Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inalienable Rights

"That among these are Life, Liberty and the per-fute of happy-neff?"
"That's pursuit of happiness."
"All your Ss look like Fs, here."
"It's stylish. It's in, it's very in."*

According to at least one pamphleteer in the Occupy Phoenix movement, among the "among these" is the right to shoot a police officer. Of course, they have thoughtfully offered reasonable restrictions to their pronouncement - the officer has to be engaged in conduct deemed to be unlawful.

Well, that's certainly a relief.

It's difficult to be agnostic over this whole "Occupy" thing when I hear about cops getting hurt (20 in NYC, according to the New York Post). I'm told that people are frustrated, banks and greedy investment houses are screwing people. Government is unresponsive, so we need...more government. Maybe I've gotten confused.

When a police officer is injured, that's not unfortunate collateral damage. That's a man or woman whose ability to provide for their family is jeopardized. It's a career possibly gone in the blink of an eye. And, no, disability insurance won't cover it.

I was at the Democratic National Convention, as were most of my friends. Which one of us deserved to have our careers ended, or our lives, in the service of "peaceful, non-violent protest?"

What a week that was. Six straight fourteen hour days, on my feet for most of it. The food provided for us required quite a hike, and meant leaving the confines of the Pepsi Center and going beyond the fence. One afternoon, several thousand very loud, obnoxious individuals descended on the gate we used going to and from the break room. They wanted.... Things were kind of chaotic, so I forgot to ask. At the point the situation seemed especially crazy, we spotted one of our cops on the other side of the crowd, hefting a large cardboard box. He would lean close to a protester and say something to them, they'd glance toward him and step aside. Pardon me, excuse me.... He worked his way through the crowd.

What the fffff.... They let him through, his box of sandwiches for his teammates intact. The unperturbed Vietnam Vet's explanation? "We were hungry."

This was the Recreate Sixty-Eight crowd. At least, on that day, they seemed harmless. They had their thing, we had ours. Nothing personal, no reason for anyone to get hurt. They yelled, our SWAT guys looked grim and forbidding and then we all went on with our lives.

For at least one of the occupiers, that outcome would be insufficient. I have to wonder - would he or she recognize my grandchildren's inalienable right to see Grandpa get old and fat while I watched them grow up into men?

*Declaration of Independence, Stan Freberg Presents the USA, Stan Freberg


  1. I think half the people "occupying" aren't even sure what they're really protesting. I read that Kanye West showed up to a protest in NY; yes, a multi-million-dollar-earning rapper who makes more in a year than I will in a lifetime shows up to protest Wall Street. My question is, what does he know about Wall Street and the plight of the "every man"? If Bank of America charges him a $5 fee to use his debit card will he even notice? I understand people are sick of being pushed around by the government and Big Banks; I'm with you on that one. However this is a political generation of great ideas with no followthrough. We do need to fix things but standing in the street waving signs while fighting the people who are there to PROTECT, what a marvelous idea.

  2. I don't agree with hurting those who are there to keep it peaceful, i.e. police officers. Demonstrating and carrying signs and talking about what you believe in IS an inalienable right, but shooting and killing for what these "occupiers" want is not an inalienable right.

  3. Katy - spoken like a true daughter of a police officer.

    Patti - in fact, very few of us quarrel with the right to protest, even if it means the kind of low-impact trespassing the occupiers probably envisioned. And we all know we give up some individuality when we become "the man," even the women. But the discussion of when it's okay to kill me? Really?

  4. Before Benjamin Franklin signed the Constitution, he reportedly said: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." He was not signing a document of protest, but of blatant treason.

    The liberties resulting from that act of treason have certainly taken us a long way from that kind of dedication. We've now grown so accustomed to the cushy privilege of others doing our bidding, or perhaps we are so isolated in a hyper-connected, automated age of instant gratification that even the act of organized protest is alien to us. Sure, we are good at getting people to the parks and to the Capitols...but then what?

    I have never quite understood this Occupy movement--and I'm hesitant to call it a movement, because it seems to be going nowhere. The unstated motto appears to be "We recognize that something's wrong. Yes, something needs to be fixed. And somebody needs to fix it! Somehow! Whatever it is." The truths are no longer self-evident. These people can't "declare the causes which impel them." We've been dumbed down and blinded by the comforts of a free society, and so the response is contradictory and nonsensical and needlessly destructive. We hope that if we push through enough lines, gather enough people, get arrested enough, and make big enough signs, that somehow the revolution will manifest in our midst.

    It seems that our nation has retained the rebellious American spirit of its founders, but we have lost the solidarity around the ideas that allowed it to work in the first place.

  5. Jared - thoughtful as usual. I don't think that the multiplicity of points of view among the occupiers lends to any clarity in their message. I think most Americans are at least a little dissatisfied with the way things are, but there are so many different "solutions" being proposed that a poor country boy like me gets a little disoriented. Our role, as cops, is to guard the rights of the protesters, balanced by the rights of citizens who want to go about their business in the areas "occupied." We aren't perfect, but the idea that we could be justly murdered merely because of what we represent seems a little over the top. Thanks for commenting!