Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Modest Proposal For Our Fair State

It has recently come to my attention, through the writings of Shreveport Times contributor Emily Metzgar, personal contact with local attorney Henry Walker, and other sources that the indigent defense system in Louisiana is unconscionably underfunded. Any semblance of stability is undercut by the program's reliance on the payment of traffic fines as the source of funding. As there does not seem to be the political will in our state legislature to deal with this affront to the basic constitutional rights of the mostly poor and minority defendants who suffer from the destitution of public legal defense, I would like to offer this modest proposal (with deference to Johnathan Swift).
I would like to propose that all Louisianans of sound financial means (certainly households with income over $100,000, though I suspect the threshold could be set lower) consider a personal policy of consistent and blatant flouting of traffic laws while driving.
I realize that this will be a difficult decision for many to arrive at, as traffic laws are ostensibly devised for the common good, a sort of formalized courtesy, if you will. Additionally, there are some, particularly among those who identify themselves as "Republicans," who are perfectly content with the idea of young black men being locked up, outside of any questions of guilt, innocence or constitutionally mandated standards of legal representation. I can only say to those with the financial means to absorb the cost of traffic tickets to consider it your patriotic duty to violate the law, until such point that our elected officials see fit to fulfill their constitutional duty.
For those of you stirred into a patriotic fervor by now, here are a few suggestions:

1., Remove the license plates from your car. A screwdriver should be the only tool needed to accomplish this task, and it is one of the most obvious violations, as one could potentially be cited even when the car is not moving.

2., Remove the bulb from one of your headlights and/or tail lights. This approach works particularly well in conjunction with tinted windows, loud rap music, or other evidence that the driver and/or occupants of the car are some of those people who ruined Southpark Mall and drove everyone to the safety of the Boardwalk. The bulbs can typically be easily accessed through the trunk of the car without specialized tools.

3., You can never go wrong with speed. If one's vehicle has cruise control, I would suggest a setting at least 20 miles over the posted limit. This approach works particularly well in "school zones", particularly if said school is classified as a "magnet school" or is otherwise populated mostly by "white children," as these are more likely to be patrolled by police on a regular basis. I must stress that this must be done with utmost attention to safety. Remember, we don't want anyone to get hurt. We just want to fund the indigent defense system in our state.

4., Intoxication is also a sound strategy. Tis the season, as they say, and holiday parties will provide multiple opportunities for overindulgence. Try to eat a big lunch, so your alcohol absorption will not be affected by food. If you must eat, remember that those bar peanuts are provided because they will make you thirsty for more alcohol. And don't skimp on the shots. But always know your limits. Your goal is to be impaired, but basic motor function must be retained. If this approach makes you uneasy, save it for New Year's Eve, when the police are out in force. Sometimes, there will even be convenient roadblocks set up. Drive safely to the roadblock, but accelerate as your vehicle comes into view. Call the arresting officer Roscoe P. Coltrane for the piece de' resistance, and start writing your acceptance speech for the Congressional Medal of Freedom, my patriotic friend.

5., Keep your cell phone on your person at all times, just in case you observe any of the above behaviors or circumstances in other drivers or vehicles. This can also be convenient inside a bar or restaurant, if you observe a patron leaving in an intoxicated state. Make the phone call, order another Long Island Iced Tea, and drink to freedom.

6., Encourage friends and family members to do their part. Illness can be feigned, and underage teenage children can be sent out to pick up medicine at the local apothecary (in a car missing a license plate, say). Be creative. If everyone does his or her part, Louisiana can have the best damn indigent defense system in this great country, preserving constitutinal rights for all, regardless of race, class and income level. And I'm afraid that if we aren't all doing our part, violating traffic laws on a regular basis, then the terrorists have won.

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