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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Texas Justice Is Also For the Birds

*Names changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.

The ACLU is currently defending someone who was ticketed and fined for flipping someone off in a public place.  The ACLU's position in defending this particular miscreant is that "the bird" is an expression of free speech and therefore protected by the constitution. It's unfortunate that a speech by Ben Shapiro, Dennis Prager or Bill Whittle is not also considered "free speech" by the ACLU, which turns out to be pretty much entirely on the side of the universities, many of which regularly shut down speech by conservatives to "protect" their students from offensive ideas like smaller government, free trade, deregulation, lower taxes and legal immigration.

Back in 1970s Texas we had a high school football player over in the town next to mine who had a similar "free speech" issue.
In those days "Angry Birds" was a pastime that had nothing to do with video games. This cocky young man was out jogging one sunny Saturday morning, training for the upcoming football season. As he jogged along Cleburne, Texas' leafy avenues, he spotted his elderly English teacher stopped at a stop sign. Recognizing an opportunity to express his right to free speech, and with the hormone-addled logic of youth, he flipped her off as he went jogging by. Quite pleased with himself, he jogged off snickering under his breath, leaving poor old Mrs Whitman who was in her 70s and still teaching at his high school, sitting at the intersection shocked and upset.

Unfortunately for our jogger, someone else saw "the whole thing" as the incident came to be called. On a nearby front porch sat one of the town's adult citizens. The man had graduated from that same local high school himself and had even sat in a couple of classes with the venerable Mrs. W. Now this was before the age of cell phones but during the age of front porch sitting and nosy neighbors who understood what it really meant to be part of a village raising a child. The neighbor stepped into his house and quickly called the cops. I say "unfortunately", but the whole thing probably was fortunate so far as this young man's moral education was concerned.

A couple of blocks down the street, a pair of cop cars, lights flashing rolled up and screeched to a stop in front of the confused cornerback. A couple of Cleburne's finest jumped out, none to gently secured the young man between them, bent him over the hood of the cop car and cuffed him. The next thing he knew he was down at the police station being arrested on a charge of "terroristic threat". The cops called the boy's dad and when the father, good man that he was, found out what his son had done, he agreed with the police that they should leave him in jail for a while (remember he is wearing nothing but his gym shorts seeing as how they'd taken his shoes so he couldn't hang himself with the laces). It was not a comfortable experience for the lad. Turns out his dad had also sat in Mrs Whitman's English classes.

Three days later, our young jogger was taken before the judge in his gym shorts. The judge, after giving him a stern lecture, promised the lad dire consequences if he ever appeared "in this court again". In a bit of sweet justice, the judge also made him apologize to Mrs. Whitman before the entire courtroom. He was given time served, was released and told to put on the t-shirt his frantic mother had brought to the court appearance.

The story became stuff of local legend. No one in the community over the age of 30 had any problem with this sort of law enforcement intervention. For years, the football coach told this story to his team members, who were thusly inspired to keep their fingers to themselves!

© 2018 by Tom King

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