Do You Feel Free Anymore?

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My entire adult life I’ve felt the injustices imposed upon honest, hard-working individuals in our society: frivolous traffic tickets, lying politicians, extorted taxes for things we neither want nor need, abusive law enforcement and the like. I’ve always been passionate about these injustices but not actively so.

After spending nearly a decade abroad living and working in Europe I found myself returning to a country I didn’t recognize. I found it difficult to acclimate and integrate into this politically correct, socially abusive, statist society; a society that seemed to be desensitized to police abuse of all magnitudes. The prevailing attitude seems to be: if the cops have someone in custody then they must deserve it.

Almost immediately I was confronted with the abusive nature of the new state order: driving to get a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning in Syracuse, NY, I was pulled over for talking on my cell phone. Having only been in Syracuse for 3 months I had no reason to believe that such a law existed. Regardless the doughnut feeder pulled me from my car, patted me down in the street, and put me in his car while he ran my license and wrote out the citation. It was humiliating and I felt like a common criminal.

I was determined to fight the citation, but my contract ended and I left Syracuse. Eventually I paid the $100 fine.

Just recently I moved to Princeton, NJ, to begin a new short-term contract. This past Saturday evening I rode my bicycle to the Princeton University campus where there are a number of pubs and restaurants. My intent was to get Chinese takeout and go back to my room off campus.

As I rode down the sidewalk on famed Nassau Street on this clear, cool March evening, myself and others were startled by a Mercer county patrol car blazing its siren and lights and darting into the sidewalk ahead of me. My first thought, of course, was: what could be going on? It wasn’t more than a few seconds until I got the answer to that question. The short, well-armed female officer exited her cruiser and with a firm right hand, outstretched arm and condescending look in her eyes, she looked dead in my eyes as I approached her and exclaimed: "Stop!" I kid you not.

Of course, this is one of those situations where anyone still in possession of a fully functional frontal lobe thinks to themselves: what could I possibly have done? The responsible answer is, of course: nothing. Reason and responsibility, unfortunately, rarely seem to figure into a tax-feeder’s thought process. As it turns out, it is illegal to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk. Even more ridiculous is the fact that it’s only illegal in a 4—5 block section of Nassau street AND only on my side of the street. At least that’s what she told me.

Given my survival training learned from LRC and other sites, I immediately knew how to handle the situation. The first thing I said was: I do not consent to any searches of my person. Of course, this riled her; she immediately replied: "why, do you have something to hide? When you say that you seem suspicious." Of course this would be her response since in her mind, as she sees herself as anointed by God herself, and anyone not wanting to cooperate with a servant of the almighty must be immoral and hiding something. Actually, I saw myself as being accosted by a total stranger imposing on my freedom of movement, and was no more willing to consent to an invasion of privacy by her anymore than I would any other stranger accosting me on the street. I told her that I didn’t trust her and was simply exercising my constitutional rights. That made her even angrier. Cops hate it when mundanes say things like that.

I couldn’t help but think that this whole situation could have been avoided if only her father had loved her more. But I digress. Continuing with her irresponsible and abusive activities, she called for backup. Backup for a guy riding his bicycle. When she did that it instantly became clear to me that we were on the other side of the looking glass and tea was about to be served.


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When her colleague arrived, he approached me and said that the law was the law and they were just doing their job. Of course at that point my first instinct was to pull his underwear up over his head and smack him for being stupid. But I didn’t. Instead I pointed out how the German officers at the Nuremberg trials also used the defense that they were just doing what they were told to which he rolled his eyes as if to say: where did this nut-job come from?

As the female cop completed the citation, I made a point of letting all folks passing by know that the situation was because I was riding my bike on the sidewalk. The first baby-boomer couple to pass by commented: that’s a shame. The sidewalk is the safest place for a cyclist to ride. Of course I agreed.

Obviously this is just another example of abusive law enforcement in an effort to extort yet more and more money out of the productive people in our society in these hard economic times, in order to keep the non-working class in business.

I have a court date on March 23rd at which time I will plead not guilty and I imagine I’ll receive another court date to plead my case. My position on this issue is simple: I cannot condone this sort of socially irresponsible behavior on the part of the state. It’s been made clear to me that I have no say in anything the state does, so I am forced into a corner from which I shall fight my way out. I won’t contend that I am not guilty of breaking the law but rather that the law itself is immoral and to cite me abusive, period.

I certainly cannot take the position of: let me just pay the citation and go along to get along. By doing so I would be condoning these sorts of reprehensible practices, which I do not. This particular issue is so clearly unjust that I have no problem "going to the mattresses" in fighting it. I can’t think of anything more insulting to me as an American as this sort of affront to my God-given rights of existence.

Those police officers ought to be ashamed of themselves, but I know they are not. Like so many in America — myself included — they no doubt believe in their righteousness. But one has to ask: do you really feel free anymore? Do you find yourself in public constantly wondering if you can cross the street here or there? Whether you can ride your bike on a sidewalk? The shoulder of the road? When you see a cop car in your rearview mirror, do you feel safer or do you get a short shot of adrenaline and start wondering what he could pull you over for? What’s your speed and what’s the speed limit? Did you signal when you changed lanes? I think we all know the answer to that question.

I’ve already arranged for bail on the 23rd when things go badly. Remember, always do what you know is right, even if the government says it’s wrong. And the government will always say it’s wrong. That’s how you can know it’s the right thing to do.

Don Cooper [send him mail] is a Florida native, Navy veteran, economist, and editor of the daily non-partisan column Qaoss.com.

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