Traffic and swastikas

Traffic around here can be intense sometimes. It’s not as bad as, say, Bay Area traffic, but it’s far more nightmarish than it was here five or six years ago. Of course, we all know what we’re doing, but the OTHER GUY … he/she needs to learn how to drive, eh?

Because the number of other guys is rising exponentially, it’s time that some of us looked to traffic alternatives, such as Citifare. This is the thinking behind this week’s cover story, cleverly crafted by Carli Cutchin and Deidre Pike. It was a simple topic: Ride the bus for a day and report the experiences.

Because I’ve lived in this burg basically all my life, and I had NEVER stepped on a Citifare bus, I went along with Carli and Deidre on one of their rides. While the trip on the bus was fine, the realization that I could live here all my life and step on the bus only as a social experiment was startling. It’s even more worrisome that there are many more folks like me around here.

In Reno, as long as you can scrape together the funds to get a clunker car up and going, there’s really no practical reason to take the bus, as there’s ample parking, for free, everywhere you go. The traffic (until recently) hasn’t been bad, either. Compare this to, say, San Francisco, where there is no parking, yet paradoxically, traffic nightmares abound. There, the bus is an option for almost everybody. I worked in S.F. for five months, and I took the bus numerous times, compared to never in the Truckee Meadows.

But as the traffic warns us, times are changing. The day when more and more of us will be hopping on the bus is not too far away. And is that a bad thing, considering the soupy air we have around here much of the winter?

For some perspective on all this, Carli and Deidre’s story is on page 11.

There is a bit of a battle brewing in Carson City, and I am not taking about the goings-on at the Legislature. I am talking about the battle that some members of a motorcycle group are having with the Carson City Courthouse.

If you haven’t heard about this, here’s a recap: Some members of the Branded Few, a Reno-based motorcycle club, tried to take care of some business at the courthouse a few weeks back. Some officials at the courthouse didn’t care much for their vests—because of the swastikas on the back—and asked the men to remove them. The men refused and were thrown in the pokey.

Flash to March 26, when several dozen motorcycle riders showed up to support their fellow bikers. According to news reports, 11 of the protesters wore their vests, swastikas and all, inside the courthouse, and they refused to take them off. They were then given tickets for trespassing.

The bikers say they have a First Amendment right to wear what they want. The courthouse administrators say they have a right to set rules on attire in the building.

If you read the First Amendment, you’ll see that the bikers have a point.

A courthouse is a public building, one that the people own and one that the people occasionally HAVE to visit. Even though the bikers are being insensitive by refusing to take off their vests—because, after all, the swastika today carries a horrific message, no matter what message it may have once carried—it’s their right to be insensitive in a public place like that, as long as they’re not in a courtroom itself, which is the territory of the judge.

Free speech isn’t always a great thing to hear or see. But go back and read the Bill of Rights, and you’ll see why it’s something that must be protected, at all costs.