Engaging in an act of insurrection

The statute of limitations ran out years ago, so I can tell this tale without having to worry about doing hard time.

But I hesitate. Others were involved in the caper, and they have children and grandchildren. Reputations are at stake; there’s a risk of embarrassment.

I asked the News’ new editor, Justin Hinkley, if, just this once, my picture and byline could be omitted, allowing my column to appear anonymously.

I knew the former editor, Bill Speer, would never allow it, but Bill’s retired now, so maybe his successor — a younger, newer man, might be more pliable.

No such luck. It turns out, young Hinkley’s a newspaper guy, as well, one who gets all involved with transparency and facts. So, I have to step out front with a full account.

Here goes:

When I was a teenager, I engaged in an insurrection.

That’s a term that’s been thrown around some, lately, so I’ll start with an authoritative definition:

“Insurrection: A violent uprising against an authority or government (Merriam Webster).”

I was part of a group that did that. We used cutting shears.

When I was 17, there was no question in my mind that my actions were for the greater good of this community. Over time, I realized that was a faulty perception; I had little concept of what a community was, let alone any sense of how to help one.

What I did was selfish — selfishness born of that limited perception — or was the limited perception born of selfishness?

But that was then, and this is now. Then, I believed in simplistic solutions, not so much anymore.

The city police department had acquired new technology capable of skewering the odds in their favor in an ongoing contest between people who believed speed represented freedom and those who took a contrary view and pursued our apprehension.

Previously, an officer — parked in an alley out of sight — had to pop out and get on our tail to obtain the speed-clocking needed to issue a ticket.

Fair enough — we knew we had to be on guard — we knew they lurked in alleys at night with their lights out. But it was fair — each side had a skillset.

The new machine predated police radar. It was composed of two pneumatic hoses spaced parallel across a roadway — commonly 2nd or 3rd avenues. An automobile traversing those hoses would have its speed calculated using the formula speed=distance/time.

The distance between the hoses was predetermined, and the equipment measured the elapsed time. All an officer had to do was find their coordinate on a chart and read the speed. No longer was any hustle required to clock us.

In this manner, the authorities pulled ahead in what had previously been a pretty even contest.

Now, our freedom was at stake; our rights were being threatened. Something had to be done. Who better to do it?

This is where the cutting shears came in.

The new equipment allowed officers to relax — maybe too much. While listening to Bill Haley and His Comets sing “Rock Around the Clock”, or sharing pictures of their kids, or during a lull in the traffic — whatever the reason — that moment of officer inattention was sufficient to enable our stealthful and successful intervention.

I’m confident you can envision our incisive action without my having to describe it. Suffice it to say; the odds were returned to equilibrium.

You saw much the same thing play out recently: a misguided insurrection causing problems — a tearing down and a cutting apart — the selfish pursuit of a limited perception.

When I was a kid, misguided, we attacked hoses designed to protect us. Likewise, a mob attacked a democratic institution created to protect them.

There was this difference: Officers wore uniforms — we could always tell whose side people were on.

But no more. Our congressman, who wears a suit and tie, not a tie-dyed sweatshirt, who holds an office created to protect our democracy — voted to cut its hoses.

Thank God he wasn’t as good at hose-cutting as we were.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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