The Price Tag Of Principles

There’s an old joke I’m sure everyone remembers:

A man and a woman are talking at a party. The man asks, “would you sleep with a complete stranger for 100 million dollars?” The woman thinks about if for a moment, then answers yes. The man then asks “would you sleep with me for ten dollars?”

The woman is insulted. “How dare you? What do you take me for?”

The man answers, “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just negotiating about price.”

Well, the city council of Berserkely, California has not necessarily seen the light, but felt the heat, and have backed down from their initial position.

It seems that quite a few people in Berkeley did not care for the United States Marine Corps renting a storefront in their downtown for a recruiting station, and shared that displeasure with the city fathers. I’m sorry, “city parents.” Er, “those elected officials who may or may not act in a quasi-paternal manner towards the governance of the city and its culturally diverse inhabitants of all races, sexes, genders, transgenders, polygenders, ethnicities, self-styled ethnicities, and realities.” There, I think I got everyone.

Where was I again?

Oh, yeah. The elected government of Berkeley had decided that they didn’t care for having the Marines in Berkeley, so they took several official actions to express that disdain. They passed a formal resolution un-welcoming them. They granted Code Stink Pink a free parking permit right in front of the office and a noise permit to harangue the jarheads. Then, finally, they considered a measure that would have revised the city’s zoning laws to treat the military just like a porn shop (sorry, “erotic emporium aimed at empowering all people to express and embrace their sexuality”) as far a placement goes.

None of this seemed to faze the Marines, who face worse than this every morning before breakfast. But a lot of other people who appreciate and respect the Marines (indeed, all the military) got publicly irritated on their behalf.

A lot of people said a lot of things about the Berkeley City Council and the people who elected them. Many of them worth repeating, some of them even repeatable in mixed company. But a few of those statements carried a bit more weight with the city… er, the Council. (NOT gonna get waylaid again.)

Some of those words were spoken by people who traveled to Berkeley from all around the country to express their feelings in person. Other of those words came from the United States Senate, where Senator Jim DeMint put forth a bill to strip Berkeley of federal dollars. DeMint’s message was clear: the Marine Corps is part and parcel of the federal government. (Sorry to say that so bluntly, Marines, but it kinda is true.) If you reject the Marines, then you reject the federal government — and it will take away the things you like as well as those you don’t like.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly expressed his disapproval of Berkeley’s actions, but privately took several actions to delay and kill DeMint’s measure.

Back in Berkeley, the City Council decided to not send the Marines a letter to the Marines calling them “unwelcome intruders.” They did not apologize for the earlier vote to do so, nor for a resolution condemning the Marines, and it’s unclear if Code Pink still enjoys its special privileged status.

I find myself wondering if it was the money or the amazing levels of condemnation that swayed them, because it certainly wasn’t principle.

In Berkeley, the bullshit walks back and forth in front of the Marine recruiting station, but money talked — and talked loudly.

The Berkeley City Council found that their dearly-held principles came with a price tag, and they couldn’t put them back on the shelf fast enough.

Sadly, all they had to do was talk to the Marines. The leathernecks’ history is replete with their principles — “Semper Fidelis,” “no Marine left behind,” “no better friend and no worse enemy,” and so on — and the prices they’ve paid in over 200 years to keep those principles. But that would have involved actually interacting with the Marines in a way that did not involve spittle, and that was a bit much to ask of the noble leaders of Berkeley.

Years ago, I read something (I’ve long lost the source) that struck me as especially profound: “Lord, grant me enemies I can respect.” In Berkeley, they aren’t to be found.

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