The other night at dinner I returned from using the ladies room to catch the tail end of a conversation my husband was having with the other couple we were with. They have a 16 year-old daughter who is eager to log her student driving hours and get her driver’s license. Her parents are less eager for that rite of passage and exhibit a great deal of trepidation. I think their daughter is a wonderful young lady with a great head on her shoulders. I would, however, be afraid of her getting out of their long stretching driveway on to a curving, busy boulevard. It would be one of those moments as a mother that you just can’t bear to look for fear of seeing a wreck. Rather than not watching, you just don’t allow it. Not getting out of the driveway pretty much stunts the rest of the driving experience, so I understand their fears though I believe their fears cruise beyond the driveway.

Nonetheless, today’s youth have grown up so much more aware of the dangers of smoking, drinking, drugs, unsafe driving, carnival rides, sunbathing, bad home permanents, et cetera. It doesn’t do any harm that Paris Hilton is in jail. Today’s teens get it. They get that it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to be careful and try to look—and think—before you leap.

On the other hand, perhaps they aren’t more responsible; perhaps the exposure to caution has not made any impact on them. Considering the prevalence of tattoos and body piercings, I could be dead wrong.

Right as I sat down, the conversation got down to the laws imposed for teen driving. As of January 2006 in California, newly licensed 16-year olds have a “provisional license.” Per the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers with a provisional license “must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed parent, guardian or other licensed driver 25 years of age or older or a licensed or certified driving instructor when you: Transport passengers under 20 years of age at any time, for the first twelve months, or drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first twelve months.” So much for car dates! I think it’s a good law. In my opinion it helps parents, “Sorry honey, you can’t drive your friends to the party tonight—it’s the law!”

My husband on the other hand explained he did not want the State to make that decision for us. I said quite gleefully, “Yay! It’s so liberal of you!” My thoughts were clear when I said it but as soon as all three set me straight that his thought was truly in the spirit of laissez faire, a complete and consistent Republican stance, my thoughts went around the bend as I just retreated with an, “Oh,” and a silent, “I knew that,” in my head. But wait, it made sense when I said it. Hmm. My thoughts, soaked in chardonnay, moved on to consider whether I still had a piece of banana bread at home to nibble on before bed.

The next morning I de-briefed—I always de-brief, even if just by myself. I re-play the evening and all the conversations in my head. I check for fragments of conversations where I missed something, I didn’t say something, or my thoughts wandered to banana bread. Aha! I remember my train of thought. My husband’s comment to me was very much like an argument against an infringement of a civil liberty. That’s all the ACLU does, right? And that’s a liberal entity, right? The question then is if limiting whom a teen can taxi around is infringing on a civil liberty and, within this restriction, whose liberty is being compromised? The parents’ or the teens’? Suppose we want our daughter to drive the neighbor to school or to an extracurricular activity as a favor to his mother who is battling cancer? According to my husband, that is our right, right?

From what I can tell in some cursory Internet research, the ACLU has nothing about protecting against age discrimination and nothing about the rules of the road. Nice try, Leslie, go back to banana bread. Nonetheless, there is a place that I think the two camps agree and there is definitely overlap of liberals to conservatives when it comes to liberties. Laissez faire meets liberalism when you keep going around the bend of thought. I’m comfortable with that, even if I can’t articulate it on the spot.
Something I do know for sure: an acre is roughly the size of a football field. In fact, a football field is larger.

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The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of these protections and guarantees:
• Your First Amendment rights-freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the strict separation of church and state.
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