Crushing Childhood Innocence Under the Bootheel of Government Authority

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My husband and I recently got in an argument because I said something negative about police officers in front of the kids. Now I was responding to a story about some police that had unjustly beat up someone for a trivial crime, so my anger was entirely warranted and my husband agreed. What he didn’t like was that he felt that our three-year-old was a bit too young to be teaching her to be wary of authority figures, because at that age they need to learn respect and the police, however petty and drunk on power they can be, are still pretty good about protecting children. I reluctantly agreed, he had a point.

However, the fact remains that there will come a point in your child’s life that you will have to explain to your kid, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help,'” as Ronald Reagan famously quipped. Here’s an example of what happens when a well-intentioned child has a run in with an officious government bureaucrat and promptly takes the child’s innocence and grinds it under the bootheel of an egregious exercise of authority.

Not too far from where I live, in Fredericksburg, Va., 11-year old Skylar Capo saved a baby woodpecker from being eaten by a cat while visiting her dad’s house. When Skylar’s mom picked her up, she told her that she could help get the baby woodpecker healthy, and after a few days and they could let the woodpecker back into the wild. They stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and took the Woodpecker in the store with them, afraid to leave it in the car in the stifling heat. And that’s when Skylar and her mom got slapped across the face by the long arm of Johnny Law:

Inside the store, a woman confronted them, saying she was from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. What the Capos didn’t know was that, under the Federal Migratory Bird Act, it is a crime to take or transport a woodpecker. 

Skylar said, “I was a little bit upset, because I didn’t want my mom to get in trouble.”

However, her mother did get in trouble. Two weeks later, the Capos got an unexpected visit from the same officer they met at Lowe’s, accompanied by a Virginia State trooper. Although the Capos released the woodpecker, Alison was issued a $535 citation.

At the time, Alison said, “I feel harassed and I feel angry.”

I think we all feel better now that this injustice has been rectified. If we didn’t strenuously enforce the Federal Migratory Bird Act, transporting woodpeckers would probably become a crazy new childhood fad like pogs or something. (Remember pogs?) “Oh hey, Skylar you want to come over my house? If you let me transport your woodpecker, I’ll give you some jelly beans and we can watch Phineas and Ferb.”

Well done, Fish and Wildlife Service.