A woman from my spin class leaves the building by a door that has a huge sign, “THIS IS A FIRE EXIT. USE FRONT DOOR.” My friend and I watch her, but we walk to the front of the gym and go out the front door. We wonder if we’re following rules because our kids have autism and are hard-wired to follow all rules. Maybe there is something wrong with us, too.
A neighbor back in our old town has too many people crashing in his house, so he lets the freeloaders park on his front lawn. The cops ticket cars left on the street overnight, and they don’t want that. So, they plop their Nissan on the grass in front of the house. Which is also illegal, but not a traffic matter, so there’s no cops to monitor that law at night.
We go for a walk at the park at the nearby mountain. There are other places to hike, but this is the closest. This location is also popular with dog walkers. There are huge signs at the front of the trail that say “ALL DOGS MUST BE ON LEASHES.” Nine of ten people obey that law, but there’s always one guy. Once, a guy with a huge dog roaming free knocked Ian down and licked his face. Ian, at the time, was terrified of dogs and screamed. I told the guy, “leash your dog.” He said, “leash your kid.”
Back in the early 90s when I first lived in my old neighborhood in Manhattan, traffic laws were strictly advisory. Drivers would go down sidewalks, triple park, roll through red lights, blast music out of the trunk at 2am. It was your job as a pedestrian to watch out for them and jump out of the way if necessary.
The last three incidents were in the news this week, because the reactions to the rule breaking were extreme and caught up in race.
Let’s take the reactions out of the equation for a minute and just talk about rules and laws. Every one of these incidents involves breaking a meaningful law, rule, or policy. Except for sleeping in the common room, because that is just the god given right of every graduate students. But leashing dogs, grilling in the right area, getting through a long and boring graduation in an orderly way are good things.
It’s super important to make sure that our laws and rules are sensible and just. It’s also super important to make sure that people who break the laws are punished equitably and reasonably. But I just want to make sure that we don’t toss out all rules all together.