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December 8, 2014

Changing Society and The Rules

Jill King

The mounting tension with the Ferguson (Missouri), and now the Staten Island (NY) police use of force cases common denominator, stems from failing to follow basic instructions.


Society now says the government can hire and make the rules for a police force, but society does not have to have respect for those who are enforcing the rules. Are there too many? Why should we continue to make rules, if there is no enforcement?


Growing up in Frederick County was a different world in the 1970s and 1980s. An older sibling was transitioned from the segregated school system to one that was unified in a transition to equal education for students.


Living in a county where there were long drives for the weekend shopping trips, doctors, and even a different code when it came to juvenile shenanigans, what is occurring now baffles me as to one thing taught daily to children - respect. This respect was not to end as an adult; in fact it was one of the markings of adult behavior.


Do not confuse respect, with free speech. It is often similar, but there are differing guidelines as to how this is carried through.


Getting in trouble, when we went into Frederick City, was not something that we wanted to explain to our parents. Often we were provided with more freedom to the streets at our grandmother's house, due to accessibility. We became closer to stores, parks and sidewalks. This provided an opportunity to express ourselves differently than the secluded county child.


Who knew! Frederick County kids played differently. We rode bikes in the middle of the streets without headphones in our ears, visiting other neighborhood children, and we’d better show up when parents bellowed through the neighborhood. At this point, we fought to stay outside, because technology had yet to become a part of family's daily lives.


We cooked from scratch, bought a side of beef, pork and ham at the butcher store, watched less than 2 hours of television a day and were rewarded for our good behavior with Skatehaven, or a trip to the movies. Eating out was unheard of, smoking cigarettes was fashionable and any kid could run into the store to purchase these, for their parents or themselves. One of the earliest memories was a per-pack cost of 55 cents.


Schools taught us the county seats in Maryland, the state flower is the Black Eyed Susan, and that the major cash crops of the time were tobacco, then corn. This is no longer so.


In a nationwide sweep to rid us from evil smokers, the governments answer has been to raise the price of cigarettes federally, then an additional layer of tax dependent on the state controls. Currently, in New York, one can expect to pay upward of $12 a pack, while, a short distance away in Delaware, one can expect to pay around $5 a pack. This, of course, is saying that the cigarettes were paid for and not stolen, which leaves a starting cost of zero, with 100% profit.


The black market for cigarettes has grown exuberantly since these cure-the-smoker types took office and looked to a regulatory tax state and demanded the health (cough) controls of smokers. A black market is sure to spring up in the area. History has shown it stems from cheap Virginia cigarettes taken by the truckload and sitting in the warehouses of New York City and its boroughs.


Selling cigarette's for 50 cents apiece seems to be pricey to us here in Maryland. In New York, it is still cheaper than buying a pack in a store. Typically, it is the low income or social smoker that these regulations have affected.


Somewhere in all the brilliance, the fact that it is addictive has been lost. Sure, there are programs offered to help addicts quit smoking, but there is also a success rate that is being ignored. It is almost as expensive to quit, as it is to continue smoking – in the short term.


Many have made the case that the Eric Garner case was about the single sale of a cigarette.


While the cigarette may be the tangible evidence, the lawmakers made the rules with the enforcement levels. The government should never make laws that they do not expect to be enforced to the fullest extent. If such, this could have been a civil infraction, with a traffic ticket that could be paid on the spot or in a manner of a traffic ticket. No courts needed; any police intervention would include asking for identification to issue the ticket.


Yet this was not the case. The case was that Mr. Garner did not listen to the instruction of his public servants, in this case officers, and chose to lash out and refuse to obey orders.


A grand jury decided that this case wasn't an excessive abuse of force by the police officers. There will be subsequent questioning, just as we have seen with the numerous trials of OJ Simpson.


In cases that involve the indictment of officers, there was not enough evidence to garner criminal charges, but the burden of proof changes on civil cases. The officers involved may not have intended death, but life comes with a cost.


Unfortunately, when it comes to life, we too have choices as to how we handle ourselves in public situations, have respect for others, and do as we are asked. Growing up in a small area may have helped my situation; but. in the larger picture of things. I knew that I wasn't rewarded for disrespect, putting my hands on others, or blatantly abusing the law.


Time has changed society.


Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with the past...


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