Embrace Your Right to be Stupid!

New York hosts the worst protest ever.

By , Contributor

While I’m pretty sure that this doesn’t fit the strict definition of irony, it’s probably a pretty good example of Alanis Morissette’s version of the term. Philip Contos was a guy who really didn’t like rules. “He’s a rebel,” said his older brother, who lives in Liverpool. “That’s what he felt like doing. He protested everything.”

Contos’ latest expression of governmental distaste was his participation in the 11th annual Helmet Protest Run, an event that was organized by the Onondaga County of New York chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education. Unfortunately, Philip had a bootstring malfunction that got caught in his ride’s chain and he wound up flipping over his handlebars, which of course caused his untimely death - a death that, yes, probably would have been prevented by wearing a helmet.

After the death, Phillip’s older brother Richard proudly refused to back down, claiming that his brother would have done the exact same thing given another chance (albeit he probably would have secured his laces better). Christinea Rathbun, the president of the Syracuse ABATE chapter, didn’t back down either - despite having just led what has to be considered the worst protest in the history of mankind. (Imagine the response to an NRA rally that led to multiple accidental hand gun deaths.) “It’s not going to stop us protesting our right to wear a helmet or not wear a helmet. It’s your own risk,” said the chastened but not defeated Rathbun. She’s probably upset that she didn’t think to have one of her gung ho protesters purposefully die in this fashion years ago.

And you know what? She’s right. The government has no right to stop you from being stupid, as long as the only person who suffers from your stupidity is yourself. If you want to risk scrambling your brains like Gary Busey or worse, God bless you. We all get one life and it’s yours to do with as you wish.

Face it, motorcycling is way cool. Elvis rode one; Steve McQueen rode one; even Charles Lindbergh was a big fan of racing directly into the wind with little or no protection from winding up a bloody skid mark on the pavement.

I’d love to buy myself one of those classic Triumph motorcycles and hit the road, except for one thing. I’m a complete klutz. I’d be dead in less than a week. Amazingly, I somehow came to this conclusion without governmental assistance.

Really, there’s only one thing I don’t understand. They’ve been having these helmetless protests now for 11 years! How long is it going to take for the police to wake up and start ticketing? They’re all there waiting for you! They probably advertised. Why bother with your complex speed traps? That’s free municipal money staring you right in the face, and you could have prevented an idiotic death at the same time. If you’re going to have a stupid law, the least you can do is enforce it when the people throw a helmetless rebellion. Maybe then you can stop pulling me over for not wearing my seat belts.

Godspeed, Philip; hopefully there’s a softer landing for you up in heaven.

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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