Caring for a parent with dementia/Alzheimer’s is difficult. It’s even harder when there’s a family history that’s made fraught by abuse.
Amendment XXVIII: No law governing a basic human need shall be passed in a jurisdiction whose government fails to provide citizens with the means to fulfill that need.
Start gathering petition signatures.
If you’ve ever had to work for someone else, you’ve probably been presented with a no-win situation of someone else’s making. “Be promptly at your desk at 9 am,” my boss ordered me. “We can’t have customers calling at the start of business with no answer.” Reasonable. But it was a two-man office — him and me — he had the only key and he was often late. When customers complained, he’d yell at me. “What would you have me do,” I’d ask, “break in?” Unreasonable.
A lot of bosses are stupid little tyrants. But government should know better than to pass a law its citizens can’t obey.
Like most cities, New York prohibits public urination. It’s no longer a criminal offense but public pee-ers still risk a ticket and a fine. The NYPD issues 20,000 to 30,000 such summons a year. Yet, as The New York Times noted in 2016, “New York City…is one of the most public-bathroom-resistant places in the world.”
People pee. People poo. A city that chooses not to provide people to pee and poo knows that some folks won’t find their way to Starbucks or other de facto public restrooms before it’s too late.
The city wants people to pee and poo in public.
Experts estimate that properly equipping Gotham’s streets with the thousands of toilets necessary to serve the city’s inhabitants and visitors would cost tens of millions of dollars. “I gave you a pot to piss in” isn’t the legacy most mayors want to be remembered for (though perhaps they should reconsider). Getting NYC to do the right thing by everyone with a bladder would require ratification of my proposed 28th Amendment.
If nothing else, those who answer nature’s call in the streets and avenues could do so without fear.
Some people charged with a crime have successfully used the “necessity defense” that the harm they committed was necessary in order to avoid a greater wrong or harm. If you’re trying to escape from someone trying to kill you, a judge should dismiss the charge that you trespassed on private property to get away.
Yet, even though it defies common sense, American law still permits government to pass laws that are impossible to follow. In June the California Supreme Court ruled on a law requiring gunmakers to microstamp bullets fired from semi-automatic weapons with unique identifying information.
The court’s ruling was complicated but it included this gem: “impossibility can occasionally excuse noncompliance with a statute, but in such circumstances, the excusal constitutes an interpretation of the statute in accordance with the Legislature’s intent, not an invalidation of the law.” In other words, an impossible-to-follow law can be passed and no court can invalidate it. Each individual who wants to be exempted on the basis of impossibility must hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
The Impossible Law Amendment (ILA) would ensure that any law deemed impossible for any citizen to follow would be overturned on constitutional grounds.
Impossible-to-follow laws are more common than you might think.
The Affordable Care Act requires people to purchase health insurance from private for-profit corporations or get slapped with a fine when they file their annual tax returns.
The cheapest healthcare plans in the Obamacare marketplaces run around $1600 to $1800 in many counties. One out of four Americans say they can’t afford healthcare. If the United States insists on spending tax dollars on blowing up brown people in Muslim countries rather than caring for its own sick people, that’s a political priority this nation is free to select. But it’s insane to charge people a fee for not buying something they can’t afford. Punishment is immoral if there was no intent or desire to disobey the law.
The ILA would effectively eliminate an entire class of government fines for things people are mandated to buy but must have in order to live: motor vehicle registration fees, smog inspection fees, parking.
On July 27 The New York Times reported that parents, usually mothers, are routinely arrested and have their children taken away from them by child-welfare authorities, because they can’t afford daycare and so are found guilty of such “abusive” behavior as leaving their kid in the car for a few minutes while running into a store.
Children have died of heatstroke in locked cars, so it reasonable for the police to be concerned when they come across a possible case of neglect. But society should not criminalize the behavior of people who have no other choice. Daycare runs about $200 per week per child. Individual average income runs about $500 a week before taxes, or $350 after taxes. Unless the average American goes without food or shelter — which child-welfare authorities will look down upon at least much as leaving a kid in a car — he or she can’t afford daycare. In many other (civilized) countries, of course, daycare is provided gratis by the government.
If and when the U.S. provides daycare for all, it may prosecute parents for refusing to use it.
A government that passes laws that anyone — much less a significant portion of the population — cannot obey, yet imposes fines and jail terms, deserves nothing but contempt. Ratify the ILA!
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Child Abuse Isn’t Just the Poor’s Problem
Three million times a year, we beat our kids so badly that someone calls the cops about it. There’s really no way to know how often Americans pound the stuffing out of their children, since these ritual assaults are as mundane as doing the laundry. What’s remarkable about child abuse is that it’s in the news at all–normally, anything that affects children is a rock-bottom priority.
In the last month, we’ve read about 6-year-old Elisa Izquierdo, who was murdered by her mom on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The killing seemed anticlimactic after years of enduring such abuse as having her head used to mop her apartment floor. Then there was Tazar Carter, a 15-year-old boy sold to Detroit crack dealer-pimps by his mom. By far the most spectacular story involved 0-year-old Elijah Evans, whose father’s girlfriend brought him into the wonderful world of Chicago suburbia by amateur C-section–while stabbing his mother to death.
Now that baseball is dead, America’s national pastime is assigning blame. Who could have prevented these tragedies? In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani graciously accepted partial responsibility for Elisa’s death. New Yorkers now sleep better knowing that their city’s leader is roaming the projects, checking up on parents to make certain they’re not forcing their kids to eat their own excrement. Newt Gingrich blamed the unorthodox birth in Chicago upon “a welfare system which subsidized people for doing nothing,” the criminal justice system and lousy schools. Now class, turn to page 76 in your textbook. Today we’re going to learn that carving into pregnant women isn’t cool.
The common factor in media and political reaction to these horror stories is their link of child abuse to poor minorities living in inner-city squalor. Even liberals promote this alleged causal relationship. They blame Republican cuts in welfare programs for a recent spate of parents who chuck their kids out of high-rises after they’ve cried one too many times, as if welfare were a substitute for good parenting.
If child abuse directly results from lower-class dysfunction, all that remains for liberals and conservatives to discuss is how best to eliminate poverty. But who knows whether drug use, child abuse and indolence aren’t just as common among the middle-class and rich?
When I was an undergraduate at Columbia in the ‘80s, I met many kids from successful, white suburban families who’d been brutalized as children. They’d been whipped, burned, raped, molested, and traumatized by means comparable to the most heinous tabloid stories datelined in South-Central or Bed-Stuy. About half of the students I lived with in the dorms did coke at least once a week and pot twice as often. Sometimes I’d be invited to their parents’ expensive houses in the surrounding suburbs, only to be appalled at the filth and squalor inside these outwardly-tidy homes.
In their post-college years, many of these Ivy League-educated white men–who enjoyed every possible advantage in the American rat race–wallowed in indolence and sloth worthy of the most debauched slum-dweller. But rancid behavior among America’s élite goes unnoticed and unreported. Unlike the poor, whose collective butts belong to the state by virtue of their monthly tax-funded checks, no social workers check up on the children of the bourgeois. Cops don’t randomly search rich kids in the streets. When things go too far in a wealthy white household and little Jenny “falls” off a chair and hemorrhages to death, there’s a nice funeral and a tiny obit buried behind the sports section. Laziness among the best and the brightest is called “slacking,” not a drain on the economy. Journalists don’t ask any questions, sociologists don’t count any statistics, and politicians don’t wring their hands about the hopeless problems of the permanent overclass.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but we live in a society that values violence and rewards abuse. Kids getting hit by parents who think of them as personal property is only the first act in this lifelong drama. We’re taught from the first day of school that bullies earn fear and respect. The message is the same in the projects and in the boardroom–intimidation begets prestige.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a country won by slaughtering Native Americans is still wallowing in ultraviolence less than a century later. Nonetheless, we can’t go on like this forever. It’s easier to wage class warfare against the poor than to try to phase out our national jock mentality. But initial steps should be to recognize that social pathology doesn’t just belong to the poor, and kids don’t belong to their parents.
(Ted Rall, a syndicated editorial cartoonist, is author of All the Rules Have Changed (Rip Off Press).)