Biff America: Government intervention and shoplifting
Vail, CO Colorado
“If you hate the police – next time you need help, call a hippie.”
That slogan graced a bumper sticker my pal Keith and I placed on the 1963 Ford Galaxy that we drove from Boston to Colorado in the mid-70s.
We hoped that the bumper-sticker would be a talisman of protection from any police who might want to stop two long haired “Yankee-boys” driving the southern route to the Rockies.
There were two glaring flaws in that logic. The first was that Keith stole the sticker from a truck stop in West Virginia. The second was that both ‘I’s in hippie were dotted with marijuana leaves.
Keith got the idea of stealing the novelty item after a very uncomfortable meal at a roadside diner. We were the only ones in the place with long hair, Boston accents and leather jackets. It might have been my imagination but it seemed that there were many ugly glances cast in our direction and the waitress was not friendly.
“This reminds me of a scene from ‘Easy Rider.’ Let’s get out of here.” I said, “We should have taken the northern route.”
Keith tied to blame me. “You have to blend in more. Take that bandana off your head and don’t order anything with an R in it – in case you haven’t noticed, you have a Boston accent.
I pointed out that, because Keith and I grew up on the same street, if I had an accent he had one as well. But he countered that he had a semester of community college under his belt (before he flunked out) which exposed him to other cultures.
I paid for our meals with a twenty dollar bill, which caused the waitress some consternation being it was of such a large denomination. We waited at the counter for our change.
As we walked to the car I kept looking over my shoulder for trouble.
By the time we got to our car Keith was pulling the bumper-sticker out from under his shirt.
“You idiot!” I said, “Down here shop-lifting might get us on a chain-gang.”
Keith countered that since I had never attended college, the subtleties of cultural assimilation were lost on me and that the bumper sticker would show the cops and rednecks that we were one of them.
The rest of our trip was not without incident or encounters with authority, but in all honesty, the blame lies with Keith and me, not the bumper sticker.
“If you hate the police – next time you need help, call a hippie.” That slogan contains a lot of truth. You often hear it said, “Where is a cop when you need one?”
None of us are excited to see a policeman when we are driving too fast, parked illegally or “skitching” a ride by holding on to your friend’s car while riding your bicycle. It is not until you encounter dangerous drivers, bad people, violence or accidents that those same blue lights you dread seeing in your rearview mirror becomes a thing of beauty.
The same might be said of government – federal, state and local. No one wants government intervention. Until they do.
We all want the government out of our lives until we want to be protected, educated, driving on safe roads or defended from rouge nations. When those scenarios present themselves, most of us are all for government intervention.
I have been closely following these town hall meetings dealing with health care reform.
Two things have struck me. One is the degree anger and rudeness. I wonder why there was not such righteous indignation over some other issues of the last 10 years – like wars, torture, economy Hillary’s pant-suits?
The other are the cries of “socialism” that have echoed off the walls. This country was founded on free market capitalism, but from the beginning there were government programs – the military, postal service and customs houses.
Though our history and heritage is based on capitalism, there are some things that can’t function as a free market enterprises – cops, firefighters and roads. I have seen signs, “Government – keep your hands off my Medicare.” Medicare is the government.
I’m not sure what will shake out from all this health reform debate. In my humble opinion, the current system does not work, and can be financially crippling. I have to think that those with the most to lose – insurance companies and lobbyists – are the force behind the angry opposition. I think we can do better.
The government is not the enemy, the government is you and me because we elected it. If you hate the government, next time your house is on fire call a lobbyist.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com.
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