No Excuse
By R. D. Flavin

8-23-2013

It´s aginst th´ law to walk, It´s aginst th´ law to talk
It´s against th´ law to loaf, It´s aginst th´ law to work
It´s aginst th´ law to read, It´s aginst th´ law to write
It´s aginst th´ law to be a black or brown or white.

Ever´thing’s aginst th´ law
I´m a low pay daddy singing th´ high price blues

     As American jurisprudence has long upheld the old Roman caveat of Ignorantia juris non excusat or “ignorance of the law does not excuse,” it should easily follow that arrogance before the law (that is, flagrant illegal activity) be strenuously discouraged.  Or, at the very least, the appearance of discreet criminality should be exercised.  Standards, don't ya' know...  Traveling five, ten, or even twenty miles per hour over the speed limit is occasionally understandable, but doing a 100 mph zigzag through the evening rush hour traffic is generally considered wicked excessive and wrong.  There's no excuse for being that selfish and reckless.  Greater goods knockin' it with lesser wrongs!  And, always buckle-up and have bail money.


Seattle Hempfest 2013 munchies - "Don't use pot in public."

     “Operation Orange Fingers,” last week's Seattle Police Department public service information campaign at the Seattle Hempfest 2013, was apparently in “most excellent” good taste.  The cops handed out free bags of Doritos to the attendees which had attached info-stickers about the new and still changing State of Washington laws concerning marijuana usage, possession, and related complications.  Though it's still illegal to smoke pot in public, the police only handed out warnings and not civil violation tickets.  The tickets, of course, will come soon and likely often as states will make a buck when they can.  Rhode Island state and local police just announced that they wrote 850 tickets between April and July for possession of less than an ounce of weed, already collecting $61,000 out of a projected $110,000.  As laws change one would assume common sense would tag along, though sometimes the relationship between common sense and the law can be very difficult to understand.

It´s aginst th´ law to eat, It´s aginst th´ law to drink
It´s aginst th´ law to worry, It´s aginst th´ law to think
It´s aginst th´ law to marry or to try to settle down
It´s aginst th´ law to ramble like a bum from town to town

Ever´thing’s aginst th´ law
I´m a low pay daddy singing th´ high price blues

     The continuing threat from Congress to pass a Flag Desecration Amendment to ostensibly prohibit public flag-burning has remained patriotic hyperbole as it's against the law to burn anything in public without a permit.  Actually, even burning stuff on private property is heavily regulated.  Unnecessary redundancy would seem to be at play here, though Congress also likes to elaborate on the “Desecration” part and include such apparel incorporation as Captain America's costume/uniform/suit (both Steve Rogers and Wyatt from Easy Rider).  Fashion statements aside, civil disobedience remains a personal choice of accepting legal consequences.  I mean, the whole bra-burning thing never really took off, yet tailgate cook-outs at parking lot sporting events seem to be widely tolerated.  Double-standard or selective enforcement?  Yeah, sparking up a joint and grilling brats and burgers in non-authorized public places should be regarded as equally reprehensible with Yogi Boo Boo warning us that only we can prevent forest fires and avoid citations for a hundred bucks (at least that's the price tag, here, under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 94C/Section 32L).

     United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. has recently announced plans for the Justice Department to lighten up on the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders.  The recommendation seems to have more to do with the cost of incarceration and prison overcrowding, as well as the blatant disparity between Blacks and crack cocaine and Whites with powdered cocaine (though, I'd guess most African-Americans snorting powder might still get an injudicious bum's rush), than getting in front off the fast approaching tide of recreational and medicinal drug usage and possession decriminalization.  Selling drugs, of course, will remain a huge no-no, as that takes taxes away from the Feds, the States, and local governments.  In 2011 Holder correctly anticipated the indefensibility and collapse of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was soon superseded by June 2013 Supreme Court decision ruling DOMA as unconstitutional.  However, despite the new changes in the law, it's still arrogant, wrong, and illegal to get high and have gay sex in public (even if married/partnered).  With Twisted History it's remembered that what happens in Eden, stays in Eden...

It´s aginst th´ law to come, It´s against th´ law to go
It´s against th´ law to ride, It´s against th´ law to roll
It´s aginst th´ law to hug, It´s against th´ law to kiss
It´s against th´ law to shoot, It´s against th´ law to miss

Ever´thing’s aginst th´ law
I´m a low pay daddy singing th´ high price blues

     For some years now, I've maintained a personal assessment of basic human character as divided into those who do what they can, those who do what they can get away with, and accepting the vast majority of us are a blended combination of both tendencies.  Us versus Them alternates with the hedonistic and existential “I, Me, Mine” approach of opportunism.  We all carry pet excuses that assist in our compromises.  As a part-time environmentally conscious filtered cigarette smoker, for a couple of decades now I've refrained from flicking butts on private property and put the filters in my pocket for disposal at a later time.  On public streets and sidewalks, I sometimes field-strip the filter or look for a sewage drain, but honestly grind them out underheel more often than not.  As Boston is a tourist city with lots of regular clean-up and sweeping there's this pet excuse that someone else will take care of my discarded cigarette butts, but I'm apparently inept at self-deception and not very good at kidding myself it's anything other than flagrant littering.


Mayan flask ca. 700 CE with glyphs reading: "Yo-'OTOT-ti 'u-MAY" or "the home of his tobacco" and cleaning the U.S. Capital building's spittoons in 1914.

     And, sadly, ditto with spitting on sidewalks.  As the American tobacco industry prospered in the 1840s, chewing tobacco as an alternative to smoking became immensely popular (yeah, along with smoking the pipe, the Canadian/American First Nations had been doing it since trading with the Late Classic Mayans, ca. 600-900 CE) and cuspidors or spittoons were introduced to handle the resulting juicy expectorant.  Spittoons were commonplace from taverns to churches, and around the dugouts and benches of baseball teams after 1846.  Not all chewing tobacco users followed etiquette and let loose the tobacky juice without regard to public or private property.  Or health...  After “The Consumption” became identified as the tubercle bacillus (Koch 1882) and various “cures” had little or no effect, a temperance wave against public spitting swept from coast to coast with nearly all major cities enacting some laws protecting sidewalks (and street-cars) in 1899.  Since that time other bacteria and viruses have happened along to scare the bejesus out of folks and spitting on sidewalks continues to be illegal, unhealthy, and kinda' gross (at least to the faint of heart and weak of stomach).  Yeah, sometimes it seems necessary, but that's yet another reason to carry handkerchiefs.

     There's no good excuse for certain public behaviors.  We've rules and laws aplenty which are meant to discourage citizen wrongdoings, yet as surely as the Sun sets every night some will go rogue and think specific ordinances and statutes shouldn't apply to them.  We're too pessimistic to legislate common sense even if we could, the so-called “Golden Rule” can't seem to make it up Capital Hill without military support, and though many have reasons for what and why they do things in public, no excuses will suffice for such egregious errors in judgement as cutting-in-line at Starbucks or wearing Axe to a funeral.  It really is a shame about the “Golden Rule” and how selfish and reckless we are as a society.  We regard political waterboarding as a sport, yet playing nude Frisbee in the park while stoned on Humboldt County's finest is deigned unacceptable.  Our dystopian future has arrived early as a dysfunctional present and we need to move on and get back to having fun.

It´s aginst th´ law to gamble, It´s aginst th´ law to roam
It´s aginst th´ law to organize or try to build a home
It´s aginst th´ law to sing, It´s aginst th´ law to dance
It´s aginst th´ law to tell you th´ trouble on my hands

Ever’thing in Winston Salem is aginst th’ law
I’ma low pay daddy singin’ th’ high price blues

“Aginst Th' Law” by Woody Guthrie, written after singing to a segregated and all-black audience at a 1947 striking Food, Tobacco, and Allied Workers Union meeting in Winston-Salem, NC boycotted by whites.

Bibliography:
Koch, Robert. 1882. “Über die Ätiologie der Tuberkulose.” Verhandlungen des Kongresses für Innere Medizin. Erster Kongress; pp. 446-453. Wiesbaden. First reprint: Koch, Robert. 1882. “Die Ätiologie der Tuberkulose.” Berliner Kliniscben Wocbenschift. 15: 221-230.

Looking for an appropriate rooftop,

Rick

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