Everyone benefits from movement, and what kid doesn’t like to play? The earlier in life we instill physical activity and healthy eating, including learning how to cook healthful foods, the greater the chance of reducing early onset diabetes and overweight/obesity. Down-the-road benefits include healthier, happier adults and reduced healthcare costs. What’s not to like?

2. Art, Music, Yoga, and Meditation

Don’t just blindly follow your BDU’s belief in the transformative power of creating and appreciating art and music. Studies show that music can help develop language and reasoning skills, improve memory, increase coordination, and build imagination and curiosity (the stepmother of invention), among many other benefits. Similarly, creating art has shown to improve, well, creativity, and to promote teamwork and teach patience, among other benefits. Practicing yoga and meditation reduces anxiety and increases positive moods, energy, and the ability to relax. What parent would object to a child who can better manage stress and demonstrate more self-control?

3. Public Service and Conflict Resolution

Is it your BDU’s imagination, or do kids these days seem to act more and more entitled? If whining youngsters make you wanna shout, your BDU has a decree for that: Put them to work serving others for three hours a week, and don’t spare them a little discomfort. While your DBU doesn’t advocate treating children like rented mules, they need to know what elbow grease is for. Public service does double duty teaching compassion and walking in others’ shoes. And our little volunteers also might learn something about themselves and the world. If nothing else, they will have earned that screen time. If the youngsters complain, remind them that they have the opportunity to let it all go during mandatory meditation and yoga! As for conflict resolution, we can work it out. All we need is peace, love, and understanding—and a few teachable soft skills, plus a BDU that really does have her peoples’ best interests in mind.

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