Life in these United States
I read recently in our regional newspaper that a local man has been accused of a crime and isn't quite sure why. He took several cans of food from near the door of a local civic organization, from a bin intended for collecting donations of canned food for the poor. The surprised man explained to the police that he was in fact poor, and also hungry, and he assumed (not unreasonably, really) that the food in the bin was meant for people such as himself.
He was arrested for theft and put in jail.
I wondered if I should offer my services to the public defender, in my capacity as an editor, to explain helpfully that a sign that says "Food for the Poor" doesn't actually as a matter of language specify that the food must be put into the bin rather than be taken out. It is just an assumption in the head of a given reader that makes one or the other meaning seem plain as day.
I imagined marching to the court to be a beacon of light with my copy of Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity under my arm. Editors needed everywhere.
But I had a vague insight that if I got involved, I might end up in jail too. Somehow. I decided to keep out of it, since I was already out of it and thus not threatened by the unruliness of anyone's assumptions.
I reasoned that the food thief is getting meals in jail, courtesy of the county, so all is, if not well, then well enough.
"Open Mike" is the off-topic Editorial page of TOP, where we allow Ed. even freer rein.
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