Within the past six weeks or so, I've noticed several letters to the editor commenting about the super surveillance of our local State Patrol.
A few days ago I was ticketed for not wearing my seat belt. Be aware, I was not speeding, throwing beer cans over the top of the car, making obscene gestures, or leaking gasoline. I was merely driving at lunch time from my office to the post office. Since I was doing nothing to make my 10-year-old vehicle stand out from the rest, I can only presume that someone had instructed state patrolmen to search for people with no shoulder belt apparent.
I should make it clear that I'm an old person - predating the seatbelt law by at least 40 years. When my children were little, they stood up in the back seat and dropped their ice cream down the driver's collar. When my adopted son was presented to me 37 years ago, the state worker brought him in a cardboard box and we placed the box, un-belted, in the back seat. When we drove home from the courthouse after the adoption, my friend, sitting in the front seat, carried the infant on her lap. No laws broken, there.
Again, it is important to know that when I was a girl in Ohio, my father was the sheriff of Medina County, and we lived in living quarters attached to a federally accredited county jail. My family entertained many uniformed men and women from the local police force, the county sheriff's office, and the Ohio State Patrol. We recognized the state troopers as a little better educated, a little more physically fit, and a little more formally trained than our local officers. Indeed, when they brought prisoners in, the state troopers were respectful and professional. At holiday meals, there was always one or two uniformed officers, complete with weapons and radios trying to take part in family functions while also being alert to emergency calls.
I am saying this to make it very clear that I do not depricate the tasks the officers take on, and I admire their dedication to duty.
However, and here it comes, just who CARES that my seatbelt is fastened? How does my seatbelt affect my fellow man? How does my seatbelt use harm my neighbor? Really, now. My automobile is outfitted with air bags which will automatically keep my body in place if I should be hit by some drunk driver - probably belted in - and if I should find myself upside down in any of the water hazards we drive over around here, I can get out of my car!
I know I am an American - independent and proud of our constitution which guarantees my right to independence - and I know I come from a generation which did not use social security numbers for identification, but really, would John Wayne wear a seatbelt? Would Peter Fonda wear a seatbelt as he cycles across the West?
I received an e-mail from the governor's office shortly after receiving the seatbelt ticket, stating with pride that Washington State has reached 97 point something per cent compliance with the seatbelt law. This piece of news was also published in the Chinook Observer. I have to ask, "How did they figure that out?" Is some state patrolman stationed at a four-way stop somewhere counting shoulder harnesses?
Because I'm old, I remember the civil rights movement which was effective at removing segregated drinking fountains, education, housing, etc. from ruling our culture. Likewise, I remember the fervor with which the law was changed when Gay Rights marchers exposed the comedy of legislating sexual preferance and performance within people's private bedrooms. So again I have to ask, "Whose business is it how I choose to create stability for myself within my own, private automobile?"
Some of the recent letters to the editor which I have read in the Chinook Observer were written in response to the substantial police presence after Rod Run weekend. One of them outlined the internet description of State Route 101 between South Bend and Long Beach as a speed trap. I want to share this piece of empirical data for our consideration: Last week I drove from Long Beach to Spokane on Thursday. In the 400-mile trip I made using Interstate 90, can you guess how many State Patrol cruisers I saw? One.
One! It was traveling west between South Bend and Long Beach.
On the return trip from Spokane to Long Beach the next day, I saw four State Patrol cruisers. Two were driving through Spokane County, and (listen to this, now) two were just west of South Bend, about 500 feet apart, with lights flashing and patrolmen walking politely on the street with three drivers stopped between them.
What's the story? Why aren't our brave, young men rescuing damsels in distress or cracking down on methamphetamine? Why are they hunting for seatbelt infractions?
Diane F. Zimmerman