Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Giulietta degli Spiritati*: The Comic Absurdity of Crazy Laws

After recently reading Douglas Preston's book, The Monster of Florence (wherein Preston chronicles the eponymous serial killer's rampage throughout Tuscany, before the author himself becomes indicted in the case), I came out of it with a sense of shock and a waning desire to spend much time in Italy. What struck me hardest were the patently absurd laws, convoluted judiciary system, and the near-comical ineptitude of the police force. Throughout the book, the latter's antics are referred to on several occasions as "Kafkaesque" and compared to the absurd characters in the films of Fellini. It is the kind of thing that makes you say, "Thank God, it's not that way here". Or so you would think.

Not long ago, Carol Medenhall of Dibble, OK, was given two tickets by her small town constabulary. What heinous crime, you ask? She was cited for two separate, but equally nefarious transgressions: her goats were spotted mating in her yard, and they were spotted urinating there as well. Both bodily evacuation by and mating among animals within the city limits is prohibited by law. The law makes no exception for the fact that the goats were fenced in on private property, and so the Keystone cops marched in. If you are at all familiar with the character Elbow from Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure..." I can't help but laugh.

One can only assume this is some lingering bit of Victorian moral code that has yet to be eradicated from the books. Fine, but to then ticket the woman for it? It's absolutely absurd and the sort of thing that keeps Oklahoma mired firmly in this Union's backwater. Even if Ms. Medenhall was an acrimonious nuissance to the community, and this small legal measure was the only way to enact the slightest bit of retribution, I would still have to say this law is completely idiotic. And to use it as a feeble weapon only underscores the absurdity.
As a final note, as sad as this woman's tragedy is, I don't wish to compare this level of judicial foolishness to the hell that faced author Douglas Preston. He had to contend with not only antiquated legal practices and insane law enforcement officials, but also serious criminal charges and eventual expulsion from Italy. *This is a play on the title of Federico Fellini’s absurdist film “Giulietta degli Spiriti,” or “Juliet of the Spirits.” In this case, I have changed it to “Juliet of the Possessed (or Crazy)”.

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