What Disqualifies One From Public Honor?

John T. Williams

When dedicating public moneys and public land in honor of a single individual I thought I knew what would qualify someone for such recognition. Erecting a statue, or naming a bridge or school or merely placing a lasting plaque for public display would typically require that the so-honored individual be someone who benefited the general populace in some worthwhile or at least memorable way. The honoree should be someone of whom many if not most would want to emulate. While not perfect, the person being honored should have led a life of mostly positive virtue.

With the City of Seattle‘s actions this past week I no longer know what qualifies a person for such high public honor. In fact, I am now stupefied as to what would disqualify someone from public adoration and affection. For the Northwest’s largest and increasingly most backward city has determined a prominent place in its most visited public place is suitable location to erect a memorial to a homeless, alcoholic drunk who’s only notable contribution to society was keeping police occupied.

Sunday a collection of people carried a 33-foot tall, 5000-thousand pound totem pole from Seattle’s Pier 57 to Seattle Center where the traditional native carving was erected at the base of the Space Needle, only Seattle’s most recognized symbol.

Deutsch: Die Space Needle (Himmelsnadel) in Se...

Mayor Mike McGinn was on hand presiding over the dedication. The totem pole was carved and erected in memory of “wood-carver” John T. Williams.

Williams was shot and killed by Seattle Police officer Ian Birk in 2010. Birk shot Williams after having three times yelled at the man to drop a knife Williams was carrying. The shooting was determined to be “unjustified” by a Police Review Commission. However, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg in February 2011 chose not to file criminal charges against Birk, saying “a jury would find him not-guilty”. Birk later resigned from the Seattle Police Department.

The 50-year old Williams was unknown to Birk. He was not unknown to Seattle Police. Williams had been convicted of criminal wrong doing more than 30-times.  Many of those convictions were for indecent exposure. Shortly after his death the Seattle Times newspaper wrote of Williams: Williams had been a chronic alcoholic drifting in and out of homelessness, detox centers, hospitals and jails for decades. From Des Moines to Sedro-Woolley, police officers dealt with Williams time and again. He was arrested and charged more than 100 times in the city of Seattle alone since 1985, for a slew of misdemeanor offenses: disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, drinking in public.”

I get that his shooting was probably unjustified. I also appreciate that the police officer was not criminally charged in the case. I absolutely don’t get creating a publicly recognized honor for a man so weak as a human being and completely dependent on the public dole for his mere survival. If a man like this can qualify for memorial on public lands who do we disqualify?

English: Ted Bundy in custody, Florida, July 1...

Ted Bundy

One of the Northwest most famous natives was Ted Bundy. Among his many accomplishments was that he was a Husky, having studied at the University of Washington. Perhaps that’s the place we should dedicate a statue to the serial killer. We could erect it on Greek Row where he found some of his victims. It could feature Bundy wearing the sling he was known to use as a fake ploy to lure his victims. Or does killing multiple people disqualify one from public adoration? Seemingly, that’s the only disqualifier.

I suppose if Whitney Houston is worthy of a 5-hour televised public funeral and of flags being flown at half-staff in her home state of New Jersey a totem pole being erected for Williams isn’t off the charts. In fact on the scale of justification it sounds just about right. Williams should have recorded some music during his life, perhaps then his picture could be hung in public schools. I suppose on the scale of honoring victimhood it’s perfectly in line, and I should fall in line and be accepting of it. In doing so I’m only left with the question of how to properly pay homage to Williams next time I’m at the Seattle Center with my family and come across his memorial. It seems in keeping with Williams life and his memory the only appropriate thing to do would be to urinate on it. It’s probably what he would have done.

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Envy will kill ya! Darned Sibling Rivalry.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you too have a sibling who is particularly high achieving. I do. I have a brother with whom I’ve always been compared and worse yet set against. I doubt my parents actually realize this.

I’m beset with high achievers with whom to be compared. All around me our family and friends who populate the 1% that so many Occupy Wall Street protesters claim to be greedy. For the record Dictionary.com defines greedy as:

1.excessively or inordinately desirous of wealth, profit, etc.;avaricious: “the greedy owners of the company.”

Were I defining the word I would add the phrase “…for that which is not rightfully yours”. For I don’t think its greedy to want to possess and enjoy that which is yours, that which you’ve earned.
My brother is just one year my senior. He used to brag to me what his income was for years. It was quite juvenile, but synonymous with the sibling rivalry he and I seem forever engaged in. He stopped telling me his pay 12-15 years ago when it became clear he had reached 7 figures per year.  He remains a 7-8 figure-income-earner per year.
But if a world travelling millionaire brother isn’t bad enough, there are also my in-laws. My sister-in-law is a Cal-Berkley educated lawyer for Microsoft. Her Dad, my father in-law, is a former 20 year state Senator and college football hero for the local school, University of Washington. Heck, even my best friend makes over $100k yearly driving a bus for Metro.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters who defiantly cry that they’re “the 99%” have an envy problem. They resent the wealth distribution in the country. They hate that the upper earning 1%, in which my family is well represented, earn 17% of our nations income. They claim that 1% should share more of what they have. Never mind that the same 1% pay for 38% of ALL Federal income tax, that the upper 10% paid 70%, and that 51% paid 100%. 49% of Americans paid 0% of all collected Federal Income tax, courtesy of those evil George Bush tax cuts. Talk about “Things that make ya go, hmmm?
If anyone has a right to be envious its me! I was raised in the same house by the same single father as my millionaire brother. I met my wife when my professional attorney sister-in-law was 12 years old. And I met by best friend 25 years ago when he had just started his Government work, long before his seniority and good service pushed him into the upper income levels. I watched all these people grow from humble beginnings to good or great financial success.
My personal achievements have been comparatively humble. I’ve worked hard my whole life. Other than two short stints on unemployment I’ve never taken public assistance or a government hand out. I’ve never been in the upper 1% of income earners, though I was certainly in the upper 5%. I’m not complaining. I’m not poor. I’ve done well. I live well. But compared to some in my family…lets just say I’m a little lower on the food chain.
So am I like the OWS protesters desirous of more of my immediate family’s money? Do I feel ripped off? Absolutely not. In fact, sometimes I feel sorry for my wealthy family members. They are all tied to their jobs and the responsibilities therein. For six years I’ve been an independent small business owner answerable to no one. Before that I worked a sales job for thirteen years in which I seldom worked more than 30 hours per week.
My brother, sister-in-law, father-in-law and best friend worked long hard hours day after day, month after month, year after year to earn everything they have. So have I. But my wealth has yet to come. It will. But I’ve enjoyed a lot of freedom and independence in the meantime (…he laughs knowingly). I’m proud of my family.
For the most part the OWS protesters are young and seem to be experiencing a tough time. They come from a generation given everything, including trophies merely for participating on a sports team. They don’t have the experience of knowing what we know. Things get better. Work hard, don’t quit, overcome obstacles, don’t spend money frivolously, and always anticipate the dawn. So its my hope they will filter away in the increasingly cold days ahead and that their “movement” will be largely ignored. As it should be. Because its little more than entitlement and envy.
Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.