“You Have No Complaint”

Remember that line from John Prine’s “Dear Abby”? “You have no complaint. You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t.” I suppose it popped in my head after thinking about the culture of obedience aiming for everyone being compliant. Complaint, in a sense, is the opposite of compliant, as well as the mechanism by which compliance is achieved.

And that got me to thinking how our whole legal system is based on complaints. If nobody complains, there’s not going to be any change. We all know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But, do we stop to think that’s how it’s supposed to be? That there’s no point in oiling a silent joint?

New Mexico is the focus of some attention at the moment because it seems like all of a sudden the marriages of gay and lesbian partners are being recognized (six counties, so far) because somebody lodged a complaint and a County Clerk said “why not?” Turned out that gender is not considered relevant in the law–no more than when people agree to buy or sell a house. Why should setting up housekeeping be any different?

So, sombody had a complaint and the County Clerks came into compliance. Of course, that’s whom the law is mostly supposed to address — public officials. Public officials turning around trying to tell citizens what to do is out of order. Public officials demanding papers from citizens voting is out of order. But, I expect, that won’t be addressed, unless and until there’s a complaint, either.

Compliant public servants. That’s what we want. Not public servants who make up complaints and then, like the N.S.A., try to force citizens into compliance by using private corporations as a tool. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Indeed, that’s what we want; that they wait until they are called. Responsible public servants; that are there when you need them.

When public servants are not compliant, citizens have a valid complaint. The question is who’s going to attest to that? Who’s going to adjuge whether the complaint is valid? Why, a judge. That’s what judges are for. No wonder so called “activist judges” are the bane of public servants who don’t want to perform. We the people have to use the judges and the juries a whole lot more. But, the system only works, if we file complaints. If we make no noise, they can rightly claim that they didn’t know. If there is no plaintiff, there’s no case. If you’ve got no complainant, you’ve got no complaint.