Monday, August 2, 2010

Oh, Puleeeeze

The eye roll is in peril as a form of political speech. In Elmhurst, Illinois, the eye roll may be criminal disorderly conduct. The City Council Chairman ejected a citizen who dared to show her disgust with committee proceedings with a roll/sigh combo. Backpeddling after some backlash, the Chair has sent the City Attorney to the library to do a memo on what exactly constitutes criminal disorderly conduct in Elmhurst. (This is my nominee for worst legal research assignment of the summer-- What's yours?)

The Chicago Tribue editors have this to say:

"Where do you draw that line? (Eyes uplifted, palms outstretched, as if beseeching the heavens.) Menacing others, throwing objects and setting fire to the dais are clearly out of line. But is it disorderly to yawn, fidget, smirk or scowl? To circle an ear with an index finger to signify "cuckoo"? To feign a self-induced upchuck, as we're doing now?

Funny thing about public meetings: They tend to expose disparate viewpoints, especially if the discussion is about something like whether it's a smart idea for one government body to spend taxpayer dollars to lobby another government body for more taxpayer dollars. (Ahem.) Reasonable people can disagree, and before you know it, they're raising their voices and (eyes wide in mock horror) making faces.

Our advice to public servants who think citizen discourse is somehow disrespectful to the democratic process: Get over yourselves. Your job is to heed those opinions, like them or not. If a pair of arched eyebrows can bring the legislative process to a halt, then it's time to throw out the aldermen, not the citizens. And we say that with a completely straight face."

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