Who smokes pot in America? Lots of people from every demographic. Who speeds? Damn near everyone. Illegal parking? Illegal music downloads? You have the right to keep and bear arms, if you meet narrow criteria, wait for several days, buy no more than a set number per month...and giving a shotgun to your son on his seventeenth birthday is a felony that breaches several laws. Yet, this right "shall not be infringed." God help you if you live in the People's Republic of California. There isn't much troop quartering going on (3rd Amendment), but the government can requisition your house and land, pay you minimally, and bulldoze it the next day for a highway or sewage treatment plant. Raise your hand if you've ever had an unlawful search or seizure (4th Amendment). How long do these damned celebrity trials drag on? How long do you sit in prison while the DA takes his sweet time trying to end life as you know it? So much for "the accused shall enjoy a right to a speedy and public trial," (6th Amendment). We're so far from the Bill of Rights, and so knee-deep in bureaucracy, we can't see the free sunshine anymore. Censorship is rampant, but as it checks free speech, so is it checked as well. Anti-homosexual groups are allowed to display the most graphic, vile, and defamatory signs and slogans you can imagine on public street corners. But if you walk outside the bar and yell obscenities at a lamppost, you'll be arrested for disturbing the peace, or being a public nuisance. The difference is one of power: you can't do anything about it. The protestors? They're pissed off enough to take off work, make signs, and raise hell in an organized group. Governments are historically bad about managing organized groups of dissenters (See also: Kent State Massacre, Boston Massacre, the American Revolution). Step on them, and they'll bond together, make signs, and raise hell. It behooves the police and politicians to let the groups do their things, so long as "their things" leave the government the hell alone. Just keep their energy directed elsewhere. Why can't you buy beer when you're twenty? What difference does the week make before your twenty first birthday? European countries let kids drink at whatever age suits them, and have far fewer occurrences of DUI-related deaths and much less of a public drain from alcoholism than we do with our draconian booze regulations. Why can't you buy cigarettes before you're eighteen? The laws aren't to protect the kids who get booze and cigarettes, and a lot worse shit, anyway. They're there to set precedent, to make us comfortable with a certain degree of law. We've all broken some bullshit law like those...and we're all criminals. Thus, when the government wants to get us—somehow—they selectively enforce the laws we're braking...we're already in the trap. The government cannot stand when its people are truly free, as a building cannot stand on a foundation of individual pebbles. Free people are unpredictable, and might challenge the system. Who is actually lobbying with full gusto to lower the drinking age, or do away with the cigarette buying age? Kids want these things gone, but the government doesn't have to listen to kids, and pissed off seventeen year olds are historically bad at organizing legislative initiatives. Thus, the government is safe criminalizing a huge segment of our youth...and breaking them into the notion of being criminals. Later, when it's time to reign in the undesirables, they'll be so used to breaking laws that they won't notice the umpteen violations the government uses to get them. Al Capone was popped for tax evasion. This is how the government works: they find a way, or make one. Why must we go through the Security Screening Olympics every time we board an airplane? Not to make the skies safer...but because the government capitalized (we have a capitalist government, after all) on national hysteria to exercise another huge measure of control over its citizens. We put up with it while the Twin Towers were still smoking. Damn near four years later, we're seeing it for the sum of the bullshit that it is...but it's too late. So we bitch on the internet, complain to family, sneer at high school dropouts in TSA uniforms, but ultimately take our shoes off and check our dignity with our luggage. There are checks all through the system, though, where the determined citizen can get out of trouble. You can appeal tickets, address zoning boards, get variances for whatever you need. They tell you that this is to preserve your liberty, to safeguard freedom...bullshit. If you were truly free and regulated only by that regulation which is absolutely necessary for the good of all, than the speed limit would be discretionary, and you would never need to apply for a variance or forgiveness or have a buddy-judge "fix" a damned thing. Those restrictions wouldn't be there in the first place. So why are they there now? If you're motivated enough to walk up to the Lieutenant on duty and tell him you won't pay your parking ticket, you're probably motivated enough to actually do something about the real problem: the government overstepping its boundaries. But, instead of attacking the system, they cleverly channel your energies into complicated (or just scary) appeal processes. In the end, you usually find yourself pretty well off, and frustrated enough, tired enough—and safe enough—to not push through and attack the entire system. Thus, the integrity of the system remains. What's the ultimate vision? Complete, 1984-style domination? Who knows. At the moment, the government is safe from being overthrown by its people...it's disarmed us, stolen so much of our money as to make major political or physical revolt infeasible, and through the Patriot Act and many other, less-known initiatives, implemented a complex monitoring system to head off trouble. It learned its own lesson: our country was formed by angry men with money, guns, and aggravation at an oppressive government. To keep Washington, DC from being the next British Colonial Figure, Congress has taken our guns, money, and national spirit, replaced them with television, complacency, and tightly controlled news agencies (ever wonder why all the "mainstream" news sources look alike?). We couldn't revolt if we wanted to. Not that we want to. There's 214 channels on Satellite TV, a lifetime of porn on the internet, and cheap booze in the refrigerator. Smile...things won't change, even if you try.