Bastille Day, Revisited

Posted on 02 September 2010

Recently, I caught an old Lewis Black performance on the tube.  Dating back to 2004 and performed in the lovely Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway, our hero decried, and provided his unique solutions for remedying, the status quo.  Anyone familiar with the work of this acerbic stand-up comic knows that it’s largely political in nature, and that the reason he’s won the hearts of the general populace and the grudging respect of politicians is that he is unflaggingly honest: no deserving elected official, candidate, or governmental agency is ever spared his stiletto tongue.   I was a little startled, however, when Lewis quipped that he finally understood why Marie Antoinette had lost her head, and why her constituents had wanted that head so badly.  You see, I myself have been muttering over the past few years that it’s inevitable that Bastille Day is repeated here — and soon! — on America’s shores.

When the noggins of the CEOs of Corporate America, who ripped us off to the tune of $710 billion dollars, and those of the politicians who stole that money go rolling in the streets, I’ll shrug it off to karma.  I don’t advocate violence and I certainly won’t contribute to it, but when it happens, I won’t be surprised.

Just this week, I uncovered evidence that we’re inching a little closer to Bastille Day. Vive la France!

In my mind burned a simple legal question whose answer I already know, but I wanted the particulars just for my own edification, as well as a lawfully sanctioned weapon.  Specifically, I’d wanted to know the legal parameters for maintaining the temperature of a privately owned office complex, in which a group of unrelated business tenants pay rent.   I called 411 to get the number for the State Department of Labor; the robot that answered informed me that I’d reached the Department of Planning.  Another call to Information — and yet another call to my phone provider to secure a credit for the incorrect number — also yielded an incongruous Department.  I got a robot there, as well, so I was beyond all human help from Trenton … as any New Jersey taxpayer has been since time immemorial (Governor Christie’s recent efforts to the contrary notwithstanding).

Truth to tell, I think Trenton has purposely organized its phone system this way to significantly reduce the number of complaints through which to sift, much less to track and investigate.  Okay.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the most corrupt State capital in the nation … with the exception of Washington, D.C., that is.

Getting nowhere at the State level, I then attempted to contact the Middlesex County Department of Labor … where I received a robotic menu.  Guess what?  My area of inquiry apparently is not covered at the County level, either.  Next, I called the local Department of Unemployment, assuming that their reps must be cognizant of labor laws.  There, I got yet another robot (damn, they breed like rabbits in Jersey!).  Disgustedly, I hung up and, in desperation, called the Legal Aid Society.

Now, I could have traded all of this frustration for another brand of angst, simply by calling my private attorney.   But I know from hard experience that it will take me an average of two weeks to get a response from him … despite my leaving several messages a day.   So, in desperation, I phoned Legal Aid.

And this was interesting, to say the least.

Legal Aid, it seems, no longer trucks in employment legislation — at least, not on a case-by-case basis.  Now they deal only — or at least my branch does — in family law, personal injury, and immigration law.  Just as I was wondering if Information screwed up and gave me the number for the ACLU, the robot stated that “for all other inquiries” I should direct my queries to their website (another non-human).  I did, after two attempts, for the address that the robot gave me was utterly incorrect.  When I finally arrived at the correct site and clicked on Employment Legislation, the page read “Under Construction.”  The site suggested I contact the American Bar Association.  Well, if I’d wanted to go that route, I’d have called my lawyer in the first place!  That’s when I screamed loud enough for the people in the next town to hear, “Off with their heads!!!!”

For the Legal Aid’s site, you see, was truly my last straw.  Initially, before reaching out to Trenton, I’d attempted to get my answer online, via,, and  What popped up on all three browsers, in response to my carefully phrased and then repeatedly re-phrased inquiry, was a plethora of sites concerning the employment rights of illegal aliens!   There were a few sites that also deal in inquiries concerning immigration law, but that’s like trying to separate a rich man from his money: the two are intertwined like conjoined twins.

I’ve never broken a major law.  A blind poll of my colleagues, family, friends, and even clients will attest that I’m a conscientious soul and a generous one.  I pay my taxes; I give to select charities when I can.  I try to “do the right thing.”    As a native-born American, all I wanted was a simple answer to a legality; an answer that I should have been able to receive long before I opened the window and, like Alice’s Red Queen, called for a lopping off of heads.

What happened here, and when?  When did the interests of illegal aliens — read that phrase again for its mind-numbing dichotomy — supplant those of native-born American taxpayers?   Why can’t a native-born American get a simple answer to a simple legal question, without incurring a 60-minute attorney’s fee?  Five’ll get you ten that if I were here and working illegally, I’d get all of my questions answered in a heartbeat   Hell, I’d have to; even the Internet caters to those who disregard and disrespect U.S. law!

What is happening here?   Is this a culmination of internal and external forces leveraged with the specific aim of toppling a nation that’s lost its focus, its morals, the very tenets upon which it was built?  And is it indeed a massive plot designed to frustrate U.S. citizens to the point where we no longer question what is legal and what is not?   Is it a diabolical plan to give the “haves” even more and the “have nots,” such as your run of the mill taxpayer, even less?

If we stop questioning, we’ll never get answers.  And knowledge is dangerous.  Now re-read that statement and let it sink in, like slow ice.  If we have the answers and don’t like them, why hell, we might just do what the citizens of France did on Bastille Day.  We might just revert to what we, as a budding nation, did in bucking the system more than two hundred years ago, when we established a free and independent country that is, in essence, fast disappearing from the face of the Earth. 

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