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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

The 21st century. What will it be like? That question will be asked many times between now and 2001. How can we know the answer? They say "the past is prologue." If so, a way to know what the next century will be like is to look at the present, because in the 21st century, this will be the "past."

For instance, the lawsuit against the city of Republic because of the fish on the city logo may be prologue for the 21st century separation-of-church-and-state debate. Considering the track record of the government, I don't see how a little church influence could possibly hurt the state.

Hold on, civil libertarians, don't send me hate letters. I'm on your side sort of. I know that the Constitution guarantees a separation between church and state; I believe that real separation needs to be maintained.

The issue for the next century will be what constitutes a lack of separation. You know, like the really big issue of the Republic fish logo.

Here are some 21st century predictions: Church-and-state lawsuits and threats of lawsuits will rage on. I predict that St. John's Medical Center will yield to legal pressure and remove the giant lighted cross from the hospital because it can be seen from streets that are maintained by the government. And, elected or appointed government officials will agree to stop using Cross Pens (a brand name) when they are on government property.

Christian County will fight the good fight, but in the end will lose. It will assume a politically correct, non-threatening name: "Welcome Everybody County." "In God We Trust" eventually will disappear from our money, a victim of 21st century lawsuits. Instead, on American coins and bills will be a phrase that some may not like, but it shouldn't pose a threat to anyone: "In Bill Gates We Trust."

The battle against smoking will become a 21st century issue. As in the 20th century, government will keep on bringing lawsuits and passing feel-good legislation intended to curb smoking, yet won't pass legislation making tobacco illegal. Rest assured government will continue to tax a product that is known to kill people.

A new trial lawyer strategy will be devised to try suits on behalf of victims of smoking-caused illnesses against tobacco companies, because they didn't know how harmful cigarettes were which has been hard to sell to juries because of warnings posted on cigarette packages.

Should this strategy be successful, it's bad news for the nation's schools. The new legal strategy calls for suing schools the victims have attended. Grounds for the suits will be that schools obviously didn't teach victims to read the warning labels that were printed in plain English.

If the past is prologue, it could happen.

The fast food industry will replace big tobacco as the corporate villain of the 21st century. The anti-fast food movement will begin as an effort to protect people from themselves. A fast food hamburger, fries and a shake can contain enough fat to clog up arteries right there on the spot. Just looking at them might send cholesterol counts to all-time highs.

The effort to separate people from their fat-laden junk food will include a blitz of news stories about fatty fast foods as health hazards. There will be threats to pass fast food control legislation. Junk food eaters will be made to feel like social outcasts.

A quasi-scientific report will appear suggesting a possible second-hand junk food health hazard. Odors coming from fast food restaurants if breathed by non-fast food eaters may increase cholesterol by as much as if they were to eat a fatburger.

Cities will be divided into fat and nonfat sections; fast food restaurants will only be allowed in nonfat sections the 21st century version of smoking and nonsmoking. The government will tax the fire out of the fast food industry; A Big Mac for $10?

If you think these things couldn't possibly happen in the 21st century, you haven't been paying attention to what's been going on at the end of this century.

A final prediction. As a direct result of the "Bill and Monica Chronicles," 21st century American voters will believe that character counts after all.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communications department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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