“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jackboots On Rye

The citizens residents (AP style) of Amarillo have pretty strong opinions about private property rights and intrusive government.

Years ago there was a gentleman who had turned his property into a veritable junkyard. For years the neighbors complained that the overgrown lot, ramshackle buildings and rusting hulks constituted an eyesore, health hazard, and threat to their property values. The city commission, after numerous letters asking the owner to tidy up, danced around the idea of hiring someone to forcibly do the deed. The Amarillo Globe News editorialized that whatever menace garbage and rats and filth might pose to certain sensibilities and the public welfare, the commission was correct to proceed cautiously, to tread lightly, on what obviously constituted a government intrusion upon inviolate private property.

And who can forget the brouhaha over the proposed ban on smoking in restaurants and bars? Whatever the merits of public health or lives to be saved, private property rights trumped all. It was argued that such a ban would be government run amuck, a gross violation of Texans' sacrosanct privacy and property rights. If passed it would lead to an erosion of those rights, allowing government ultimately to invade homes and bedrooms without let or hindrance.

You would think then that truly, here in Amarillo, a man's home is his castle, well guarded by law, tradition and opinion, and even should the moat alligators eat a neighbor's dog or child or two, it would be seen, however grudgingly, as their own damn fault as trespassers had it coming.

Imagine then the shock of a private property owner (i.e., yours truly) receiving a letter from the local government (i.e., city hall) charging that said property owner’s property had become a public nuisance.

It was not because of your typical, overlookable "nuisance" like radioactive drinking water or toxins in the food or cow flatulence in the air. It was because, of all things, “HIGH GRASS” (i.e., the lawn needed to be mowed).

This ominous notice was no friendly reminder like those sent by Corleone Home Savings telling you you're a week behind on a 200% interest loan. It threatens action, with another inspection to be held on a date printed in portentous bold numbers, and a contractor to come do the job if you don’t do it, plus an administrative fee and taxes, and a lien against your property if you don’t pay up, all in the name of keeping “Amarillo clean”, a city festooned with plastic grocery bags on every elm and barbed-wire fence.

There is no denying the grass had gotten a bit tall, tall enough to hide the pants on a herd of midget buffalo, if you could get them to wear pants and stand on the Chevy up on blocks, but yours truly has not been well lately and has a bad back, which has impaired yours truly’s lawn-mowering capabilities. That doesn’t carry much truck with the Building and Safety Department, but is the restricted visibility of midget buffalo britches a legitimate reason for limited government to impose itself upon a free people?

Incredibly, the law states that not only are you responsible for the grass on your own property, you are responsible for the grass and weeds between the property line and the curb, which is public (Sec. 8-3-118). That means a private citizen resident (AP style) is being held directly responsible for property in the public domain. Isn’t that socialism, or worse, communism? In Amarillo, Texas?

Perhaps yours truly would have been left alone if yours truly owned a derelict, vacant building downtown, visited only by pigeons and vagrants (9th and Harrison), or like Mr. Cumquat, had a sign in the front yard (conforming to regulations of course) demanding “GET U.S. OUT OF THE F**KING U.N.” (sans ** by the way). These offend certain sensibilities but as they comport with the collective conservative view they escape the ire of the local constabulary. Conservatives regularly excuse their offenses by responding “do not read it then”, or “do not listen to it then”. Why cannot yours truly simply say “if high grass offends thee do not look at it then”?

If conservatives can argue their green cash is free speech, why shouldn’t yours truly argue that high green grass is free speech? Isn’t the city threatening censorship? Isn’t our so-called limited and conservative government attacking our third most precious liberty (the right to bear arms and weapons of mass destruction being first)?

And if yours truly’s high grass is private property, isn’t the government threatening to confiscate it? Under the Constitution the government may take private property for the public good, but not without fair compensation. Yours truly is not being compensated, but being forced to pay for the very taking of that property. That is not only unconstitutional, it is socialistic, and probably communistic, right here in Amarillo, Texas!

Under Texas law yours truly has a right to defend yours truly’s private property, and under the Castle Doctrine yours truly has the right to use force of arms to prevent theft. Should some trespasser come to steal yours truly’s high grass by mowing the lawn yours truly has a right to shoot them down for such an illegal, unconstitutional, socialistic, and communistic act.

If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand it will only be the beginning. It is the thin edge of the wedge. If a tyrannical government can tell you to mow your lawn what is next? Will the fescue fascists tell you what lawn you can grow? Will the Bermuda Bolsheviks take over your garden? Won’t it all lead, ultimately, to the government invading your home and regulating what size your terrarium must be and how to arrange those little stones around the fake blue pond and when to put water in it so the tree frogs don’t shrivel up? What despotism! What totalitarianism!

Now, you might be thinking by this screed that yours truly may have some objection to Sec. 8-3-118. Actually yours truly does not. It is in the public interest to have such a law. Yours truly would be worried if yours truly saw midget buffalo in the neighbor’s yard, especially if they were wearing trousers. What yours truly truly objects to is city commissioners, business owners, and Amarillo Globe News editorialists pretending that all powers of government end at the property line, while private property owners cannot be compelled to act to protect the public's welfare.

Because of them people still have the freedom to die from secondhand smoke, while the common man, forced by law, toils at his lawn to maintain public taste. Thank goodness corpses do not pile up in the street like grass clippings.

So Ron, Scott, or Les, the next time you’re having your lawn mowed think about all the lung cancer patients who have gone on to greener pastures, and what complete and utter hypocrites you are.