Friday, March 2, 2012

The Free Parking Martyrs

Sometimes in life, we forget our roots. We take all the wonderful rights and freedoms we enjoy for granted and we forget about the sacrifices of those who made those rights and freedoms possible.

Take me, for example. As a modern cripple, I have enjoyed a whole lot of free parking for many years. If you have cripple license plates on your car, you usually don’t have to pay for parking at meters.

It’s a sweet gig I tell you. But free parking didn’t just falleth from the sky. Many of my crippled ancestors put their asses on the line so that future generations like me could save a shitload of money on parking. And some of them paid the ultimate price.

It was the 1940s, when most cripples were locked away in sanatoriums, out of sight and out of mind. But four cripples who lived in the same institution were fed up and restless and decided to take action. They wrote a manifesto, which said, “We will no longer tolerate being treated as second class citizens. We will no longer resign ourselves to a future without prospects for education, employment or self-determination. We as cripples must throw off the yoke of oppression and drink from the fountain of justice! Therefore, we demand free parking!”

These were cripples who didn’t even have cars but yet they yearned for free parking. That’s how visionary they were! The manifesto spread like wildfire and soon justice-starved cripples from far and wide demanded free parking too. This groundswell resulted in an historic march, where thousands of cripples took to the streets and converged on the state capitol. But they were met by National Guard troops in full riot gear. Tempers flared. One of the agitated cripples hurled an object in the direction of the police and the clash escalated into what has become known as the infamous free parking riots.

The hurled object was later revealed to be a flaming bag of poop. And the fact that it splattered all over a nearby Mercedes, causing the incensed owner to go through a car wash three times, turned public opinion against the cripples. The four leaders of the march insisted that the poop bomb was the work of an infiltrating provocateur, who allegedly fled the scene on foot. But a jury found each of the four leaders guilty of conduct unbecoming of a cripple, which was a capital offense.

At midnight on November 2, 1947, the four cripples were escorted to the gallows before a jeering crowd. Nooses were tightened around their necks. In an act of final defiance, the four cripples chanted FREE PARKING FOREVER, as their wheelchairs were yanked out from under them.

So whenever I whistle merrily past an expired parking meter, I try to remember to pause and pay silent tribute to my dear brethren, the Free Parking Martyrs. I can’t imagine how empty my life would be if it hadn't been for them. Being crippled really sucks sometimes, but at least I get free parking.