January 28th, 2003

JOY

You are not a delicate flower.

I'm starting to be able to pinpoint my favorite things and my least favorite things. htothem insists that everyone should have a crib sheet of superlative likes and dislikes in case a teenybopper magazine were ever to interview you so that you could have those answers at your fingertips. I came to the conclusion a while back that 12 Monkeys is my #1 favorite movie. Sometime within the past few months, it dawned on me that Cannonball by the Breeders is my #1 favorite song. The rest seem to be either less clear, or less important (really, who cares that my favorite juice is Orange/Strawberry/Banana) but I will be sure to announce them once I have decided. Rice is still in the front of the race for favorite food, and unless I can think of something else that can beat it, rice wil be crowned King of Foods.

This past weekend, what may be the final nail in the coffin was driven into the thing that bothers me the most. While more abstract than a movie or rice, I have decided that nothing makes me angrier than people who think the rules do not apply to them.

I hate myself for knowing the subject of any of Bob Levy's Washington columns, but there they are on the back of the crossword and sometimes they slip into my subconscious. He wrote one around Christmastime about the parking patterns that had erupted in a Maryland mall where cars were parked in fire lanes, on grass patches, or anywhere the driver felt like stopping. He went into a vivid yet imaginary dialog between himself and the illegal parker, in which he demanded why the parker thought it was okay for them to break the rules, and the parker protesting that they were only going in for "two seconds to pick up their Chinese food". Where did this person get the idea that they were somehow exempt from the no parking zone? Where on the sign did it say "Fire Lane or Parking for Chinese Pickup"?

Living on the street I do, nothing could hit more literally close to home. People driving on my street seem to believe that if they cannot find nearby parking or if they are just "popping in", that it's okay to simply stop in the right lane, throw on their flashers and go for it. Arlington County could make their budgets for the next six years from the illegal parking that takes place within 10 blocks of my apartment alone if they only ever ticketed or towed someone.

Maybe I'm jealous. Maybe this infuriates me because I just *know* that if it were me to be illegally parking, I would be ticketed, towed, impounded and otherwise busted for it. The difference seems to be, to me, that there are people out there that think they can do this stuff and neither suffer nor deserve the repercussions. Believe you me, I have committed my fair share of crimes, but never have I thought that I had the right to do so, nor did I ever expect not to have to suffer the consequences of my actions should I have gotten caught.

What has brought this to the front of my mind was a conversation that took place at the Australia Day Party at ao and mac's this Sunday. Many of you were there, so correct me if I'm telling this wrong. One of our friends brought up those Men-from-Arab-nations check-ins that have been instituted lately. We all had our opinions on the subject, and one of our friends brought up an article he had read in the Post about an arabic chef living in the U.S. who had had a proper visa, but let it expire, and when he went to the check-in, got deported. He surprised none of us when he said how the Post clearly meant it to tug on any loose heartstring willing to shed a tear for a "nice guy who is liked in the community" who is getting deported. Aside from pointing out that this really is nothing more than the standard subjective drivel the Post is famous for, we were mostly in agreement that this chef was not being punished for being a suspected terrorist like the article implied, but for allowing his visa to lapse and becoming an illegal immigrant; an actual criminal.

I find it very convenient and helpful that the word "illegal" is right there in that phrase to remind us all that yes, immigrating into a country without following the proper channels is illegal and therefore a crime. This, to me, is as simple as not parking in a fire lane. Park illegally, immigrate illegally, get caught, and you face the consequences, be they an $80 tow or a free ticket home. It is very easy to not park illegally, all you have to do is follow the lines and park within them; immigrating legally may be more difficult, as our Aussie friend has learned recently, but it can be done. Follow the lines, fill out the forms. The forms, like parking spaces, are available to everyone. Sometimes they're just more than 10 feet away from the mall.

One of the other partygoers piped up to express the pity she feels for the chef who, in her mind, hasn't done anything to hurt anyone and should be left alone. Perhaps not. He may not have inflicted bodily harm on anyone, but like driving on the proper side of the road, parking legally, or not shouting "fire" in a movie theater, he broke the law, got caught, and must face the consequences. I asked the girl where she thought the line was; at what point do we stop ignoring the rules for people we feel bad for or what the point of setting up very clear and simple rules is when anyone who can muster sympathy becomes exempt. She shrugged and said she "just feels bad for the guy, that's all", and tried to drop it.

I brought up that it is just another manifestation of the age old quandary of whether or not a starving man is justified in stealing a loaf of bread. She said very confidently that it is okay for a starving man to steal a loaf of bread because it is his "human right" to not be hungry. At what point does a starving man's human right to feed himself surpass the shop owner's human right to make an honest living to feed himself? There are other ways to get bread than stealing. Nothing about the so-called "human right" to eat says it's okay to break any other rule or infringe on others' human rights in order to satisfy yours. People may believe that it is their right to park near the mall, however, it is not in their right to endanger everyone else in the mall by blocking the fire lane. And when does it end? In what other situations does this apply? Since this girl is of the belief that it is within someone's human rights to not have to pay for food, is it a breach of human rights to have to pay rent on an apartment?

Is it pragmatic of me to believe that the rules are in place to be followed by everyone or is it idealism to believe that everyone will follow the rules? Where do people get the idea that the rules apply in some cases but not for all? When did rules become subject to opinion or case-based exemption? For the most part, rules are very simple. They follow maybe a dozen or so simple concepts that most anyone can understand. Break them, and you must pay the penalty. There is no one the rules do not apply to.
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