"Into each life some rain must fall."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Rainy Day"

And onto each bridge some ice must fall.

Well, not each and every bridge.

But when the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge accumulated what high-strung authorities deemed high-risk amounts of ice on its high-strung cables not just this week but two weeks ago, they closed it, citing safety concerns.

That most recent closing lasted more than 51 hours, ending at 7 a.m. Friday.

So why, 8 years after the Ravenel opened, has ice on its cables seemingly and suddenly become such a disruptive menace?

Were the authorities too slow to reopen the bridge this week because it was bombarded with huge chunks of melting ice after they reopened it too soon on Jan. 31, when only dumb luck (with an emphasis on "dumb") prevented much more costly consequences than smashed windshields?

Have Americans become such nervous ninnies that we refuse to accept life's inevitable hazards, including cascading missiles of ice?

What should truly terrify us is the chilling - and proliferating - evidence of our accelerating decline into a collective, scaredy-cat neurosis.

In my distant youth, we of the "Me" generation were rarely subjected to such intrusive "protective" measures as being: strapped into straight-jacket-like car seats, required to wear helmets when riding bicycles, banned from hitchhiking, forced to declare academic majors at age 12, heavily medicated with psycho-active drugs to dull our supposedly excessive enthusiasms, and robbed of recess.

And that's no joke

We also weren't, as my daughter and her elementary school classmates were, assured - in writing - by an anti-drug program of "a right not to be laughed at."

That "right" was wrongly asserted two decades ago.

Three decades earlier, we then-kids could still laugh at each other - and even indulge in some sharp-edged ridicule - without fear of being branded "bullies."

We could ride high-altitude sliding boards, a vanished playground breed thanks to overwrought adult angst about the occasional long - and hard - fall.

We could participate in and watch football mayhem undiluted by bewildering new rules that sacrifice the sport's hard-knocking essence on the altar of "player safety."

We could even get legally drunk at age 18.

Too bad times - and attitudes - have changed for the hyper-wary worse.

This insidious, spreading, wimpy mind-set extends to paternalistic public policies in our home of the formerly brave.

Among the unaffordable delusions increasingly infesting a once-hardy national character in jittery retreat:

Government, or somebody ordered by government, must pay so that everybody has "free" food, housing, medicine, health care, retirement, computers, cellphones, college tuition and - seriously - contraceptives.

Now that's scary.

Still, maybe it's not too late to reverse this Nanny State onslaught against personal responsibility - and freedom.

Maybe we could launch a local counteroffensive for the restoration of risk-taking liberty across the Ravenel Bridge.

We could demand this transportation option before the cables get icy again (presumably before 2022):

Drivers, their passengers, pedestrian-lane bikers, runners, walkers and possibly sledders and skiers could proceed over an ice-closed Ravenel if they sign a waiver renouncing all rights to liability claims.

Economic engines

OK, so opening the bridge when that frozen stuff might still be falling on it could boost the mechanized-death toll.

Then again, grave-digging isn't the only "shovel ready" job this proposal would create.

Insurance companies could offer special policies for the intrepid bridge traversers.

Auto body shops could get new customers.

Ambulance enterprises would need to hire more drivers.

As for the survivors of any extra accidents that might occur, we have lots of medical facilities in our community.

Too dangerous?

Hey, our great American entrepreneurial spirit thrives on perils - financial and otherwise.

Anyway, you won't have to cross that bridge unless you choose to.

And considering that we (including federal taxpayers across the land) paid around $700 million for the Ravenel, why shouldn't we be able to use it when we want?

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.