Friday, October 14, 2016

Wait—slavery is still legal?

The other day, I received the voter’s blue book, that delightful document that informs a voter of the items that will be on the state ballot, or as my wife calls it, “something terribly boring that Morgan should read instead of me.” The voter’s blue book is not necessarily coma-inducing, but it is definitely a sleep aid. And there always seems to be at least one measure on the ballot, that even after reading the blue book, one is not sure how to vote on, leading one to debate whether flipping a coin is the best way to determine one’s vote (it is not—one should use the Morgan Law of Voter Guidance instead in such cases: When in doubt, vote No). 

One of the joys of reading the voter’s blue book is the discovery of things that are laws that one had no clue were laws. And I say, “joys” because I have no proper term for “gee, the laws are even more messed up than I thought they were” which the Germans or the Japanese probably have a word for; but given the fact that I only speak two languages (English and Bad English), I will never know if someone does not angrily email me proof of my total ignorance. 

(It should be noted that after several years of studying French that I remember all of nothing of that language, and the little bit of Hebrew and Yiddish I know is merely some technical terms for a system of mysticism that makes Zen look simple—one should not issue the advice that I should learn a foreign language because I have ready proven that I am a complete dunderhead in that department…well, unless you consider Cat to be a language, I am pretty fluent in that. But I digress…)

This election cycle, the surprise discovery was that slavery and involuntary servitude was still legal in the state of Colorado. Well, not for everyone. Just those duly convicted of a crime. It is not really surprising from an historical sense, but a modern person still half-looks-around and says, “Are we in Ancient Rome?” 

But the shocking part was the argument that the clause should remain in Colorado’s constitution—“Amendment T may result in uncertainty around current offender work practices in the state.” Yeah, just like the confusion, its exclusion creates in the twenty-five states which constitutions that this clause is absent from. After all, everyday some while in the news, there are reports of prisons, both governmental and private company-ran, suffering from the inability to force inmates to work. Oh wait, no, there is not (well, to the best of my knowledge, I am sure an angry reader will email me tons of links to such news reports to prove that not only am I a complete and total dunderhead, but that I am an ignorant liberal hippie who does not understand the economies of the modern prison system). Isn’t prison bad enough without having to resort to slavery? 

(By the way, for those who are curious, slavery “is a situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another person,” and involuntary servitude is “a condition of servitude in which one is forced to work for another person by the use or threat of physical restraint or physical injury, or by the use or threat of coercion through the law of the legal process.” Or as I like to call it, “my childhood, living with my mom, from ages twelve to eighteen.” [Yes, I know that I should not compare life-threatening child abuse with slavery and involuntary servitude, but I did—remember I read all the angry letters, so keep sending them.])

But then again, some people probably believe that slavery is too good for some criminals. I know a few people who think death is the only proper punishment for liberal, wise-cracking witches—slavery is too good for that sort of crime. Come to think of it, I am quite sure that some of those films I saw about the violent crime caused by marijuana use, were secretly arguing slavery as a punishment for getting caught with a joint. (As it is, getting caught with a joint can get you more prison time than being convicted of rape, and carries a lifelong sentence of being ineligible to vote [in most states], and requires you to admit to every potential employer for the rest of your life that you were as bad of a human being as murderers, thieves, and terrorists. From where I sit, the entire war on drugs is nothing more than a thinly veiled political maneuver designed to eliminate the voting powers of minorities and those dirty filthy hippies who believe wars and corporate greed is bad.)

Of course, the saddest part is that the law books are full of laws designed to punish certain types of people. A lot of them probably made sense at one time, well, provided that the sense was to punish certain types of people for being “not white” and “not rich.” For instance, there are anti-gypsy laws in almost every state. ” One particular one that I, a poor white boy, ran afoul of, was a Denver law requiring fortune tellers to pay a fifty dollar a day licensing fee. That’s not a typo—it was literally fifty dollars a day for the privilege of reading someone’s Tarot cards. A few years, the Denver Police decided to try to enforce it. And in the same mode that smoking marijuana makes you a murderous terrorist, fortune telling was called a “gateway crime” that leads to even worse crimes. Ok, maybe some con-men, or is it con-women, do use fortune telling as the opening bid to the “you are cursed—for a thousand dollars, I can un-hex you,” but one hopes that type of con-game has its own separate law forbidding it. (And yes, send me all the news reports of crooked psychics and fortune tellers to prove that we need to stop this stuff at its source because obviously, not only am I a liberal dunderhead, I am also completely ignorant of how often it actually happens.)  

[After I wrote this column for the Hearthstone Community Church's newsletter just last week, I have learned that fortune telling is illegal in Las Vegas...]

And there are sillier laws out there, if one bothers to look. One of my jokes this election season, typically after someone tells me that making jokes will not make America great again, has been to point out that the next President will make it against the law to make jokes about the President on the first day that they are in office. (If you think I am truly making a joke, just remember that one of the campaign promises that has been made is to make it easier to sue journalists for reporting the truth—as in reporting the actual words said by a person will be an offense worthy of big dollar judgements against journalists. One imagines that comedians are not far behind in being outlawed.) And if you don’t think that it could happen, consider this: The leader of North Korea, who is admired for being a strong man and a winner by one of the Presidential candidates, outlawed sarcasm last month. Hell, sarcasm is most of my writing style—if the next American President takes their cue from strong-arm countries—I will soon be arrested, convicted, and jailed, with a judge exclaiming that slavery is too good for me. 

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