As some of you may already know, I have been in the Dominican Republic for the past two weeks. There is nothing like travel to other countries & cultures to put your own into perspective. I want to share two stories with you and then you can decide for yourself.
About two months ago, my daughter got the flu. Looking like a hot, limp, wet rag, I of course excused her from school that day. She had eaten nothing the night before nor that morning so you can imagine my happiness when she asked me for a McDonald’s hamburger later that day. I gently loaded her into the van, strapped her into her seatbelt and drove the 5 blocks to McDonalds. I have no memory of that drive except the occasional worried glance to the back seat where she was draped.
I was in no rush. I was relaxed. So I was quite surprised to see police lights in my rearview mirror. I was utterly dumbfounded. A speeding ticket? Really? Apparently I was going 35 in a 25 mile/hr road (mind you, a four lane highway!). I have driven that traffic-stop-laden road for thirteen years now, stopping & going with all the other cars as we variously found the stores we were looking for- with nary a problem. I have never had a car accident- nor a speeding ticket since college. I have never been arrested- or even close to it. In essence, I am a goody two-shoes. The ticket was a whopping $175. I had to go to court, stand in front of a judge, plead ‘guilty’ (with a giant lump in my craw) and am now on a 6 month probation period.
Ok, that is one story. Here is the other:
While in the Dominican Republic, we drove quite a bit to various locations on the island. This is the land of mopeds & motorcycles, dilapidated trucks, broken axles, dusty roads & whole families (toddlers included) crammed onto one motorbike- no helmets. The highway paint denoting two lanes is laughable & not even heeded as a suggestion. Stop lights are anyone’s guess. Potholes the size of small cars litter the roads and only catch the unsuspecting tourists while the nimble locals on their mopeds zook right around them. Driving against traffic doesn’t surprise anyone enough to even turn heads. It is the wild west.
After gasping in unbelief and downright disapproval (when the family with the toddler drove by), I felt another emotion altogether sweeping over me: jealousy. And resentment. These people are more free than we are. They are free to do what they want- regardless of whether it will hurt them. I wanted to get one of those mopeds and do what I would do- perhaps even dare to ride with- gasp!- no helmet! Oh yes, my blood was high! No police lights behind me for driving safely to McDonalds! By God, I realized in that moment that our nation was a prison for good people. Law abiding people. A mother can’t even drive down the road a few blocks to get a burger for her child without needing to ‘plead guilty’ in front of a judge in America! Things have gone too far, Americans. They really have.
Everything is done to save us from ourselves. My kids are convinced that Mother Nature isn’t going to survive long enough for them to grow up. Everything humans do, need, want is ‘bad’. Humans don’t understand what is good for them- we are too stupid to make that assessment. So we need laws galore to keep us from harming ourselves. “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs- breakin’ up the scenery, breakin’ my mind..” remember that song?
After having my passport checked at least 7 different times, we returned to Miami airport. Ah, everything in order. The air conditioning not only worked, but was freezing cold. The stores were shiny & new and every product was unblemished, dust free & tagged with a proper price tag. No negotiating here. As we approached the gate, two security agents were pacing back & forth across the humans that were obediently filing through the maze of ropes & poles. They were also barking orders in staccato- completely unintelligible from the back of the maze- but I could tell they relished their jobs. Their sense of importance oozed from the crisp folds of their uniforms. One agent, a small Asian woman, had her hands clasped behind her back as she paced before us, “We want your visit with us to be as short as possible! You can make this happen if you follow these instructions! Take everything out of your pockets: Do not leave even a Tissue! Do not leave a Gum Wrapper! You will take all the change from your pockets & deposit it in a plastic container! Take off your belts! Take off your shoes!..” Her high pitch voice went straight through my head. I actually looked for a weapon at her side. Just how much authority did she have? The other agent was likewise shouting, “You WILL put the boarding pass together with your passport! If you do not put your boarding pass with your passport, I will be forced to help someone else first! So put your boarding pass with your passport and you will not be held up any longer than necessary!”
Unfortunately, her words only became fully intelligible about five people away and I was left fumbling with five passports & five boarding passes as I approached Godzilla.
As I observed American humanity moving obediently through the human maze and meekly subjecting themselves to the verbal assault of two militant women who had been given a bit of power, I knew I was home. America, the Home of the Free.
p.s. Can anyone guess if SLR said anything to Godzilla number 1 & 2 and can anyone guess what might have happened afterwards (IF SLR did say anything)?