California has a helmet law for motorcycle riders and a lot of bikers are pissed about it. They claim it interferes with their right to kill or maim themselves but that's not the whole truth. What really disturbs these guys is they don't like what it does to their image.
See, bikers are macho guys, real men with so much excess testosterone in their systems they can import the stuff to less favored regions and have plenty to spare. Bikers take pride in their machismo, and well they should since one can't possibly be too masculine these days.
Well, how does it look for a lot of Hells Angels to cruise along the thoroughfares wearing sissy helmets? I mean, these are guys who live for their image. Everybody knows and fears bikers, strong men quake when these guys roar into town. Cops look the other way when a crowd of bikers arrives on the scene. Women and children gape in awe-struck wonder at the sight of bearded, leather-clad, beer-bellied bikers roaring by.
And the bikers know it. You ever watch these guys in action? None of 'em knows anything about walking as they never walk anywhere; no, they swagger. Watch them next time you see some. They climb off their bikes with an air of studied nonchalance, casually spit, adjust their beer bellies, and swagger into the gun shop, biker bar, or Harley store with disdain on their mugs and mischief in their hearts.
And do they present a formidable sight! All of them weigh close to 300 pounds and have great black beards that haven't seen a comb in a fortnight or more.
Biker rules forbid the use of soap in any form, of course, so they announce they're coming by the evening breezes and warn the more alert ones to get out of the way. Their massive arms are covered with tattoos, they wear rings in their ears, bandanas encircle their heads, leather vests adorn their enormous chests, greasy Levis cover their nethermost parts, and heavy boots used for stomping serve as shoes.
Impressive? Are you kidding? Even Arnold steps aside when these dudes head down the sidewalk.
So now the state says they've got to lose this carefully studied image by donning one of these sissy helmets. Not only does their image suffer, it also means they have to forswear the macho headgear they used to wear. How can a newly-helmeted biker seem as macho on his Harley as he is sans helmet with scars all over his bare head from crashing into walls and trees head first?
Or even a well-greased baseball cap or a grungy fedora or any of hundreds of image-defining headgear that sets off the true biker's persona? No, sir, the helmet just won't cut it.
Besides, these helmets are unnecessary for another reason. Everyone knows you can't hurt a biker by hitting him on the head. These guys regularly knock each other down on concrete streets and sidewalks, often landing head first, I might add, and there's never been a recorded case where any of them suffered the least harm. In fact, the only damage done is usually to the concrete they land on.
They don't need helmets. Bikers have slammed into curbs head first at breakneck speed and lived to tell about it. I've personally seen them flip head over heels off their speeding bikes and carom into a tree with no more damage than could be covered with a band-aid. The tree, however, had to be destroyed.
Remember, these guys are real men, tough guys who prove their mettle every day. No biker club in all of Christendom will have members who can't fight. Tough is the password. New members are initiated by fist fighting the ringleader and three or four of his chief officers while the others hurl jibes and shout encouragement. The initiate is refused membership if he can't take a savage beating and come back for more with a grin on his mug and a song in his heart.
And the state puts sissy helmets on these guys?
Can we seriously ask our bikers to walk down the street carrying a helmet? How will they be able to manage their customary swagger with a helmet slung over one arm? Won't small kids sneer as they pass? Won't little girls titter? Won't rowdies taunt them and kick over their bikes when they aren't looking?
Why, this helmet law does irreparable harm to California's indigenous bikers. It may be that nothing will restore the luster of an image cultivated over decades. Can tattoos, unkempt beards, greasy Levis, earrings, dirty fingernails, and beer bellies overcome the damage wrought by a sissy helmet?
I fear not. No, I think the harm is permanent. Bikers will lose prestige everywhere. No one will take them seriously anymore. They'll have to trade in their Harleys for BMWs, shed their leathers for men's dress pants from Sears, become re-acquainted with soap, give up smoking dope and fist fighting and trashing towns. In a word, they'll be indistinguishable from the pencil necks, nerds, and losers they once scorned.
Can anything be done to save the breed? Is the species doomed to extinction like so many snail darters or spotted owls?
Yes, unless we take forceful action at once. We need a referendum, an appeal to the voters. We need Save the Bikers T-shirts, a groundswell of public outrage, a lot of money. We need to rescind the helmet law and restore lost dignity to bikers everywhere, even if the lot of them perish from broken heads as a result.
It's the humane thing to do.