There’s an anti-free speech, anti-poor people mob forming in Oklahoma City.
It’s been ginned up in the Nextdoor neighborhood social media app.
People are upset about panhandlers. They are upset about free speech! It hurts their eyes to see panhandlers on the streets. They don’t want to be reminded that the actions of the politicians they vote for have consequences in real life for real people. They demand that the government make this evidence of the failure of our government policies go away! Heedless of the potential consequences, they demand limits on free speech!
Crucify them! Crucify them! Crucify them!
And so it comes to pass that the Oklahoma City Council is poised to pass an ordinance limiting our right to free speech by forbidding panhandlers and those soliciting for charity from standing in the medians at stop lights to solicit funds.
God forbid that we do something about the economic and government issues that cause panhandling. It is much easier to propagate outrageous and absurd urban myths about panhandlers.
- People are getting rich off of panhandling!
- There are plenty of resources to help poor people in Okie City so no one has to panhandle for essential needs.
- All panhandlers are out for money for drugs and alcohol.
- Panhandlers ruin property values and devalue businesses.
- There’s a “panhandling church” in San Antonio that trains people to panhandle and then buses them to Oklahoma City!
Folks, you can’t make up this kind of stuff! It would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so socially cruel.
In support of this social evil, the Neighborhood Alliance, in a letter sent to their entire email list, says —
(Panhandling) degrades our neighborhoods and gives the appearance that we are a thoughtless and callous society, one that doesn’t even care if our fellow citizens have to stand in the middle of a busy intersection to beg for their existence. It hurts our businesses, our property values, and perceived or real safety issues abound.
But of course, we do live in a thoughtless and callous society, and it is evident from their actions, that for Oklahoma City, County, and State governments, the needs of poor people are low on their priority lists. Who gets the big checks from Oklahoma City, County, and State? Big businesses! Politically connected developers! Street and road contractors! Campaign contributors!
The Oklahoma Standard policy is that if you are poor and sick, you should just suffer and if you die, well, it’s a tough life buster. Just ask Governor Mary Fallin about that.
So instead of taking action on the structural issues that lead to such grinding poverty, the Oklahoma City Council plans to limit the free speech rights of anyone who wishes to publicly solicit funds for personal use or for charity.
I guess Oklahoma City has lots of money to spend on legal challenges, because I think there might be a line of people ready to stand in the median and raise money for charity. And if the police want to write me a ticket, I’ll be happy to take that all the way to the United States Supreme Court, in defense of my religious and free speech rights.
This ordinance is evidence that those in power in this society are as clueless as the Romanov’s in 1917, King George in 1776, and the French Aristocracy in 1783. Every day we get closer to the ash heap of history, and these political attempts to make the evidence of our political, societal, and economic failures go away are likely to become more frequent going forward.
Here’s the back story of this proposed ordinance.
First they came for the panhandlers, and I cheered that on because of course everybody knows that panhandlers are gaming the system and making big bucks and we can’t have poor people making big bucks doing anything, can we? They’re poor, so they simply don’t have the same free speech rights that we middle class people have. Besides, we shouldn’t have to look at them. They are so pathetic. And they’re bad for business and property values.
Then they came after the hair braiders who hadn’t paid their dues and got their licenses, and I didn’t say anything because who cares about what happens with lower income people anyway. Everyone knows that poor people are bad for business and property values so the government really should make all of them just go away.
Then they decided that political speech had to be regulated, because some people were getting uppity and protesting against the many political, economic, and societal failures of our system. They have opinions that are offensive and dangerous to the State! And we can’t have anybody getting offended or being dangerous to the State can we? That’s not good for business OR for property values either.
Then my next door neighbors disappeared. There was a big commotion, early in the morning, I heard screaming. Not sure what happened, but I’m not saying anything. It’s the nail sticking up that gets hit, you know.
Now my son is gone. I don’t know where they’ve taken him. The Homeland Security people won’t tell me. He was at some stupid rally advocating peace as a national policy. I’m told he is being held indefinitely in detention “for his own good” pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
If you don’t think that regulating free speech is a slippery slope, then you aren’t paying attention to history.
City Councilperson Meg Salyer, and the Neighborhood Alliance, make big noises about safety. This is a meaningless argument. if Meg Salyer and the City Council really cared about public safety. . . well. . . we have the same number of police officers in 2015 that we had in 1985, but our population is 130% of what it was in 1985, and we have more police officers on special squads.
So we have no police “patrolling beats” in neighborhoods. All the police not assigned to special squads do is answer 911 calls. The whole safety argument is at best specious.
And in any event, when it comes to “safety and the goobermint,” those who forget the advice of Benjamin Franklin, do so to their own mortal peril and that of future generations:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Finally, a reminder of this text of the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew seems most appropriate:
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.