Law-abiding citizens make this nation great

MIKE ROYKO

January 27, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

The question came from Angelos Vlahakis of East Lansing, Mich. But in one form or another, it was being asked by countless other Americans this week. "About Zoe Baird," Mr. Vlahakis said. "Why must we, the common citizens, obey the laws of the land while the new attorney general, the chief law person of the country, is allowed to break the law and get away with a mild rebuke? What kind of precedent does that set?"

He's right, although Zoe Baird didn't get off with a mild rebuke. Before she withdrew her nomination last Friday, Baird had paid a substantial penalty for having hired a couple of illegal aliens as domestic help. She has been held up to public scorn, and now she won't get to be attorney general. So, that's more than a slap on the wrist.

But Mr. Vlahakis makes a significant point when he says: "Why must we, the common citizens, obey the laws of the land . . . ," etc., etc.

To answer his question: Because we are such a law-abiding nation, Mr. Vlahakis, that's why.

That is why you can get on any urban expressway or interstate highway and not see any "common citizens" driving above the speed limit. You won't see anybody tailgating, lane hopping or shoulder riding.

They are all obeying the laws of the land, the state, the county, the city.

You won't see any "common citizens" with expired license plates, out-of-date city stickers, or smoke belching from their tailpipes.

And they won't double park; park at fire hydrants, in bus stops, in spaces for the disabled; fail to feed a meter; or tear up, toss away, or ignore a ticket.

When the bars close on Friday and Saturday nights in America -- or even before they close -- you won't see any "common citizens" disobeying the laws of the land by driving after having a few pops too many.

That's because "common citizens" obey the laws of the land, bless them.

No "common citizens" cheat on their income tax. There is no underground economy, with workmen asking to be paid in cash so they don't have to declare the income. It is a myth that billions of dollars in taxes are evaded that way.

It's also a vicious myth, spread by the tax collectors, that the majority of "common citizens" cheat in one way or another. When Americans say they gave X number of dollars to their church each week, by golly, you know they did it.

When "common citizens" call in sick, especially on Mondays, you know that they aren't committing what might be considered fraud against their employers. They aren't coddling a hangover, avoiding lousy weather, or maybe just sneaking out for a ball game or a round of golf. When they say they are sick, you know they are truly suffering.

Nor do any common American workers ever slip some office supplies, tools or other property belonging to their employers into their pockets or briefcases and take these objects home. That would be stealing, and we don't do that, do we? Absolutely not.

Ask any banker. They can't remember the last time someone applied for a mortgage and lied about having borrowed money elsewhere for their down payment. That, too, would be fraud, and we don't do it.

Or load up on credit card debt, then run to a bankruptcy lawyer.

If you spend a day or two in divorce courts, you will hear the NTC truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. "Common citizens," lovers of the law that they are, would not dream of committing perjury.

It is this enormous desire by "common citizens," as Mr. Vlahakis put it, "to obey the laws of the land" that has made our streets so safe.

It's why our prisons are half empty and the guards and wardens are being laid off.

Why, if it wasn't for elitist lawbreakers like Zoe Baird, nobody would be in prisons, since "common citizens" sure aren't stealing cars, heisting convenience stores, or shooting each other.

Our respect for the laws of the land is why municipalities don't have to hire inspectors to look for non-permit construction, zoning tricks, or violations of fire, safety and health laws.

It's why private companies don't have to hire security firms to make sure workers aren't walking out with half the office equipment.

We love the law.

We don't have game wardens anymore because law-loving "common citizens" never keep more fish or smaller fish than the laws allow. They never shoot an animal out of season or kill more than their limit.

Any insurance guy will laugh at the thought that a "common citizen" would put in an even slightly phony claim. It just happens that almost every car stolen in America had a set of new golf clubs, a rare violin, and a mink jacket in the trunk.

We treat the laws of the land with such respect that judges doze off in their empty courtrooms because Americans seldom sue each other for fraud, duplicity, sneakiness or financial rascality.

Nor do those men who are law-loving "common citizens" ever ignore a court order to pay child support. Which is why we have so few cases of child neglect or abuse.

How fortunate we are that law-loving "common citizens" never smoke, snort, sniff or otherwise ingest illegal substances. If they did, we might have an enormous drug problem. And we know we don't.

Yes, except for the evil Zoe Baird, no other country's "common citizens" love the law and obey the law the way we do.

And I am the tooth fairy.

Would you believe the Easter Bunny?

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.