The year everything went wrong

Letter from Paul Martz

Government – August 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Just a short note to tell you that I enjoyed and agreed with Martha’s editorial in the July Colorado Central. My personal vote for the year things started going bad is 1965 too, and I’ll tell you why. It was the first time that I remember when a passerby who stopped to help was sued by the “victim” of an auto wreck. The driver responsible for the accident didn’t have insurance, but the innocent bystander did: Sue the passerby.

So why are 1965 and the innocent bystander important? Well, people just said to themselves, “To hell with it. I ain’t getting sued.” Case in point, early in 1970 I was working in western Nevada and while headed home from a project site in the Pilot Mountains, I saw a huge cloud of dust rise up from the highway I was driving toward.

When I got to the wreck. it was a GI going home on leave who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, gone into the barrow ditch, rolled, been ejected, and was drowning in a pool of his own blood from a head injury. The car, a ’56 Mere, was sitting upright just idling away, with minor roof damage. Anyway, there were seven people standing around watching this guy blow bubbles in his own blood, afraid to touch him.

I put a jacket under his head to raise it out of the puddle and took off for Mina to call the cops. Two of those people took down my license number so the kid could sue me later if I was responsible for his injuries. I know this because the local highway patrolman told me later that night when he stopped by to tell me the guy was going to be OK.

On another topic within the editorial, I got to counting up the number of agencies that have armed men on our streets right here in river village, and I realized we already live in a police state. Check out this list. State of Colorado: CBI, Fish and Game, State Patrol, County Sheriffs, Local Police, Metro Transit Cops, the dreaded River Cops. Federal: FBI, BATF, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service, DEA, Treasury Service, U.S. Marshals, National Wildlife Service.

Being a registered independent, I’m caught between both swords, that of Reagan the reconqueror and the liberal slippery slope. We are all of the generation that watched the Warren Court put meaning into the Constitution for a lot of average Americans. By the same token we also bear witness to legal extremes where the perp isn’t responsible because he had a terrible experience during potty training or has low self-esteem. The problem with all that sympathetic jurisprudence is that it leaves all the rest of us naked in the face of those people’s antisocial actions.

On the other hand, our recent random traffic stop reflects the real legacy of the Reagan years — cowboy bull. Anybody with money caught in this little net will get off on Constitutional grounds.

I’ve read the Virginia decision that provided the basis for drunk interdiction and it is very narrow. Under any other court, it would have been unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it reflects the “it’s OK to screw around with the Constitution because we have a ‘crisis'” mentality that always seems to me to start with the Republicans and get taken to the extreme by the Democrats.

One of the reasons that I left Australia to come home was that there are virtually no guarantees of personal freedom in their Constitution, i.e., Article 182 gives you the right to bear arms, but Article 183 gives the individual state governments the power to take your right away.

The motto of Australian police is to “uphold the Authority of the Crown” not “To Serve and Protect.” A damned big difference. Our law enforcement is better, but the pendulum that Reagan’s people started moving is now being pushed along by the Clinton administration, because they really are there to rule, not govern. You can see this in the semi-militancy of the federal bureaucrats one has to deal with to do simple exploration work on a mineral prospect. Scary, especially when you consider all those armed federal bureaucrats.

Keep up the good work,

Paul Martz

Poncha Springs