Cars have made us all criminals

criminal wrists.

The comments to the recent post about my run-in with the law have reminded me of a theory I've been snuggling up to for some years now, viz, cars have made us all criminals.

I've never had a cop walk a beat up my street and a good percentage of my dealings with police--the majority, probably, if you leave out my work as a journalist--have been automobile-related. And, as it is impossible to drive 100% legally, those dealings put me in a positions of perpitude.

When attending traffic school in Provo once, the cop teaching the class said that if he wants to pull me over for any reason, it's no problem. If he follows me long enough, I'll do something wrong. Me, I'm pretty good at using my blinkers, but three full seconds before I switch lanes? Every time? Not likely.

Traffic laws are many enough that simply driving becomes an illegal activity. And due to the (necessary) focus of the law on traffic issues, this means that my normal attitude towards the law is please-don't-see-me and I-hope-I-don't-get-caught.

I wasn't alive before cars had conquered America, so I don't know, but I rather believe that before we were all behind the wheel, we liked cops. Now I think our instinct is fear--or at least nervousness.

I know as a kid I loved cops. Now they make me nervous. I used to wave at every policeman we passed. Now I'm afraid it might make me look suspicious.

What a shame.


  1. I imagine your theory is mostly true as it applies to upper- and middle-class white people. The people who are deemed "black" in any society (i.e. I'm not talking about race necessarily, but social constructs--in the U.S. the two happen to overlap quite a bit but that's not true everywhere) tend to at the very least distrust police and at the worst attack them. This happens because the "white" people in any given society are the ones in power, and the police, whose purpose is to make sure that power stays in place, represent safety and security for them (unless they're speeding or not turning on their blinker before turning). For the people who aren't in power, though, the police represent a social construct that is opposed to their very existence. So while you may walk down your street without fear of getting arrested, the Black kid in a slum of Chicago does not, nor does the Pakistani kid in the outskirts of Paris. I suspect that fear gets blown out of proportion, but I say that as a white American who hasn't ever been arrested (or beaten) just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for having the wrong color of skin or the wrong religion.

    I'm not talking about stereotypes, mind you, I'm talking about social attitudes that are very real, despite the fact that no, of course they aren't true for every individual in every situation. And no, the problem is not in power-hungry cops (though I would suggest that the power-hungry ones contribute to the problem) but in something much bigger than that.

    So if you feel a little afraid of cops when you drive, take comfort in knowing that you're beginning to understand a little of what everyday life is like for millions of people around the world.

  2. .

    Oh, surely. They keyword is "all" I suppose, in my thesis.

  3. I can accept that. I read the "all" as meaning that everyone was not a criminal until cars made them so, but I can also see it meaning that not everyone was a criminal until cars leveled the playing field (so to speak, in a very limited sense). As you're the author and therefore the expert on your own intent, taken together with the fact that your ethos is fairly high up on my personal scale, I'll trust you.

  4. .

    Also, it's important to remember, I have not been conclusively labeled a misogynist.

    I'm just saying.

    By the way, I enjoyed the first interview. I'm remembering that there was a question I meant to leave there....

  5. No, but racist and imperialist are still free for the taking. Act now, supplies are limited!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Please do ask that question.

  6. .

    Actually, come to think of it, I'm already a racist...and for the same reason my education got me in trouble to boot.

    I would much rather be an imperialist, though. Is it too late to change?

  7. I'll check with the Official Committee on Haterism Labels and get back to you. Do you mind being both, or are you set on one or the other?

  8. .

    I just don't want to take more than my share. That's why I'm willing to trade in racist. Don't want to be seen as greedy. That's Capitalist Swine's job.