I am terrorist, hear me roar
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Bill Barth
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        Apparently, I am a terrorist.
        I didn’t mean to be a terrorist. I’m quite surprised to discover that I’m a terrorist. I really don’t like terrorists. In fact, I rather like it when Predator missiles land on terrorists’ heads.
        Still, I am being labeled a terrorist.
        An outfit calling itself Noise Free America has protested a bill pending in the Wisconsin Legislature, which would designate Harley Davidson as the state’s “official motorcycle.” That offends members of Noise Free America.
        The group slandered the hogs for “noise terrorism” and labeled Harley owners part of a “brand cult.”
        The “potato-potato-potato” sound of a Harley is not the only thing that offends their tender ears. Noise Free America also protests the intrusive loudness of car alarms, booming car speakers, even leaf blowers.
         But in Wisconsin, coming out against Harley Davidsons is like protesting Christianity at the Vatican.
         If readers haven’t guessed by now, I ride a Harley. Actually, I owned and rode a Harley for years, then sold it and went without a bike for awhile. Something about a fellow coming along to offer me $500 more than I paid for the bike 10 years earlier was just too good to resist.
        Now my sons ride bikes, and the urge to get back in the game became stronger than my common sense. So I have a new Harley. The open road beckons, if the damn snow ever melts.
        Even Harleys must make way for Wisconsin winters.
        Mind you, I do — at least on some level — understand the objections to that famous Milwaukee roar. Some Harley riders just can’t resist taking a good thing too far.
        And I have heard my dad complain, with justification, the past several years about motorcycles as they roar by his home. Dad is a farmer — he’s supposed to be retired, but farmers really never retire — so he lived most of his life out in the quiet countryside, away from all the noise of towns. As he and mom grew older, they sold our country homestead and moved to a small town. It was the smart thing to do.
        But it also exposed them to a much noisier environment. Their house is at the edge of town, the sweet spot where vehicles leave the speed zone and gun their engines. Dad’s right. Some of the bikes are downright obnoxious, especially late at night.
        As a longtime rider, I can say with authority it doesn’t have to be that way. Even Harleys come from the factory with quite effective mufflers. Most people — me, too — yank them right off. They can be replaced in various ways. I want to hear my bike; I don’t want to break anybody’s windows. So I have installed modestly louder pipes.
        How one rides also determines the degree of obnoxiousness in the sound. Even with moderately louder pipes, normal riding is not eardrum-splitting. Climb all over it, though, and the rumble becomes a screamer.
        The real offenders, though, don’t bother with any mufflers. They take off the factory mufflers and run straight pipes. A tiny scooter would be too noisy without any muffler.
        A little consideration goes a long way.
        That, by the way, is what defines the real culprit here. The jerk rattling windows on a bike is closely related to the jerk spouting obscenities while walking at the mall, and the jerk letting his kids run wild at the restaurant, and the jerk nearly running you off the road while jabbering on his cell phone. It’s not the bike. It’s not the pipes. It’s the idiot in the saddle.
        While we’re on the subject of idiots, let’s add those members of Noise Free America who chose to equate inconsiderate Americans with terrorists. That’s like calling shoplifters Nazis.
        We know who the terrorists are. They are the guys who kill innocent people just for kicks, then try to say their god made them do it.
        Words matter. Americans should not trivialize the term “terrorist.”
        I will try to ride more considerately, and nag my boys to do the same. Meanwhile, let’s not confuse who should be in the crosshairs of the Predators.