Friday, June 5, 2009

The correct answer to Jaywalkers vs. Cops is.....

I have been apprised of all the arguments in the ongoing battle between those who believe pedestrians are being harassed by Savannah-Chatham Metro Police and the cops who say they are, in a civil manner, enforcing the law against jaywalking and other offenses. I have heard both sides, and I genuinely like the principals of both point and counterpoint. In adherence with the good ol' boy referee-type I am, I even completely understand both arguments and agree with portions of both. But fence-sitting is boring, and it's painful if you aren't wearing your cup, so I suppose I must pick one side or the other, so here goes;

Suck it up, jaywalkers. Now you know how the cigar smoker feels.

Whenever I hear the term 'jaywalking', my first thought is always what I imagined as the definition of the word when I was a child. Back then I was called Little Ray due to the fact that there were 18 men named Ray in the family (Big Ray, Little Ray, Regular Ray, Daddy Ray, Big Daddy Ray, Ray Ray, Irregular Ray were some of the others). When Little Ray first heard that jaywalking was a crime, he immediately wondered how could this be? He knew his friend Jay walked funny. After all, Jay was six-nine and weighed 103-and-a-half, but he didn't understand why walking as gangly Jay walked could earn you a ticket.

Now that I have learned the proper definition, it isn't that I don't sympathize and, at least partially, agree with my friend Michael Gaster and his "Savannians Against Ticketing for Jaywalking" Facebook group. Gang bangers trying to shoot their way into their own version of a promised paradise or folks randomly breaking into homes are a much more pertinent danger than some jabroni who wants to risk his life by darting across Bull Street right smack in between the traffic signals. However, I have a hard time grasping the concept that a crackdown on jaywalking is cannon fire in the war on personal freedom, as if Washington, John Adams, and Ben Franklin are waiting with bated breath in Heaven to know if all their hard work will written off with a $208 ticket.

"So why are you siding with the cops" the Facebook jaywalking groupee may ask. Well, I am not exactly doing that. I do think the fines are excessive, and so does Police Chief Michael Berkow, but those fines are proscribed by Georgia state law, not local ordinance. It does appear that Savannah City Council and other folks within government have had their palms greased....errr....I mean, are taking steps to possibly change the law, which is how this country is supposed to work, so good for the Facebookers for bringing about that change.

The reason for my position is that I wonder just how far the Facebook group's defense of liberty goes. Will the group rally again if politico or a school determines that we aren't supposed to use a certain phrase because if might be "offensive?" Are anti-marijuana laws also an infringement of the pothead's personal space. And speaking of smoking, if you believe liberty bequeaths jaywalking with impunity, why am I almost certain that at least some members of the group would tell me I can't smoke a harmless cigar, in a place where the smoke wouldn't bother anyone, because I would be killing the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, poisoning the water, causing ground clutter on the weather radar, killing talk radio, burning down Santa Claus' s house and making their cheese moldy?

I know what you are thinking, but I have typed too much for today and don't have time to fill all of the Tobacco Nazi arguments full of empirical lead. I just hope that when we toss about big words such as freedom and liberty, we are talking about liberty for all, not just liberty for those things with which we agree.

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