Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Quick Comment on Perspective

My friend wrote to me this morning about his thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case. It was moving and awful, as he too experienced harassment and abuse of force at the hands of people who thought a young black man was in the wrong place to be up to anything but trouble.

Shortly thereafter I see a retweet of "Chef Geoff" Tracy on Twitter:
Virginia ABC law prohibits us from using the words "Happy Hour" in any advertising. Are we still in America?
Yes, it's a stupid law. Yes, bar and restaurant owners should work to get rid of the law and I would fully support that effort. But given that a 17 year old black kid was hunted down and shot by a man with dubious authority, at best, who was explicitly told by police dispatch not to pursue and engage him, with no legal repercussions to this point, I think it's a tad overwrought to start questioning the sanctity of America over ad restrictions.

This isn't to say that Trayvon's killing is necessarily Chef Geoff's fight, but I think this underscores a lot of the disconnect between what liberty means to the business-centric folk and what liberty means to those of us who see and/or experience the abuse of power in ways more threatening to personal safety, security, and dignity. Chef Geoff isn't at all wrong to claim injustice--the Virginia alcohol laws are harmful to business and that directly affects his livelihood, and he has every right to be upset--but in the grand scheme of things, a catchy phrase for an ad just doesn't compare to some guy with a gun and a power trip getting away with hunting down and killing a black kid because 'he looked suspicious.'

I have nothing at all against Chef Geoff and have heard only great things about him and his notable establishments. He's not guilty of anything other than slight overstatement and I do not wish to impugn him in any way. I just thought his comment reflects a language gap between people who rightly fear threats to economic liberty, but may not give as much thought to threats to personal liberty that so many others face on a daily basis. It's not that he's wrong, it's just that he--and so many others who care about liberty--could use a dose of perspective.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

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