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A man of commerce, not Congress

David Ziemer

David Ziemer

In December 2000 it snowed every day, and lots of it. By the end of the month, the snow was piled so high that people could only pass each other on downtown Milwaukee sidewalks through mutual accommodation and respect.

That was the situation as I walked down North Water Street one morning past the abortion clinic that was then in operation.

Some woman was leaving the clinic after buying some birth control pills or some other articles in commerce, and some zealot was running after her and berating her, heading right towards me.

I had three options: step out of his way; let him plow me over; or brace myself for a collision. I took the third option, of course, and he took a bit of a jolt. He then said, “Hey, Pig, do that again.”

I assumed that he did not expect me to just stand there and wait for him to run into me again, but was challenging me to a fight. So I pushed him into the wall of the abortion clinic. He charged back at me, and one of his fellow zealots attacked me from behind.

Eventually, I managed to subdue them both, and held one in each hand, at arm’s length. I took the smaller one, and bounced his skull off the fire hydrant. Then, putting both hands on the larger zealot, I threw him on top of the smaller one as he tried to get up, once again causing his skull to bounce off the fire hydrant.

After I picked up my hat and my briefcase from the ground, and continued on my way, the zealot ran after me yelling, “Haven’t you ever heard of the First Amendment?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. “It says, ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.’ I am not Congress. I am a man of commerce, in a commercial district, for a commercial purpose. You are impeding commerce; my rights trump yours.”

This incident recently recurred to me. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the upcoming election in November is the most heavily anticipated election since at least 1980. And, if you know me, you know that I go to a lot of cocktail parties.

So, I’ve been getting hit up a lot lately for campaign contributions at these parties. I must always decline, politely saying that it’s not because I don’t support the candidate. I explain that I write for a trade journal, but the corporation that publishes it thinks it’s a newspaper, and therefore, it thinks it has to have an ethics policy against writers contributing to politicians.

“But, what about freedom of speech?” a woman asked me in horror at one such cocktail party.

“The First Amendment says, ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,'” I replied. “The corporation I work for is not Congress.”

Although I vehemently opposed the policy when it was adopted, I actually kind of like it, because it’s such a convenient excuse not to have to contribute to politicians.

It also saves money in property damage. I play softball in the Riverwest neighborhood twice a week. If I put an “Eric Cantor for President 2012” bumper sticker on my carbon-spewing Buick Roadmaster, the environmentalists and the anti-Israel crowd would have a field day slashing my tires.

So, I keep my political opinions (and my money) to myself, and go about my way, just a simple man of commerce, in a commercial district, for a commercial purpose.

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