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Occupy Barefoot (?)

November 16, 2011

I’ve never been much of one for public demonstrations of any kind.

In the early 80’s Karen and I were at Cedar Point. It was that unfortunate period of time when many men were wearing “rat tails” – a narrow strand of hair a few inches long, that straggled down the neck, often braided. It is important to note this in order to understand this story.

It seemed like every ride had a 45 minute line and, who knows why, in every line we seemed to get behind the same teen-age couple who were very publicly demonstrating their affection. I am not exaggerating to say that the young man’s tongue was about 9 inches long and his limber girlfriend found places for her arms and hands that Karen has yet to find on me.

Anyhow, after several hours of  trailing these young amore’s, I began taking my liberties with my opinion of them. I would turn my back to them and, facing Karen, I would mimic the giraffe-like tongue of the paramour ahead of us in line. At one point I pulled my t-shirt up in a bare midriff style and tried pawing Karen (she was not amused).

In one of my self-entertaining moments, I pulled out my Swiss Army knife and flipped open the minature pair of scissors and pretended I was going to snip off the dangling rat tail in front of me. Karen urged me to put my knife away and just as I made a quick snip in the air (no where near the rat tail), the young couple caught me.

I smiled dumbly and they turned away from us, indignant.

I have had difficulty with public demonstrations ever since.

I guess this may be why I have trouble with the “Occupy” movement. I don’t like public demonstrations.

I have sympathies for the Occupiers, but not entirely. I love the free expression, the spirit of community they forge among themselves, the exuberance of being dedicated to a cause. I don’t support much of their causes: I don’t feel entitled to any share of what the wealthy have, I don’t see government as the answer to much, and I am leery of the conformity that always arises when a group tries to be intentionally “non-conformist.”

In kind, I have sympathies for the Tea Partiers, but not entirely. They too have a sense of free expression, a spirit of community, and dedication to a cause. I do support many of their causes, but not all: I am for compassionate immigration reform (see Exodus 22:21), I support cuts in military spending, I am not a “Constitution-only” voter.

I guess the Occupiers worry me more because they are ultimately for bigger government.

And big government affects me as a barefooter.

Necessarily, large federal government requires large degrees of conformity to rules and regulations. This is seen in the most extreme large government experiments of the 20th century, Nazi Germany and Maoist China. However, in even less extreme big government situations, rules come before people. The examples are legendary: waiting periods for elective surgeries, legions of government wonks, inflexibility with locally produced products that don’t comply with federally imposed standards (think apple cider, homemade baked goods, hand-made toys, etc.)

So what about the wonk in Washington who decides that you can’t go barefoot anymore? As it is now, no state has broad laws about wearing shoes, only a few municipalities do. Some businesses have policies, but it’s not the law. (Yes, “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is not a law.)

And where does that leave me? As it is now, I am free to barefoot as I please, with general respect for places who don’t allow shoes – I don’t patronize them unless I have to. But if a large government movement takes hold – as the Occupiers want – and that movement says that I must wear shoes everywhere, I suddenly lose my freedom to choose where to shop (or not shop).

Worse, I lose my ability to live a little outside the conformity of society.

Unfortunately, the public demonstrations of the Occupiers are being repressed now. Camps are being torn up, processions silenced. Ne’er-do-wells are tying themselves to the movement.

It’s ironic to me that a group that supports big government is being taken down by government, but it only proves my point. Less is better, especially when it comes to government (and shoes). Freedom is best expressed by people in the streets who share mutual ideals.

And individuals expressing their freedom is better than public demonstrations.

After all, you never know when some wise guy will be mocking you behind your back in public.


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