To Protect and Serve
Way back in February, I had a strange encounter with the law. It's just after 5 o'clock, so I'm leaving work. It's a good job. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I'm as happy as as the next guy to go home. So I round the first corner, and immediately, traffic is stopped dead. Despite the fact that I work in Orange county, this is unusual at this particular intersection. It turns out that the local police have erected a driver's license checkpoint. Alright now, stop right there. A driver's license checkpoint? I've only lived in this state for 22 years, and on this side of it for 5, and I've never heard of such a thing. Well, I guess there's a first time for everything.
Back to the story. Having been at work all day, I'm completely sober (in fact, at that point it may well have been a week or so since I'd had a drink), and I have my license, registration and proof of insurance. I figure I'm in the clear. Wrong. I wait my turn and finally pull up to the officer at the intersection and hold out my license. He glares at me and blares, "You have tint on your windows." True enough, I bought my car used (or pre-owned, if you prefer) and it came with tinted windows. I hesitantly agree with the annoyed-seeming man outside my rolled-down, tinted window.
"The legal limit for tint is 12%," he says, just this side of a shout. "That looks like 20, maybe even 30."
I try to explain that it was like that when I bought it, and the dealer had told me that it should be in compliance.
"Did the dealer give you a certificate of compliance?"
"Pull off to the side over there. You're going to have to take that tint off your windows." he says, voice dripping with impatience, perhaps even a hint of disgust.
About thirty minutes later I drive away with my first fix-it ticket.
Now really, with all that goes on in the world, especially in this screwed-up half of the state, do the cops really have so little to do that they have to entertain themselves with "driver's license checkpoints?" I mean, come on! I can understand sobriety checkpoints, at least then they're actually protecting other drivers from people who are a danger on the road. Are my windows really so dangerous that you not only have to give me a ticket, but in addition talk to me with a tone suggesting that not only am I retarded, but also some sort of moral deviant? If they were that hard up to meet their ticket quotas, they could quite easily pull over fifty cars in just a few hours a block away from where my windows were endangering the public. Seriously, why give me a ticket while completely ignoring literally hundreds of motorists going at least 15 over the limit, only a quarter mile away? I have yet to see a person pulled over on my way to work where at least one car in ten is going more than 10 over, and yet I have to take time out of my week to go to the courthouse, wait in line and pay $75 (in addition to the cost of having my windows fixed).
And people wonder why the crime rate never seems to go down.
The Road Ahead
Considering the situation in the world today, and also how I spend my days[*], I could hardly fail to spend a lot of time thinking about the war. Don't let the name fool you, I'm a 100% home-grown, natural-born, red-blooded, all-American boy. I love this country, always have and always will, but just because you love someone doesn't mean you agree with everything he or she does.
Let me start by saying that I believe this war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to be completely justified and appropriate. I got picked on a lot in high school, and one of the truly valuable lessons I learned from this experience was that if you let someone take advantage of you, they will continue to do so. Simply allowing a terrorist attack on our soil to occur without retaliation would be an invitation for more violence.
However, I do not believe that the United States has the resources to take on the whole world at once. True, we are the most powerful nation, and we have allies. But both our power and our friends are limited. I was reading another writer's editorial about a month ago and he claimed that the days of a grand alliance like we saw in WWII are gone. By the year 2050, Europe is expected to have half the population of today. Much of the West is in decline, at least in numbers. This is what happens when civilization sets in: the birth rate falls. And our stance at the top of the world? You may think that we'll be on this peak forever, but I'm sure that the Egyptians, Romans, Mongols and British felt that way as well, in their respective heydays. The US has plenty of advantages, no doubt. High immigration gives us a stable workforce, unlike many European countries. Technology and innovation keep us productive and ahead of the rest of the world in terms of medicine, military and information. But to expect that we will be giants forever is folly.
So many people feel that once we are finished with the Taliban (and despite their tenacity we will finish them), we need to turn those tanks around and beat down the doors at Baghdad, then on to smash any other Arab nation that stands in our way. But the bottom line is, we don't have the resources to fight the entire Arab world. The column I mentioned earlier also mentioned that Islam will soon very likely be the most populous religion in the world (it is currently the fastest-growing), as well as the fact that the population booms happen in the third world, including the Middle East. What we need to do is not to win the war, but to find a way through this situation, to find a solution to this problem. A recent survey stated that, indeed, many people in Arab countries harbor bad feelings toward the US, but not blindly. They fear that we wish to impose our will, our government, our religion upon them. We need to show them that this is not true. The situation after the first World War should show us that conquest is not the answer. Crushing an enemy gives rise to a new generation of hatred. What we need is to eliminate not those who hate us, but the reasons for which they do. Only through solid communication and forging strong connections with the rest of the world will we find a path that leads to peace.
* If you know me, and since you're reading this, you most likely know what I do. If you don't know me, well, too bad, I'm not telling you. I mean, come on, I don't know anything about you, do I?