On Friday, I was driving down Western Avenue, minding my own business, when the email app on my Galaxy Tab chimed.
“Oh good!”, I thought, “My penis pump has finally shipped!”
Since I couldn’t actually read the email, it was just an assumption. Obviously, I would need to verify the contents of the correspondence. Being a responsible citizen of the great state of Cascadia, I didn’t want to read my tablet while driving, so I pulled into the nearest public parking space.
About 15 seconds after parking, before I could even get my tablet unmounted, I received a knock on my passenger-side window. It wasn’t so much a “knock” as it was a rather strong pounding (that’s what she said), and when I looked up to see who it was, all I could see was a blue uniform and a badge.
I was confused. After all, I had broken no laws, and I didn’t even have my woodcarving knife with me. Why on earth was five-oh hassling me?
I rolled down my window, and before I could say anything, a chubby, bespectacled, Velma-from-Scooby-Doo-looking female security guard bent down, poked her head through my window, and said … and I quote … “Uh, this is kind of a federal building.”
I looked over, and sure enough, I had parked behind the Federal Building on Western Ave. between Marion and Madison.
I park next to this building all the time. Why wouldn’t I? It’s a public parking space, on a public street, in the middle of Downtown Seattle, with a public parking meter on the public sidewalk, next to a Federal (read: public) building. It’s absolutely, positively, perfectly legal to park where I was.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this photograph I took on Sunday. It’s the same space, occupied by three, count’em, three cars.
Now, I was really confused.
Before I could utter a rebuttal, however, Velma pointed to a space on the other side of Western and said “Why don’t you hang a you-eey into that space right there.”
I looked over, and about 8 feet from where I was parked, was another empty space, on the other side of a double-yellow line, pointed in the opposite direction of my travel. I realized that I was being ordered by a Federal officer to openly break two traffic laws directly in front of her face.
What on earth had I done wrong?
What in the hell is a “kind of Federal building”, and why should I not park next to one?
Clearly, this lady was out of line. As a citizen of the free-est nation on earth, it was my duty to educate this woman about my rights.
I opened my mouth … began to speak … but before I could say a word, I remembered.
I remembered 9/11.
I remembered Saddam Hussein.
I remembered Bin Laden.
I remembered the Patriot Act.
I remembered Guantanamo.
I remembered See Something, Say Something.
And in less than one second … before I could even get a syllable out of my mouth … it hit me.
Rights? What rights do I have? I don’t have any rights. This is the United States of America. A country which has more of its people locked in cages than any other nation on the planet. A country which ranks 47 on the World Press Freedom Index. A country which gropes women and children before allowing them onto an airplane. A country which arrests and beats photographers for legally taking pictures. A country embroiled in perpetual war. A country in which every bank deposit and withdrawal is scrutinized for “terrorist” ties. A country in which neighbors are being asked to spy on neighbors in an eerie resurrection of the Stasi. A country in the grips of a psychopathic paranoia that only fifteen years ago would have been unthinkable.
And so, instead of staking my legitimate claim to the spot, I instead simply said “sorry”, put the car in drive, and continued down the road, putting as much distance between myself and the “Kind-of-Federal Officer” as possible.
It was on this day, Friday, that I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized that I had given up. Given up on even trying to argue with or educate the victims of paranoid psychosis that have become the American status-quo. Given up on trying to assert my rights. Given up on any notion of “freedom”.
Somewhere along the line, I too, have accepted the new reality of American life.
Whereas, once upon a time, I would have stood my ground and argued my point, I now possess an almost pathetic defeatism. A realization that I live in a police state where the word “Federal” is used to strike fear into the hearts of average citizens, and where the only real right we have is the right to do as we are told.
It’s been a slow, tortured journey, but now … a certain acceptance and acquiesces has washed over me.
It’s like the prison rape victim who finally realizes his lot in life. He’s in a shower filled with a gang of shank-wielding guys twice his size, and after putting up a brief fight, he finally has to come to grips with the fact that … this is going to happen. At this point, he has to come to terms with his powerlessness, and he just has to make the best of it for his own mental self-preservation.
Well, folks, I am that prisoner, and the rest of you … well … you’re the gang.
As you line up like cattle to get backscattered, as you vote in yet another member of the prison-rape party, as you report each other to the authorities, all in the name of security … I’ve decided that, since I can’t beat you, I’m going to do my best to simply avoid you. After all, this is happening, there’s nothing I can do about it, and your shanks are way bigger than mine.