Gonna Get Us
American is so conditioned to Authority that he will not even dare
to defy a road sign even when its out in the
middle of nowhere and theres essentially zero chance of any
repercussions. Anything that looks official, anyone in a uniform
of any kind even if its not an official uniform and
the wearer has no gun or actual authority to do anything
the average American will, without a murmur, sit quietly
The other day
I was headed into town, which for me is about 35 miles away on a
rural secondary road, one lane each way. I suddenly found myself
stuck behind a line of three other cars, all backed up behind an
official VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) tractor running
a brush shredder of some kind, cleaning up the right shoulder. It
had yellow flashing lights and was painted Obey Me Orange. Now,
even though the other (oncoming) lane was clear you could
see ahead for a good 1/4 mile not one of the three drivers
ahead of me made a move. They all sat quietly, deferentially plodding
behind this VDOT tractor that was half-on, half-off the road and
doing maybe 8 MPH (this is a 55 MPH road). I truly believe they
would have followed him all the way down the mountain, unless and
until the Authority Figure in Orange with his Official Reflective
Jacket on had given them leave to pass.
I punched it,
roared past the mechanical centipede and got the angry flashing
headlights from one of its segments, which was clearly appalled
that I had dared to defy the Orange Authority.
We live near
the Blue Ridge Parkway and use it often. About three years ago,
they repaved several sections including two long stretches
that had previously been passing zones. They repainted the lines
double yellow (no passing) and I doubt they did so after doing a
lawful traffic survey. I suspect they just painted over the lines
that way for the hell of it. Now, even people who live here and
know the story just like I do will not pass in those zones, even
if they find themselves caught behind an RV struggling to ascend
the grade at 22 MPH (which is why these portions were previously
marked passing zones). The knowledge that these were previously
lawful passing zones (and probably still are) and in any
case remain perfectly safe places to pass, if one can see
and has the ability to push down on that little pedal on the right
side of the floorboard, does not sway them. All that matters is
that Authority has painted double yellow lines on the road
and Authority must be obeyed.
if one has the temerity (as I do) to disobey such inanimate totems
of Authority and do so in the presence of the typical American,
the typical American will not cheer your healthy rebellion.
Some sense, perhaps, of his own obsequiousness will rouse him to
outrage at your lack thereof. He will flash his lights or toot his
horn in feeble fury at your disobedience. He may even pic up his
sail fawn to report your doings to Authority furious at your
defiance and frustrated by his own pusillanimity.
Even when school is out for the summer, but the stupid lights are
flashing because someone forgot to turn them off, most people will
jam on their brakes and tip-toe through the School Zone. They know
schools out and that there are (obviously) no kids around,
yet they cavil and quake before the mighty power of those flashing
There is potent
mojo in these icons of Authority.
to think of themselves as proud and courageous but the truth is
theyre base and fearful, cringing wretches. Yes, Officer.
Note that this is not mere politeness. It is abject deference. There
is something repulsive about the idea of a 50-something-year-old
man, perhaps a man with an advanced education and a professional
job, Yessiring a 22-year-old kid with a GED or community
college degree wearing a government-issued costume.
Or worse, a
not-even-real-cop TSA loser.
Do you doubt
that America herd-cattle will immediately submit and obey to much
worse than a mere groping?
has been under way for decades and is about to bear fruit, I suspect.
In my lifetime (I am 44) I have witnessed a remarkable transformation
of the American character. A people that used to view Authority
with suspicion bordering on contempt has become a people that positively
venerates authority, even when that Authority degrades them at every
turn and deprives them of their most basic humanity, their dignity.
A story is
told about Stalin that may be apocryphal but which cuts nonetheless
to the heart of what were facing of what weve
become as a people:
A visitor asked
the Red Tsar how he maintained control of his subjects. Why didnt
they rise up in revolt?
a chicken off the floor and proceeded to pluck its feathers, one
by one, until the bird was a cringing, shivering, naked wretch.
He then released the chicken. But rather than flee from its abuser,
the chicken clung to Stalins pants leg, pecking at the crumbs
of corn he tossed to the ground.
is us or at least, too damn many of us.
What sort of
bird are you? How will you respond when its your time
to be plucked?
question well soon have to answer.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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