The folks up in San Francisco, never ones to shun the bizarre in the conduct of their civic affairs, have come up with a new way to impose order on an often eccentric citizenry.
In order to force building owners to comply with new seismic regulations by agreeing to inspections, city fathers are threatening to “shame” those who are slow to comply.
Signs will be affixed to buildings with red lettering and a drawing of a destroyed building. They read "Earthquake warning!" in all-caps, followed by, "This building is in violation of the requirements of the San Francisco building code regarding earthquake safety," according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.
Patrick Otellini, the city's director of earthquake safety, was quoted as saying that other tactics, such as fines, too often proved tepid and ineffective.
So they’ve decided to try embarrassment and ridicule instead.
This is nothing new. In the good old days, we would put people in stocks to humiliate them into submission. The stocks partially immobilized its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by.
History tells us that insulting, kicking, tickling, spitting and in some cases urinating and defecating on its victims could be applied at the free will of any of those present.
Those Colonists knew how to keep people in step.
In San Francisco, shaming seems to be something of a pastime. Just this past spring, a graphic designer names Brian Singer began taking photos of people texting while driving on the 101 Freeway and posting them to a website, Texting While In Traffic, or TWIT for short.
Lately, Singer has been paying out of his own pocket to put some of the photos on billboards around town, according to published reports.
Bay Area cops gleefully publish pictures of those arrested for everything from soliciting to bike theft as a deterrent.
Expect Dunce Caps for parking scofflaws some time soon.
Lest we dismiss shaming as an effective tool in achieving meaningful reform, maybe we should apply it to a few other institutions.
Congress, for example. We could (and should) attach a poster to the office door of every single member of Congress which would read: “Warning, The occupant inside has neither the time nor the inclination to understand issues. His actions are governed solely by what will enhance his own party’s political power, thus plunging our country into governmental gridlock of historical proportions. Do not feed or re-elect.”
Or how about the NFL: Let’s start the broadcasts with, “The following is a presentation of the NFL which, contrary to popular belief, stands for Nimble Felons on the Lose. Spousal abuse? Child abuse? Drug abuse? These aren’t football teams, it’s a collection of street gangs. Tune-in at your own risk.”
Shaming might not fix the league’s image problem in a hurry. But this will: Adopt a one-strike rule in football. One felony arrest, it’s a suspension for as long as it takes the legal system to resolve the case. One conviction, and you run a deep post pattern right out of the league. There are enough good athletes with character in this country that can play the game.
And while we’re shaming people, shame on us for not objecting much sooner and much louder.
Time Warner Cable: Talk about people who have no shame. In an empty and cynical gesture, the cable company has magnanimously agreed to broadcast the last six regular season Dodger games. This, after TWC decided to prevent 70 per cent of the L.A. population from watching televised games as part of hard-ball negotiating stance.
These guys paid $8.35 billion for the broadcast rights and are shocked to discover that other media companies don’t want to help them pay the bill.
“Time Warner Cable is part of this community, and we’re Dodger fans too,” said an ad that ran in the region’s newspapers recently. That’s slicing the baloney a bit thick. They are in fact corporate automatons that operate out of New York. And if they think broadcasting a few games will create goodwill, they ran out that commodity a long time ago.
We don’t need to shame them. They’ve done a great job by themselves.
The Pentagon: Shame the military? In one recent case, it is deserved.
Consider: If there was ever a person who exemplified heroism under fire, it is Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins. In a 38-hour battle with North Vietnamese forces in 1966, he killed up to 175 enemy troops while suffering 18 wounds, then led his men to safety.
For this, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Last Week. Forty Eight years after the fact. At the age of 80.
The details are hair raising. Then a 32-year-old sergeant first class, Adkins was working with South Vietnamese troops when his camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force, according to an Army report.
"Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp," the Army report says. "He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety.
"As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position."
Later, under enemy fire, some of it coming from South Vietnamese allies who had defected to the North during the battle, Adkins took wounded troops to an airstrip outside the camp for evacuation and drew enemy fire away from the evacuation aircraft.
He went outside the camp again to retrieve supplies from an airdrop that fell into a minefield. And that was just day one. His heroics continued to a second day when he led his outnumbered troops into the jungle where they hid until evacuated, but not before a tiger circled around them, apparently attracted by their bloody wounds.
It is shameful it took nearly 50 years to honor Sgt. Adkins. He is why we call ourselves the Home of the Brave. Considering his actions during that battle in 1966, he not only deserved the Medal of Honor, he should have a military installation named in his honor.