Thebastidge: Today's libertarian letter
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    ********************Southwest Washington Surplus, your prepping supply store********************

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Today's libertarian letter

    I dropped off a friend at Portland MEPS today. Not only did I get up ajust after 5am on my day off to do so, I got hassled by their personnel when I was there. So I wrote a letter:

    13 March 2005
    To: Maj. Thomas Battles, Commander MEPS, Portland
    From: (me)
    RE: MEPS policy

    Sir, this morning I happened to be dropping a friend off at the MEPS pursuant to his enlistment in the Oregon Air National Guard, and while I was waiting to confirm that he was able to process, I was accosted by one of your civilian employees (as usual, all of your military personnel were extremely polite), and I am left with some disgruntlement about the situation.

    The individual I am writing to you about was not overtly rude either, but I do want to make a point about his attitude. The issue in question was my wear of a hat, specifically a ball cap with a police logo on it. He asked me to remove it.

    Now, I am a 13-year veteran of the Armed Services, and I am aware of uniform requirements for wear of a cover indoor and outdoor. However, I am now a civilian, and I was not wearing a uniform item. When I inquired as to why the gentleman wished me to remove my hat, he replied, “It’s a government building. It’s a respect thing.” He did not state that it was an official policy, but I am assuming that it is. If it is not, then my complaint is about an even more egregious overstepping of authority on the part of this individual.

    I fear that my complaint may fall upon deaf ears, but I am compelled to address a couple of principles that often get overlooked in the grind of daily life.

    First, though I believe in the importance of certain abstract principles, I believe they are only worthy of respect when put into concrete context. Yes, I respect honour, integrity, bravery and self-sacrifice in service of others. However, I do not believe that the abstract concept of ‘government’ is worthy of respect, even that of the United States of America. Is your building some sort of shrine to the U.S. Government? Is the bureaucracy itself worthy of obsequious shows of respect? I don’t think so. In America, the individual is sovereign, and the bureaucracy is the servant. Unchecked, the bureaucratic exercise of power becomes an end in itself. This is most often manifested in the form of rules that have little or no point other than to make compliance a habit.

    I chose not to confront this policy in person for two reasons. One, from the attitude of the person I spoke with, I was concerned that such an officious bureaucrat would find satisfaction in retaliation against my friend, who was already preparing to undergo a process which lacks in dignity, and provides a thousand opportunities for infliction of gratuitous discomfort and humiliation, i.e. the cattle-car process of physical examination by your medical personnel. Secondly, I did not believe that I could adequately explain my reason for non-compliance in those circumstances (an open waiting room with quite a few young military aspirants standing in a line 5 feet away).

    However, let me outline how this appears to someone in my position: A visitor having no stake in the military culture or mindset, accompanying a new enlistee, comes into your facility and is asked to remove an article of clothing, apparently for reasons of fashion, and explicitly told to pay more respect to ‘the government’ in the person of a paperwork-pushing clerk in a waiting room. Sir, I submit to you that I had my reasons for wearing a hat, that my sense of when it is appropriate to wear any article of clothing is adequate, and that you have no compelling interest in changing that. Imagine someone who does not even have the context of knowing about the military uniform rules on wearing a hat inside a building, such as a family member or friend who has never been in the military, and see what impression is formed.

    I ask that you immediately curtail this policy and undertake a comprehensive review to ensure that any remaining policies have a valid reason for enforcement, and make your personnel aware of these principles of liberty and the role of the government and its representatives to serve the public rather than dictate to it.

    Thank you,

    Mainly, I was irritated because I got up, threw on some khakis, a t-shirt and ball cap to cover my messy hair, and left the house. I was only hanging out for a few minutes to make sure his recruiter had actually gotten all the paperwork together so he could go through the process, because MEPS has always been picky about having everything and being there on time (guys who walk in 1 minute after 6am, even if the line in front of them hasn't been processed, get turned away.)


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