Friday, April 17, 2015

Catch Me If You Can

“It’s not a foul if the ref doesn’t see it.”  This is how some high school soccer coaches, among others, instill a sense of honor and fair play in the youth of America.  When they grow up, I suspect they turn into the kinds of whiny adults who think red-light cameras are not fair and an invasion of privacy.  When they run the red lights, endangering themselves and others, and a live cop doesn’t catch them in the act, it’s a victory over the system for these too busy, self-important, above-the-law citizens.  All those rules are only for peasants and suckers.

One would hope that this attitude and the behavior it elicits are rare, but politics in Chicago tells us different.  The USA Today reports how the issue of red-light cameras has become a political hot potato as the mayoral election draws near.  Both candidates are promising to make them go away.  Though the practice and objections are fairly widespread throughout the US, in “Chicago, which has the most expansive use of red-light cameras in the country, the public outrage over red lights has been louder than most.”  In fact, according to a local poll, “nearly three out of four Chicagoans want [Mayor] Emanuel to eliminate or reduce the use of the cameras, which are used for the detection, photographing and fining of lead-footed drivers who blow red lights.”

The leader of the opposition to this practice, “who has been hit with more than $1,000 in red-light camera tickets," (at $100 a pop) has held rallies and has a website dedicated to gathering support for their elimination.  (If it had been rattlesnakes instead of stoplights, this guy would have been dead long ago.)  But he’s not alone in thinking behavior, even illegal behavior, should not have consequences.  According to the Chicago Tribune, 4 million tickets have been issued since 2007!  (One wonders what the implications are for those municipalities considering using cameras to identify drivers who blow by stopped school buses as they load and unload children.)

Whether the cameras actually make the roads safer is unclear, but an easy way to avoid getting a ticket is not exactly rocket science.  Any third-grader could solve this one.  It’s probably “the principle” that everyone is hung up on, the principle that it’s not fair to get a ticket without human interaction; but they would be wiser (and richer) if they got hung up on the idea of personal responsibility instead – or as one contributor to the Opinion Page in Des Moines put it, “If you're guilty — and that's usually the case — pay up and shut up.” 

It's time to start taking responsibility, respecting the law as well as ordinary social conventions. Responsibility is closely related to common courtesy.  Yesterday, as we parked at the grocery store, my wife pushed someone else’s shopping cart from where they had left it eleven steps to the cart corral.  It was nowhere near a handicapped parking space, so there can be no other explanation than that the (probably overweigh and in need of exercise anyway) shopper felt that they were too busy or too important to take those exhausting and time-consuming 22 steps.  All those rules are only for peasants and suckers.

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