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I’m intolerant of intolerance. It reminds me of a Kingston Trio song from the fifties - “The Merry Minuet”:
The whole world is suffering with unhappy souls,
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles,
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don’t like anybody very much.
As unhappy souls fester worldwide, Americans increasingly whine, demand, picket, boycott, rail, scream, and pass laws against the differences that exist among people - as if Americans were cut from one cloth, derived from the same dye-lot, and shipped from the same factory on the same day.
Sadly, tolerance is becoming one of America’s lost virtues. In Chicago’s suburbs, village codes regulating neighbors’ behavior proliferate. Those codes leave little room for what used to be unspoken contracts made daily by tolerant neighbors. Instead, uncompromising regulations predominate.
Bolingbrook, for example, has a host of regulations governing the appearance of private property. The rules designate proper house paint colors, detail correct storage of materials, and protect suburbia’s bastion of sameness, the well-kept lawn. The city pays an employee to do nothing but walk the village streets writing citations for improperly kept exteriors.
In Oak Brook, a committee oversees painting schemes of all new homes, and must give its approval of chosen paint colors before a real estate deal closes. Creativity wanes; uniformity reigns. While some villages forbid certain exterior colors, other towns employ peeling paint police. Oak Park requires its residents to regularly paint their homes - whether or not the homes need it.
Move on to Western Springs — but not in a pickup truck. Any parked truck visible on any resident’s property is strictly verboten. If a no-parking zone exists where a tradesman is doing work, he must obtain special parking permission, rather than park in the driveway. There is no truth to the rumor that Western Springs is considering the use of internal passports in their village.
Indian Head Park outlaws unattached garages...along with tool sheds, dog houses, and tree houses. Arlington Heights frowns on “excessive” bird feeding. Morton Grove forbids hanging outside laundry. Perhaps all progressive suburbanites should have automatic dryers?
The list of restrictions burgeons: Unsightly weeds, number of guests, number of vehicles, number of pets, business signs, fence designs, working hours, happy hours, bed-and-breakfasts, homeless shelters, mother-in-law apartments, mothers-in-law... Well, perhaps not all regulations are bad.
Television’s Mr. T installed a six-foot-high picket fence around his property in Lake Forest, but neglected to ask permission. (Can you imagine Mr. T asking permission about anything?) And not only did he install the fence, but he painted it white! An obnoxious color - white. Then, he tried to have some “T”s painted on his garage door. No go, said Lake Forest. Perhaps in retaliation, Mr. T cut down most of his trees. So now, Lake Forest has passed an ordinance prohibiting the felling of trees 15 inches or more in diameter within 32 feet of the property line unless a special permit is obtained... Should the violator of this ordinance also recite Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” 100 times while standing on the town square?
As an alternative to all these rules and regulations, imagine a life with tolerance, which has its roots in respect and mutual self-interest. It looks at ramifications beyond a single incident. If I restrict my neighbor’s junk pile, will he have a law passed against my loud stereo? Better to have the junk pile and the stereo, than the prohibition. Better yet to have implicit contracts among neighbors, tolerating minor annoyances and respecting a neighbor’s privacy and property. The alternative is a bleak, gray society, people dressed the same, talking the same, acting the same, working the same schedules - automatons directed by a stringent code that punishes diversity. The implementation of codes and regulations is moving suburbia in that direction.
And what if neighbors can’t arrive at implicit contracts in certain situations? What remedy shall an offended neighbor have? A rational understanding of the purpose of law reveals that too many village ordinances restrict peoples’ behavior before any harm is done. This is pre-emptive, “positive,” law, and such law is antithetical to freedom.
Better to have less positive and more common law, which favors freedom. It fosters creativity, respect, and tolerance. Common law restricts itself to prohibiting force and protecting property. It uses “invasion” as a yardstick for measuring harm: If something damaging invades my neighbor’s property because of an action I take, my neighbor need not tolerate that invasion. The ultimate solution to our conflict is in the courts. Jurors are better judges of invasion than are bureaucrats. Jurors decide individuals cases on their merits. Bureaucrats paint with a broad brush, stripping rights and responsibilities away.
My neighbor collects ugly oil drums in his backyard. My other neighbor burns wood in his oil drum. I keep a weed-infested garden. One neighbor keeps a spotlight shining into my bedroom window at night; the other lets his children roam in my yard. At times, my stereo reaches high decibels. One neighbor ha four or five cars parked in his driveway at any given time. My grass grows long; I refuse to rake leaves.
Some of these annoyances are invasions, and could be actionable in court. But my neighbors and I have an ongoing, implicit contract instead: We tolerate each other. I’d have it no other way.
The latest would-be-farce-if-it-weren’t-so-serious maneuver by the Chicago City Council is to impound the vehicle of a person “caught with a known prostitute.” A person would have to pay a five-hundred dollar fine plus an impoundment fee to get the vehicle back. This enactment is on the heels of a similar one for “illegal guns” and of course, “illegal drugs.” Of course the original precedent for these unconstitutional maneuvers is confiscation of property without due process of law for taxes.
Innocent until proven guilty has been completely turned on its head in this country and most people are unaware. Confiscation of property without due process of law is increasing at an alarming rate, and people seem not to care.
The conservatives are unaware as their myopic vision concentrates on the evils of drugs and prostitution, and the solving of those problems at any cost. The end justifies the means.
The liberals are unaware as their tunnel vision focuses on the evils of guns and of those who don’t “pay their fair share,” and want to solve those ills at any cost. The end justifies the means.
Both groups rail against the other for unconstitutional maneuvering. Both groups lament the loss of constitutional protections. Neither group gets it.
There is only one way to ensure the revival and restoration of the Bill of Rights. Freedom is indivisible. As William Allen White said, “Freedom is the only thing you can not have unless you are willing to give it to others.” Conservatives and liberals must learn to be tolerant of each other if they don’t want their own ox being gored.
Once the government is allowed to encroach on the freedom of one group or one individual, then other groups and other individuals will be subject to the same authoritarian treatment.
Our founding fathers did get it. They knew that unless the government has to prove guilt, instead of the accused proving innocence, freedom and prosperity were impossible. Because they were rationalists, they knew that proving a negative was near-impossible. Since they studied history, they knew of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. They knew that the accused had to prove their innocence. The founders knew that the accused had to testify against themselves—confess—or face the rack and other tortures. They knew that informants were paid with the property of the accused. They recognized the inherent immorality of such a system. So the founders included the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution to protect Americans from such abuses.
Our legacy in America is first a legacy of liberty. For this most esteemed value, our founding fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Yet now, liberty is dying on the vine. The drought of reason, objectivity, and tolerance has left America in a field of decaying values.
Not coincidentally, along with decaying values we are experiencing a depressed economy. Here in Illinois we have an eight-and-a-half percent unemployment rate. Shortfalls and budget deficits continue to grow both nationally and locally. Most people are worse off than they were four years ago economically.
Prosperity is a by-product of individual freedom. The respected “sages” of today are at a loss as to why the American economy is in such a state of shambles. But the reason for this should be no secret to them. It is no secret to those who understand what freedom is all about. People must be let free to their own devices to pursue their own goals in their own way as long as they don’t encroach on the equal rights of others to do the same. Individuals must be allowed to keep more of their own property, away from the scourges of taxation. As taxes have increased over the past four years—supported by both conservatives and liberals—the economy has deteriorated. When individual rights and property are restored to Americans, the result will be a freer and happier America.
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