I’m not going to complain about handicapped parking at retail stores and malls, even though the privilege is widely abused, and there are usually far too many spaces of the breed. I am pretty tired of watching someone with a handicapped sticker pull into such a space and walk jauntily into a store, but OK, I can see the social utility.
But now that virtue-signaling is the current fad—had I ever found the time to complete last year’s Ethics Alarms Awards, that would have received the “worst trend” prize—establishments are searching for new ways to suck up while dividing us. I have seen “expectant mother” spaces. I just returned from a crowded Harris Teeter parking lot where there were two conspicuously empty “Reserved for Veterans” spaces. (This made me want to dig up my old Ouija board and ask my veteran father in the Great Beyond what he thinks about such a privilege.) Away from the parking games, many automakers now offer rebates or discounts to recent college grads.
I’m sure most people just think all of these special privileges are nice, and kind, but what they really are do is make class and virtue distinctions that shouldn’t be made in a pluralistic society. Why special rates for college grads, and not, say, parents with kids in college? Parents with special needs kids? Parents who work two jobs? Why parking spaces for veterans and not police officers,fire fighters, or elementary school teachers? What about medical students? Social workers? Struggling artists? Ethicists? Maybe all of the spaces should be assigned according to social utility: if you are on the pubic dole, maybe you should have lousy parking space—or maybe the best one? Such open stratification would, I am sure, rapidly be extended to racial, gender and ethnic political categories if it wasn’t illegal. Wait, shouldn’t those noble progressives and Democrats trying to save the United States from democracy get the courtesy of reserved parking spaces? Brave journalists? Black Lives Matter activists? #Me Too survivors? Shouldn’t the “privileged” have to take a hike to lug their groceries to the car? That’ll teach ’em!
I’ve got a better, more American and more ethical idea. How about businesses not picking favorites and signaling value biases, and instead have them try to treat all customers with equal consideration and respect, to avoid creating division, resentments, and entitlements? How about that?
I assumed that’s the kind of society our veterans fought for.