The problem with a state that is famously dominated by religion is that its sins are twice as glaring.
Lagoon Park is an amusement park in Farmington that doesn’t really give a damn what the consequences of its actions are.
In the park, wild animals like lions, pumas, elks, kangaroo, zebra, leopards, tigers are kept in small metal cages on concrete floors. Think what you will of imprisoning a creature for recreational purposes in general, but there is no attempt to make these beings feel comfortable or to allow them to indulge in any kind of instinctive behaviors. It’s a frivolous animal prison, plain and simple. Nero would have loved it!
(All of you rodeo-lovin’ rednecks can talk to me about whether or not making gladiators out of animals who are more innocent than you is okay in 100 years—when we’re both on the other side of our Judgment Days.)
Fortunately, there are still heroes in the world. I mean real heroes, who do what needs to be done without reward and despite resistance—not mercenaries who don’t mind doing the financial and political elite’s dirty work for a buck and a shiny medal.
In this instance, heroes Jeremy Beckham and Lexie Levitt were among several people who selflessly deigned to exercise their freedom of speech—you know, the one people gave their lives to earn for us?—in order to call attention to the injustice being done to these creatures.
Their efforts were rewarded not with the GI Bill, nor medical care, nor parades, but rather by a visit to their homes from Salt Lake City cops. In Lexie Levitt’s case, they violently banged on the doors and windows, scaring her to the point that she was afraid to even answer the door to see what was going on.
The reason? Protesting the imprisonment and abuse of innocent beings without a permit.
They face up to six months in prison for standing on a public sidewalk and saying that unethical behavior is unethical behavior.
The protesters held their demonstration across the street from the park, being careful not to trespass, going so far as to first consult a map at the courthouse. They held signs and at times chanted but without the aid of amplification. They notified the police in advance of what they were going to do, and they remained on a sidewalk—public property—during the entirety of the protest.
Farmington’s barony passed a “Free Expression Ordinance” in the wake of Sept. 11 (“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” –Winston Churchill). Of course, the ACLU called them out on “most serious constitutional defects,“ but like good little emperors, city leaders arrogantly ignored the ACLU. This ordinance was used to thwart protesters of an upcoming rodeo. It is basically a tax on protesters. It essentially requires one to pay to exercise his or her constitutional rights.
While prosecuting these two heroes at all is ridiculous, it’s easy to see why local law enforcement dropped the hammer full-force on these heroes. Lagoon Park brings in money, and despite the claims of any religious institution, the only god with any power in such a situation is Mammon. Threaten the local deity and be punished—it’s that simple. This god is too big to hide, and like any effective idol, his laws also supersede the laws of men.
This god has long had the national citizenry by the testes, but it’s sad to see Zion, the home of the so loudly self-professed “pioneer folk,” fall lock-step in line with the same thoughtless, abusive, and decidedly un-American behavior. What would the founders of this state think, seeing a bunch of spoiled kids playing dress-up, shooting off their cannons and then going to Wal-Mart? Sticking God’s creatures in a cage to bake and bringing the kids to gawk at them? Persecuting a minority for standing up to protect the defenseless?
It doesn’t matter whether you are a native to the area or not or whether you side with the cause of these protesters or not. Their treatment sets a precedent of abuse on the part of the state that, unchecked, will result in a (more) dystopian, corporate, plutocratic police state. For those whose family trees are deeply rooted in Utah … if that’s what your ancestors struggled and died for … well, better to just spit in your grandfather’s face.
We expect unethical behavior to be rampant in a “less civilized” place. I would kind of expect to be stabbed in L.A. or New York. But just as a parent feels culpable for his or her child’s crimes, the church that claims to be in charge is somewhat culpable for the actions of its adherents. The proof is just as much in the pudding as it ever was.
So how this irresponsible “amusement” park (because oppression is amusing) has continued in the alleged land of milk and honey is difficult to fathom.
But more difficult to fathom is how aggressively the state’s dogs have been unleashed upon the peacemakers. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will have plenty of time to seek the Kingdom of God in their prison cells.
Christ also protested without a permit, and we know what Pilate did to him for that particular misdemeanor. Maybe we should all just act like little Roman senators. After all, they certainly built up a longstanding utopia for all people, huh?
There is comfort in knowing that the only constant is change. Utah may have started as a homogenized demographic, but that unanimity becomes more diluted every day, and it’s a good thing. As it comes to resemble more and more the cultural and ethnic melting pot that the rest of the country has long been known to be, democracy has begun to raise its scrawny head above the muck. Even here in southern Utah, plans for water provisions and traffic infrastructure are being made in anticipation of a future population of 600,000. As more and more people migrate to Utah, the corruption and the nepotism—each currently thick enough to slice like fudge—become a little more impotent and transparent.
Someday, the animals in Utah will be free from their metal bars. Hopefully, the chains that bind the minds of the people will loosen as well. Maybe then we’ll get that heaven on earth that Jesus kept talking about.
If you are as shocked as I am at our state’s unethical, irresponsible, illegal, and otherwise monstrous treatment of these heroes, you can participate in tomorrow’s group civil action to fight political repression in Utah and stand up for our First Amendment rights by calling the Davis County Attorney’s Office at (801) 451-4300 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.