Under Pretense of Care


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May 31, 2007

'I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.' ~ Thomas Jefferson.

The other night my 18 year-old son, Tony, got pulled over by police while taking a friend home. It took two fully manned SUV's and a cruiser with two more inside it, nine altogether. They all exited the vehicles and surrounded the car. Tony now figures his street cred is off the charts.

He has been stopped more times than you can shake a stick at, for the simple fact that he is a young man driving an old hoopdie ' suspicion itself. He had made the mistake of registering this car in Wayne County ( Detroit ) because it was the only branch that was open on a Saturday. Now anytime his plates are run, to the trained eye they apparently scream 'DRUGS,' rather than the purportedly second wealthiest county in the nation in which we actually reside.

'Why am I being pulled over, officer?'

'There are a lot of drugs going through here.'

My first thought upon hearing this was: Wouldn't a drug runner just take the major interstate north from Detroit instead of stopping at traffic lights, whee, whee, whee, all the way home? Tony's thought was, 'If I were running drugs, would I be driving this? No--more like an Escalade with gold-plated dubs, like that one going by right over there.' Tony is smart enough to keep it an unspoken thought.

'I want to see your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. And your friend's driver's license too.'

'I want an updated registration.'

'Uh, this one doesn't expire for another month, officer.

'Oh, right. Where you boys going?'

'I'm taking him home.'

'Where you been?'

'Playing darts.'

'You boys been drinkin' tonight?' 'No.' 'Smoking marijuana?' 'No.' 'Got any narcotics in the car?' 'No.' 'Any dope?' 'No.' 'Any drugs?' 'No.' 'Any narcotics?' 'Uh, nooo.' 'So you have no drugs in the car, is that right?' 'Uh, yes, I have no drugs in the car.'

Tony was sure there was a booby trap in there somewhere. This reminded me of the goofy, old song by Silver and Cohn, 'Yes, We Have No Bananas.' It must be an advanced interrogation technique. Ironically, public 'servants' can treat you as badly as they like, as if you weren't paying their salary (not willingly anyway). You, on the other hand, had better be as polite and forthcoming as humanly possible, or it's 'Gitmo, here I come,' provided you're lucky enough to survive the journey. The care pretense continued.

'Any weapons?' 'No.' 'Explosives?' 'No.' 'Any drugs?' (Slowly now,) 'nooo.'

'Then you don't mind if we search the vehicle?'

Tony knew he could refuse, but if he did, at the very least, he'd be there half the night with dangerous nitwits who could easily plant some contraband in his car as divine retribution for having wasted their time. He might even accidentally get shot. All he could hear was his pillow-top Serta beckoning him. He wanted this to be over. 'Sure, go ahead.'

Tony stepped out. His friend remained inside, getting a bird's eye view of the inspection. Tony moved to the back of the car, perfectly at ease knowing he was clean. Being a friendly sort, he struck up a conversation to pass the time with another officer who seemed uninterested in the events.

'Can I shake your hand, or is that against the rules?'

'No, that's fine.'

'I'm Anthony, how do you do?'

'I'm Officer Kent, nice to meet you. So you don't have drugs in the car?'

(Sadly now,) 'no.' What Tony really wanted to do was whisper, 'yeah, the trunk is full of crack, but don't tell your friend there, because we already fooled him! Tell him later when you get back in your car and then you can have a big laugh!' The whole thing was a ridiculous joke, except for the fact there are currently over one million Americans incarcerated for non-violent drug offences. Shattered reputations and prison rape aside, multiply that by $40,000 a year to house each one and it's not funny at all. I'll take a pot smoker with a gun over a sober, armed bully any day.

Tony had just cleaned the interior of his prized possession that day, so it was easy to see there was nothing inside it. The inspector was so sure he would find the remains of a joint in the ashtray that he kept shaking it until it fell over. He never even looked under the passenger seat or so much as opened the trunk. Obviously they were not looking for a drug runner, but a dumb kid with a roach in the ashtray.

'Ok, you boys drive carefully.' They all climbed back into the shiny, new, taxpayer-funded vehicles, which burn oodles of expensive gas. In fact, would you guess that in Detroit , police drive some of the nicest cars? It's true ' nothing but the best for Pimp Daddy.

With the driver's door open, Tony took his handy ArmorAll wipes (I'm not getting paid for this endorsement) to the pile of ashes that had been dumped onto the floor and door jamb. The last SUV pulled up and wanted to know what he was doing.

'Cleaning up your mess.'

By way of apology they proffered, 'Oh. Yeah.' They then took off in search of a hapless sucker unwise enough not to clean up after himself, fresh grist for the criminal justice system mill. They are fear mongers with guns going about always in search of enemies to destroy. The fact that those 'enemies' have harmed no one nor mean any harm is irrelevant. The fact that they are unarmed is not irrelevant--a disarmed population is a compliant one.

I feel so much safer knowing da po-po is on da job: armed groups of bullies licensed to kill, looking to incarcerate and permanently scar the reputation of any young man who could have given a ride to someone, at some time, who smoked some pot. Do you feel safer?

Men have certain advantages in life ' they can operate electronic gadgets, a computer or power tool with little or no direction. They can recognize a make of car a mile away ' I wouldn't know one from another if it ran me over and left a funny shaped 'H' on my forehead. (The best I could do would be to say whether it was big or small and possibly the color, if it was pretty.) Men are naturally stronger (which is aggravating) and, in my experience, usually treated differently by other men than women are, such as by auto mechanics, plumbers and the like. (I'm not necessarily complaining here ' a man rarely offers to change another man's flat tire.) However, I wouldn't be a young man these days for anything.

Cops actually smile at me. By my appearance, they assume I'm not packing or using. Sometimes I smile back. If they only knew what easy targets they make of themselves; that my keyboard packs heat and I don't hesitate to wield it at any opportunity. Luckily, the keystroke is mightier than the sword. If they were smart enough to understand that, my guess is they'd look for some other profession that would bestow upon them a gun, a badge of impunity and the cover of darkness for dastardly, depraved deeds and the world's largest standing army covering their backs. But alas, these prizes can only be obtained by selling one's soul to the Beelzebub, government.

My son will soon be flying alone to visit his dying grandfather. Being of beautiful Italian extract, he is olive skinned, the poor fellow, and could possibly pass for Middle Eastern decent. As in foxholes, there are few atheists in Amerikan airport interrogation rooms these days--god help them. Thomas Jefferson has to be turning over in his grave.

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Retta Fontana lives in the Great Smoky Mountains. Children are her favorite people. She loves to connect with readers - please writer to her here: rettafontana@gmail.com