The Liberating Power of Honesty: An Experience With Parking Tickets
“Freedom cannot be given, it can only be taken away”
-David Allan Coe
Whenever I listen to David Allan Coe, I think about freedom. He is a man who is not bound by the law. He did many illegal things which landed him in in prison; he was kicked out of his house by the IRS and he was pretty much completely ostracized by society. But from his music, you can tell that he doesn’t care much for what people think. Prison didn’t shake him; in fact, he seems to be quite proud that he went to prison. He became famous because he was in prison, so in a sense, I suppose his imprisonment worked to his benefit. He doesn’t even follow the “rules” of what a country singer is supposed to be. And he doesn’t care. He just seems so free. He says whatever he wants, and does whatever he wants, and no one tells him not to. I find myself idolizing this and begging for that kind of freedom. I desire to be free from the expectations of society. But is that really freedom? I am beginning to think that it might not be.
I have this weird love of breaking rules, especially rules that I consider unjust. Here is a good example of this:
I think that my school’s security system can be ridiculous. They charge students hundreds of dollars a week for parking tickets, while not giving enough passes for everyone to get a spot. As a result, we are left with no choice but to park illegally. I decided that this was an unjust and corrupted system, whose purpose is to steal all of our money, and decided to do something about it. I brought a car on campus for the first time this semester and I decided that, in the spirit of justice, I would refuse to get a free parking pass. Therefore, my car wouldn’t be registered it to the school and I couldn’t be fined for illegally parking. I parked directly in front of the “No Student Parking” sign for about 4 weeks, and when I did get parking tickets, I just threw them aside and chose not to pay them. Because they didn’t have my car information, they couldn’t charge my student account.
This was simply exhilarating. I had cheated an unjust system, and I was so proud of it. Everyone around doubted me because they didn’t understand why no one had done this before. This was my favorite part about the whole experience: the fact that I was “more free” than anyone else on campus. My friends would get parking tickets and get mad about it, while I just threw mine in the trash and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
One day there was a ticket on my car that said, “your next ticket will result in a boot on your car.” I decided that was unjust so I called the local police, who confirmed that the school does not have the authority to put boots on the cars parked on that road. This resulted in the police contacting the school’s security and reprimanding them for this. Exhilarating. I felt so free. I felt as if I had put them in their place and fought for justice. I rebelled against something I believed was wrong, and no one could tell me what to do. Everyday I walked up to my car in front of the sign that said “No Student Parking,” pulled the ticket off my windshield and threw my middle finger in the air as I stuffed another ticket into my glove compartment and drove away.
This exhilarating experience lasted for a while, but after a few weeks, I found myself dissatisfied with this “freedom.” With every parking ticket, I did the math in my head. With a pit in my stomach; I calculated how much I would have to pay if they found me. As the days went by, I became more and more afraid as I scurried away from my car, praying that security wouldn’t drive by, see my face, and charge my student account. I was hiding, and I was scared. I tried to brush away that feeling, but deep down inside, I knew that someone who is truly free doesn’t have to hide; someone who is dishonest does.
“The truth will set you free.”
- John 8:32
I know this statement is true. I have cheated on a test before. Once, I lied about the fact that I was texting when I got in a car accident. In both of these instances, I eventually realized that lying has never been followed by freedom; in fact, lying has consistently led me into slavery. In my life, I have seen that true freedom comes when I realize that I have no reason to lie and I can stand exactly as I am, unafraid of being discovered, with clear recognition that no one can take away my integrity. In all of those previous instances of dishonesty, I found myself running in tears to my authority figures to come clean to them and I was reminded once again that freedom comes with living in the truth. And I knew, deep down inside, that every time I parked in “No Student Parking” I was telling a lie.
Earlier this week I went to the security office with a half-converted heart, but I stayed in hiding. I argued with a security guard, found every reason that they were being unjust, and decided once again that I would not submit. I stormed out of the office without paying my ticket, getting a parking pass, or giving them my information. Angrily walking back to my apartment, I realized something very key: someone else’s injustice is not my responsibility. It is very important to fight for justice, but my first priority is to make sure that I am living justly myself, which means giving what is due. Once I am living in the truth, only then can I help others do so.
Later that day, I opened my Bible and read the classic passage of Matthew 7:5 “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” and I sighed to myself because I knew exactly what I had to do.
“Free is not your right to choose, but answering what’s asked of you”
– The Avett Brothers
Today I went back into the security office, humbled and sad. I fought every feeling of resistance against authority I felt inside and I submitted to the truth, knowing that freedom is worth it. Tears flowed down my face when the kind security officer looked me in the eyes and told me that he was proud of me for coming back. I realized that while I had been rebelling against this so-called “unjust system,” I was forgetting what it means to be a person. This man looked at me as a person, and he showed me so much mercy.
I got a parking pass. I paid $140 worth of tickets and moved my car from the “No Student Parking” sign to the student lot with everyone else. Today I lost $140 and probably two cups of water in tears, not to mention my pride, but today I am more free than I have in been four weeks.
I don’t know if breaking rules and running from the government makes David Allan Coe free. All I know is that every time I try living that way, it just doesn’t work out for me. So I choose to submit. My days of hiding are over. I live in the truth, and “the truth will set you free.”
Marisol Alicea is a senior at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where she is double majoring in Theology and Psychology. She is a guest writer for The Campus Conservative.