Friday, August 27, 2010

Dissenting View: Stifling a Tear For The Poor Jaworskis

In a surprising turn of events this week, Rush Limbaugh announced he would be inviting President Obama to stand as godfather for the child he and his new wife are expecting. Pamela Geller withdrew her opposition to the not-mosque at not-ground zero. And, oh, yeah, Dr. Dawg and Kathy Shaidle agreed on something.

The subject of this unlikely accord is the Jaworskis, a couple who, as Shaidle puts it, are being "bullied" by evil municipal "bigwigs" in the village of Clarington "about having a BBQ on their own property"! Can you imagine? And the good Doctor takes up the chorus: it's a "shakedown" and an "assault" in which these poor folks are facing "crippling $50,000 charges".

Despicable, what? This damnable jackbooted thuggery seems to have aroused the ire of my favourite lefty and righty bloggers in a unanimous chorus of righteous wrath.

Well, not quite unanimous. There are a few points that need consideration.

- The Jaworskis were offering a little more than a "barbecue". It was actually a two day seminar by the Liberty Summer Seminar, advertised and promoted, for which tickets were sold, attended by more than 200 people.

- The Jaworskis provide this homey service as a for-profit business venture, the Willow Pond Bed and Breakfast.

- Charges were laid as the result of a complaint by neighbours because the Jaworskis were using their property illegally, in defiance of zoning regulations.

- The maximum possible fine ($50,000) is being cited in all these stories as a given. The minimum possible fine (first offense, no fine, don't do it again) is not.

The narrative of this story is being drawn by my blogging friends from the very carefully spun accounts of the Jaworski's son Peter, whose moving prose could draw tears from a stone. The bad guys in the story don't "say" stuff - they "intone". The mayor becomes a villain because he won't use political influence to interfere in the enforcement of the law. (That's a BAD thing in Peter's narrative). The Mayor's salary somehow becomes relevant to the story. All that's missing is a photo of the Mayor with a leer, a thick handlebar moustache, and a speech balloon reading "You MUST Pay The Rent, My Pretty!"

I'm sure the Jaworskis are lovely people, and I'm sure the Liberty Summer Seminar is a wonderful and inspiring event. But let's not let ourselves get too carried way. What happened here? People who should have known better organized an event without doing their homework and got nailed for it. No-one knows what fine they're going to have to pay. The mayor, quite appropriately, will not interfere.

And Peter, the Director of the Institute for Liberal Studies, is milking the story for everything it's worth. And of course, this entire saga is going to provide wonderful fodder for NEXT year's Liberty Summer Seminar.

Years ago I organized folk music concerts in Ottawa, and early on I was charged for having messed up my application to sell beer at an event. I cursed my own stupidity, dug into my pocket and paid the fine, and didn't make the same mistake again. I did not frame that incident as the brutal oppression of a poor innocent by an uncaring bureaucracy - and neither, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth, is this.

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