Abuse of government power comes in many different forms, in many different places and in varying degrees of absurdity.
Among the most appalling recent examples of government oppression comes out of Russia, where, last week, three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for "hooliganism." Their crime? The (frankly pretty lousy) band staged a flash mob-esque performance of a song titled "Punk Prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior as a political statement.
You see, the church is owned by the Russian government and "Punk Prayer" contains the lyric "Mother Mary, drive Putin out!" Add those two things together and it was easy for Putin's kangaroo court to get the young ladies out of the "freely elected" (wink-wink) Russian president's hair for a couple of years.
Thankfully, the United States isn't throwing people in jail for speaking their minds in a song -- yet.
But in recent weeks, there have been a number of preposterous and despicable examples of government harassment here at home.
Just last month in Columbia County, Ga., for example, a young female homeowner awoke to find an intruder -- who had let himself into her home and walked into her bedroom -- yelling at her to wake up. It turns out the man was a county compliance officer who wanted to serve her with a violation notice because her grass was too long. Fortunately for him, she didn't have a gun nearby to give him the welcome that many homeowners would have. Fortunately for everyone else, the Columbia County News-Times reports that the creepy bully has been fired for the incident.
Michigan's Mackinac Center, a free market think tank, uncovered the story of 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski of Holland, Mich., whose hot dog stand was shut down by a city zoning officer only 10 minutes after opening. The boy's mother suffers from epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. He simply wanted to work over his summer break to help out his disabled parents. Now, thanks to ridiculous government regulators, not only did the boy not make money for his family, he is out the cost of the stand and supplies.
Kayden Lidsky, a seven-year-old in North Haven, Conn., is being forced to give up her self-described "best friend" -- Sandy, her pet rabbit -- because of an overzealous zoning enforcement officer. A town ordinance requires two acres of land in order to keep a rabbit. When local bureaucrats found out about the girl's rabbit earlier this month, they ordered the family to get rid of the pet since they have less than the requisite amount of property, according to WTNH News 8 in New Haven.
In a Philadelphia suburb, a woman handing out free lunches to hungry children has run afoul of Chester Township zoning laws. The regulation stipulates that handing out food -- even for free to low income children -- requires a permit. The Philadelphia Inquirer learned that obtaining the permit would cost the Good Samaritan $1,000. If she chooses to ignore the law and continues giving out the lunches, she faces a $600 fine. Angela Prattis, or the "lunch lady" as she's known in the neighborhood, is a trained volunteer with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Nutritional Development Services, which supplies the food she gives out.
Ridiculous regulations that limit the length of grass, prevent a kid from opening a hot dog stand, take away a little girl's pet rabbit or keep hungry children from a hearty lunch don't make anyone the least bit safer or healthier. They certainly don't make people freer or government more efficient.
Every time government abuses its power simply to pester people who are minding their own business, or harass those trying to help others, we lose just a little more liberty and we inch a little closer to living in a society -- like Russia -- where freedom is a luxury.