A parable

The Death of Prudence

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel                                      May 16, 2008

Prudence Paradox had been ill for some time with a failing heart. On a drive to the pharmacy for pain medication, her car was struck from behind by a drunken driver going 50 mph. The loud crunch turned the street silent. She was dead.

The driver of the other car had his license suspended days earlier and had been convicted of driving while intoxicated - three times. He was buzzing when police arrived and admitted to drinking.

She would have been offended to see the news describing it as an accident. It was not an accident; it was an assault.

She had been hit before, always with an injury. And in every case, the other driver had been drunk or high. In four of the cases, the driver's license had been suspended. In court, the drivers were fined and their license revoked - again. And the repeat offender was back on the street with a misdemeanor.

The accidents changed her. Her friends started calling her "Wisdom."

A car was a weapon, she believed. She called it a UAV: urban assault vehicle. After the first assault with any other weapon, are you not a criminal? Sentencing is tougher if you are caught with a friend's OxyContin in your pocket. A DUI is a crime that is not a crime.

April 25 was a bad day. She wept when she saw the news coverage of the death of pregnant Jennifer Bukosky and her daughter, allegedly by a repeat drunken driver without a license. The DUI early-warning system apparently was ignored - again.

The three-strikes-and-you're-out law is intended to prevent further crime. Why not, she proposed, the same after a DUI, after one strike? How about no car for life for drug abusers? If caught driving again, impound the car, no matter who owns it.

For the alcoholic driver, she proposed another choice for life: a car and an ignition interlock - a Breathalyzer that unlocks the ignition if the driver passes - or no car at all. MADD reports these are 90% effective.

Every morning, Prudence would take a deep breath, start the car and head off for the day. What a paradox.

She could have turned angry and bitter, but instead, she decided that the experiences made her stronger. There was an enemy out there, and it wasn't the drunken drivers or the law but her fellow Americans - apathetic and cynical. They tolerated laws that are not laws.

Prudence was willing to break a law to fix a law. She bought a flatbed tow truck. She bought up wrecks after crash investigations were completed. She towed them to the state Capitol, downtown squares, Bradley Center, Miller Park, Mayfair Mall and Summerfest. There, she dropped them without permission with a large sign: "Drunks kill. Demand laws that save lives, not that punish for lost ones."

Often, she was arrested trying to unload a wreck. Her treatment was harsher than if she had been convicted of a DUI or driving without a license.

"Why do we define ourselves as a superpower if we cannot be protected within our own country?" she told a local news station after one of her convictions.

She will be interred at Lost Hope Cemetery.

Her stone will read: Here lies Paradox.








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