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 Joe and the Law 

June 2, 2005 
Remember the scene in Jurassic Park III when the pterodactyl flies off holding the kid in its talons? Today's column is "Joe and the Law" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.It calls to mind certain incidents in my own family life.

Our lives have been unkindly described as chaotic, but, while bridling at that, I would not contest the word eventful, though I hasten to assure you that none of the events has actually involved pterodactyls. On those occasions when children have inexplicably vanished, they have later offered some pretty far-fetched explanations, but being carried off by flying reptiles isn’t among them. Cops, sometimes; pterodactyls, never.

I mention this because at least one reader has expressed mild alarm at my recent allusion to an arrest warrant for my grandson Joe. I don’t want to give my public the false impression that Joe is a hardened criminal, so I’d better issue a clarification.

This warrant resulted in a policeman rudely awakening me before dawn one morning last November; I managed to explain to him that he had the wrong Joseph Sobran, and that I was fairly certain that I had no outstanding obligation to do community service. The cop finally left my doorstep rather grudgingly, apparently disappointed that he hadn’t collected a scalp; he didn’t even apologize for breaking my slumber.

My curiosity piqued, I phoned Joe to ask him how he’d managed to get on the wrong side of the law at age 17. It transpired that he and some friends had been out late one summer night, and a policewoman warned them that they were all in violation of a curfew their city had imposed. This offended Joe’s Jeffersonian instincts, and he said so volubly as his companions submitted meekly. So the spiteful woman punished his impertinence by giving him, and him alone, a ticket. When she demanded his home address, he gave her mine instead (where he had in fact lived for some years).

Joe ignored the ticket, didn’t show up in court to dispute it, and was presumably convicted in his absence and sentenced to community service. When he didn’t show up for community service either, the long arm of the law swung into action and pounded on my door.

[Breaker quote for Joe and the Law: My grandson's crime]So that was Joe’s crime: smarting off at a cop. At one time I’d have reproached him for showing disrespect, but those days are behind me. Too many cops prowl around looking for chances to ruin young men’s lives for trivial infractions. As far as I know, Joe doesn’t do drugs, but he knows that if he so much as puffs a joint he can go to prison.

I don’t expect that to happen to Joe, but it’s outrageous that it happens to anyone. One of the results of the unconstitutional “war on drugs” is an artificially high crime rate, especially among young black males who harm nobody but ... well, you know the story.

“The way to get rid of crime in high places,” says my old friend Timothy Wheeler, “is to get rid of high places.” And the way to get rid of most of our criminals is to get rid of unnecessary laws. It’s astounding how many laws are passed and how few repealed.

And so many laws are petty, intrusive, absurd, and downright immoral. Why should we have an uncritical respect for them? And why should we respect either the politicians who pass them or the police and courts who are willing to enforce them? Can such people be reasonably considered benefactors of society? Can we even presume that their motives are honest, let alone benevolent, when a man like Bill Clinton can rise to the apex of law enforcement?

“It’s no use telling our rulers to mind their own business,” C.S. Lewis observed. “Our whole lives are their business.” You can run afoul of the law nowadays by standing still. Doing nothing is illegal. It means shirking legal obligations to pay taxes, show up for duty, and obey an array of commandments that makes the Talmud look like the Boy Scout Handbook.

Politicians always promise to make even more new laws, as if this were some sort of achievement. It rarely occurs to them to pare down the fantastic body of laws already on the books. In their minds, there is no such thing as enough.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2005 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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