The American form of government is the greatest guarantor of human freedom and rights that man has ever devised.
But because it was devised, and managed, by humans, it also can be malicious, stupid, and ridiculous. A case in Washington, D.C., helps illustrate.
Doug Nelson, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, works the late shift for the U.S. Postal Service. Outside his home after work on Nov. 2, the grandfather of 11 was carjacked.
“As I was exiting the vehicle, this guy came up with the pistol and said ‘Give me the car. You know, what’s happening. Give me a car,’” Nelson told the local media.
A few days later, police recovered Nelson’s car. The city also handed him a bill for more than $2,000. It seems the carjackers went on an extended high-speed joy ride. Yet it was Nelson who received six tickets issued by the city’s camera system that the crooks had racked up in his car.
The Nelsons appealed, pointing out their car had been stolen. “It came back saying, ‘You owe,’” Nancy Nelson said of the D.C. government’s response.
Even after they submitted a police report showing when the car was not just stolen, but hijacked at gunpoint, the city again rejected the Nelsons’ argument.
The couple decided on a personal approach, meeting face-to-face with the hearing officer, the local media reported. The bureaucrat rejected them, saying the report did not have their tag number. When they returned to the police, an officer told them they could not put the tag number on the report, although it was in the system.
The problem was that the tags then expired, and the Nelsons were deprived the use of their car. They called their city council member and the mayor’s office and were ignored.
When their son-in-law tried to help by filing yet another appeal to the ombudsman over traffic tickets, the family was informed that they could no longer do that because the case had been closed.
“We respect the rules, we respect the process, but can somebody that’s a human being just look at this and find a way to fix it because it shouldn’t have to be this difficult,” Richard Bennett, the Nelsons’ son-in-law, told local media.
Meanwhile, the penalty for the fines kept accruing. At one point, the Nelsons owed more than $5,000, according to D.C. media.
Last Friday, WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, reported that the city had finally excused the tickets and dropped the fines after six months of rejecting legitimate pleas and common sense. The TV news crew took credit, saying the bureaucrats dismissed the Nelsons until the media got involved.
“The city’s in a good position to stonewall you, and make you jump through the hoops and follow their directives and then they say, ‘I, don’t think so.’ And you’re still stuck,” Doug Nelson told WJLA.
Government, Thomas Paine wrote, is a “necessary evil.” And sometimes it’s just evil.
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