Americans are entitled to have their opinions about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His name alone, with its perfect consonance, is somewhat unsettling. Then there was the whole New Jersey Bridgegate scandal. Then came his strange run for president which can only be described as awkward. But during a time when so many Americans are flocking to our beaches to honor those who fought and died for our freedoms and to celebrate our independence, I think it's important to recognize a man who is also standing up for our civil liberties. And this man, oddly enough, comes in the form of Chris Christie. In light of the recent blowback Christie received for shutting down a state beach for his personal use, I'd like to take this opportunity to take a stance other than outrage: I'd like to congratulate Governor Christie for bravely shining a light on an important cause -- what our beaches used to be. A place for the people. Not government.
As a resident of California for thirty-six years, I can tell you first hand that our beaches are no longer free. Our beautiful coastline no longer belongs to the hard-working, taxpayers to enjoy. It's become a canary in a coal mine for where we’re headed as a society. A highly regulated shake-down, to the point where you can't be an American on a public beach anymore. Want to pull up to the sand and have a bonfire or roast a marshmallow? So do I. Good luck to you. If you try to strike a match on a California beach, a team of Sheriff Deputies will land on you faster than a S.E.A.L Team storming a compound in Islamabad. Hey, I get it. A small fire in a hole on a huge expanse of sand next to a large body of water is a serious hazard. What about enjoying a cigarette or a cigar? What's that you say? I can't do that either.
How about cracking a beer? Surely that's okay, right? What's more American than tilting a cold one at the beach on the 4th of July? Enter the Sheriff like Tom Cruise repelling from a static line to hand you a ticket. But maybe a Budweiser and a Marlboro isn't your cup of tea. Any dog lovers out there? I remember a time when a man could take his chocolate lab to the beach and throw a stick into the water. The dog would bound in after it, get pelted by waves, then somehow come back to shore with the stick proudly between his jowls. As a kid, I always imagined being able to do that one day. That dream is gone. No dogs allowed at the beach.
In 2012, the city of Los Angeles approved the issuing of $1,000 fines to anyone throwing anything other than a beach ball or volleyball on a beach during the summer. So if you and your friends want to toss around the pigskin or reenact that epic grudge match between Swayze and Keanu in the waves, you can count on an FBI AGENT being there with his Quantico buddies to hand you a ticket. Your crime? Having a catch. The next time you plan on bringing a frisbee or that dangerous projectile stamped NERF to the beach this summer you had best leave that weapon of mass destruction at home.
Okay, so maybe you don't drink, don't smoke, and don't own a dog? To all you erectors of sand castles out there. Hear my words, so you too do not incur a $1,000 fine. You aren't allowed to dig a hole deeper than 18 inches at the beach. How our esteemed legislators came up with 18 inches and not 19, I don't know, but I'm sure there's solid science behind it. So, when you are packing your green plastic pail and shovel this summer, be sure to also throw a Stanley tape measure in your beach tote next to the SPF 30.
You get my point. While Governor Christie's actions were egregious, how many of us this week while sneaking sips of Miller Lite out of red Solo cups weren't just a little bit envious? The man had to shut down a beach to be able to enjoy it like an American.
The question isn't whether Governor Christie was right to do what he did. He wasn't. The question we should be asking is, why did he do it? As we take to the beaches this summer to celebrate our freedoms, we must ask ourselves: is the beach still the best place to pay tribute to our civil liberties? Or is it a place where we can no longer be American?