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January 6, 2012
Posted at 10:50 pm

The Criminalization of John and Jane Smith

Okay, I blew it. Flagellate me with a wet noodle.

I used the word granted in the universe description in a manner in which people object - some quite strongly. Although the modern interpretation of the phrase 'Rights granted in the Constitution' has come to mean that it is a 'privilege' lent to us by the government -- the phrase is not limited to that interpretation. It also means that these rights are acknowledged as fundamental and are to be maintained (continuously 'given') by any legitimate government established under the Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence lays out quite clearly that the proper role of government is to assure those rights and not take individual liberties away in favor of the 'needs' of the many. I know the Founding Fathers were stating that the partial list of rights acknowledged in the Constitution was not a full list of rights. The idea they were putting forth -- that there are rights given to us by God and were not to be limited by a legitimate government was truly revolutionary.

It is weird that the phrase, 'The rights granted by the constitution are taken for granted,' has individuals who interpret the first use of granted as only meaning 'given as a gift' while accepting the second use of granted as meaning 'given as a fact.'

You can argue that, but I wrote it and I meant the later meaning of granted in both uses -- so there!

Some readers have rightly said that John and Jane Smith are flat and nondescript characters. Yes, they are. They are generic figures who are given plain ordinary names. Jane is not a full figured woman with body parts that will stop traffic. John is not a handsome man who causes women to swoon. They are not described at all. To me that makes sense because they are supposed to represent anybody -- not someone specifically. In fact, they could be you and share all of your hopes and dreams for the future.

John and Jane are not the stars in this universe. They are the road kill by the side of the street, run over by a bureaucratic system with all of the feelings and emotions of a truck. It's the truck that is the main star of this universe. (By the way, you aren't supposed be on the side of the bureaucratic system.)

In one of the next stories in this universe, the question arises as to the rights of search and seizure given to dog catchers. Is it a stupid question? Now the lawyers among us, both licensed and amateur, may know what is the full authority given to a dog catcher in pursuit of a 'criminal' animal or to protect an animal that is being illegally kept. In a very unscientific poll in which I just asked a random collection of people what were the search and seizure powers of a dogcatcher, I received as many answers as people I questioned.

They say that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Well, a lot of this stuff isn't law, but regulations that have the effect of law, but aren't law. Some come into existence without fanfare or announcement. I'll accept that we are supposed to do due diligence and investigate what we are allowed to do before we do it. That really sounds good and reasonable. How much time are we to spend on it? Unfortunately, it is becoming a full time job.

Some things you don't even think about, such as, parking a car in front of a friend's house when we visit them. Turns out that in some places it is okay to park a car on the street in front of someone's house during the day, but at dusk it becomes a crime (must be a law to keep vampires away). No signs are posted to that effect. Suddenly, you are paying a $100 ticket.

Do you think I'm making this up? I'm not. That is how I got my first and only traffic ticket. It all started when I helped take someone to a hospital. In hindsight, I should have known that I should have stopped and consulted a lawyer when I parked my car. Unfortunately, I was more concerned with my friend's health than obeying a parking regulation that I had no idea existed. There were other cars parked on the street -- why shouldn't I? They weren't parked there when I got back from the hospital.