We all see the trite commercials from the cell-phone industry warning us about the evils of texting and driving. We're told that even reading a one word text will lead you to flip your car and die. Yet, across the State of Texas, police seem to be ignoring this accepted wisdom.
In some places, this is worse than others. A distracted-officer crash in Austin maimed a Louis Olivier. In Tarrant county, a deputy rolled through a stop sign and injured the driver of the SUV with which he collided. Tarrant county disciplined the officer; their policy about distracted driving is apparently one of the most strict in the State.
That brings us to my home town. The City of Arlington, TX is apparently immune to these kinds of things, so says Mayor and SCOAMT-in-training, Robert Cluck. Apparently the training that the Arlington PD receives is so good, it allows them to drive while composing the Great American Novel on their in-car computers.
That's ridiculous enough. But then we get to the "Police State" part of this equation. You see, the City of Arlington is the only one in Texas with an outright ban on texting and driving. Many municipalities have bans on the practice under certain circumstances- especially in active school zones- but it is a blanket ban in Arlington. Never mind that we already have laws against running your car into people or things, and we could punish people under those rules, no, we also needed an additional revenue stream from the tickets that could be issued.
Yet Arlington Police Officers, while on duty, are exempt from this ban to the extent that they can even type on their dash-mounted computers while driving. You'll excuse me if I think that's a bigger distraction than merely texting while driving. Mayor Cluck displayed an incredible sense of "it could never happen here," when he said to the NBC investigation staff, "I just think our officers are above the fray there."
Even without my cynical hat on, that seems really stupid to me. With my cynical hat on, it sounds exactly like something a petty tyrant would say in defense of one of his fiefdoms. You see, whether they will admit it or not, the discrepancy in the rules here is one designed to signify status. It sets the Rulers apart from the Subjects. The mere peasants who pay the salaries of the city employees, including the Mayor and Police Officers, are assumed to be 'lesser,' in some way. We are not capable of texting and driving safely.
Oh, but the Police Officers, well, they're Picked Men. They're positively superheroes capable of great feats of concurrent multitasking. Merely completing fairly complex paperwork on a dash-mounted laptop which requires you to look off to the side instead of straight ahead while driving is positively menial. They could do that, compose the Great American Novel, send cell-phone text messages, and drive safely all at the same time. Or something.
This hypocrisy is the hallmark of the Police State. It says that those who enforce the law are not subject to it. If they are not subject to it, they are not the same as those who are. There's a name for a social order where one class makes the rules for another to obey, we call it Feudalism (if we're being nice) or Tyranny (if we're not). Either system says that one class of Men is superior to all others, and is owed fealty and obeisance. Neither system is compatible with Freedom.