So, friends n’ neighbors, I got laughed off one of the most listened-to radio shows in the Bay Area yesterday…all because I had the temerity to insist than an elected official be held to the same courtroom standard he demands that civilians adhere to.
And, it really made me think about something. A common theme throughout most of Len Tillem’s shows is that you can’t fight city hall. There’s no point in fighting, and even if you win, it’s a Pyrrhic victory. Pay the fine, get over it, and move on.
Ideologically, I’m the diametric opposite the of most self-described Tea Partiers. I’m a tax-and-spend liberal with no apologies, and the experience of teaching and having a special-needs child has made me a true believer in our public school system (and we’re lucky to have a school system where that belief is justified).
But, this whole debacle has given me insight (maybe “respect” is too generous) into what I understand to be The Tea Party Mindset. In light of Red-Light-Camera-Gate, here’s what me and the kooks who open-carry rifles in Starbucks have in common (I’m now waiting for outraged screams from people who are ready to educate me on the difference between ‘open-carry activists’ and the Tea Party):
1). You CAN fight City Hall. You SHOULD fight City Hall. If you think City Hall is wrong, you call them on it. Get mad. Fight back. If you can’t fight them, settle for annoying them (in the long run, that can be more effective).
2). Anyone who presumes any level of “authority” over you-police officers, court officers, judges-who is paid with your tax dollars works for you. They are subject to the same laws you are, and owe you the same courtesies you owe them. I’ve heard from multiple sources that cops don’t respond well when you tell them “I pay your salary.” Deal with it. I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true.
And, if I’m standing in front of a judge who has issued dire warnings about the consequences awaiting defendants who are wearing hats, cursing, talking, or have their hands in their pockets…well, if I don’t get to be a comedian, HE doesn’t get to be a comedian. And, that judge is a public servant who is paid with MY TAX MONEY…if I feel like filing a complaint because I don’t like his haircut or the way his shoes or shined, I WILL. Remember those videos of activists standing on the White House steps chanting “YOU WORK FOR US!”? At face value, that’s true, and it’s never bad policy to remember that.
However, the whole “anti-government paranoia” thing can bring some real crazies out of the closet. Here’s a modest proposal: instead of this all-consuming rage at at faceless, nameless “government,” we focus that rage at more local targets? Instead of going apeshit about Hillary Clinton’s email account or Barack and Michelle Obama traveling in different airplanes, we go nuts hounding school superintendents who make over half a million dollars a year, or city mayors who vote in ill-advised projects like the aforementioned cameras, or people who run utility companies who flatten entire neighborhoods and then try to weasel their way out of paying reparations to the people who managed to survive? How about instead of driving to border towns in Texas and California and screaming at buses full of kids from El Salvador or Honduras, you track down the people who are REALLY fucking up your life? Your voice has a better chance of being heard, and your anger just MIGHT make a difference.
3) No amount of taxation is too small to scream about if that form of taxation is unjust, or is levied without representation. And, yeah, here comes a giant discussion about what constitutes “just” taxation and what doesn’t. But, there’s taxation, and then there’s just racketeering, plain and simple…if you drive through an intersection enough times, you’re going to get caught. There might as well have been a giant guy with a gun at that intersection robbing every tenth person who drove through, because that’s what it amounted to.
And, our court system is 99% about collecting money from the people who have the least ability to pay. It was clear when I walked in that the judge’s principal job was to hear the largest number of cases in the shortest amount of time possible, and if you fought your ticket and lost, you were going to get screwed. I seriously considered pleading “not guilty” and fighting it, but decided (before being sneered at in front of a room full of people) that it would cost me more time and energy than it was worth (for the record, I pleaded no contest) and there was no guarantee I’d win. Is there not a hint here of how innocent people end up in jail for years?
I remember working as a credit card rep and having long, bitter arguments with octogenarians from Queens or Sarasota or Sun City about .35-cent finance charges on their bills, and thinking “Jesus! It’s only thirty-five cents! Pay it and move on!” Well, some of those people were most definitely misers…but some also understood that the .35-cent finance charge of yesterday has the sinister ability to turn into the $40 late fee of tomorrow.
Before I called in yesterday, I HAD paid the fine and moved on. But, moving on doesn’t mean it never happened, and moving on doesn’t make it right. If, six months ago, somebody on a streetcorner had shoved a gun into my ribs or whacked me over the head with a lead pipe or broke into my house and stole $500 from me, I sure as hell wouldn’t be “over it” by now…and nobody would be TELLING me to be.