I spotted this SUV some days back in the Western Kentucky University Chestnut Street parking lot, a testament to the university’s parking violation notices.

The various stickers, citations and the like started piling up.

 And eventually the vehicle got “the boot.”

Each day I passed the citation-laden vehicle, I thought about decades ago when I taught at Troy State University, where for 10 years I did not have to pay to park. My parking space carried my last name and sat 30 yards from the entrance to Wallace Hall, the building that housed my office.

Next to my parking area rested “The Pit,” a student-created name for the lot that sat at the bottom of a Grand Canyon-like hole in the ground. The deeply inclined stairs to the bottom of The Pit posed a treacherous walk down and an arduous walk up. When it rained substantially, The Pit turned into a lake.

One year, I called the WKU version of Parking and Transportation at Troy and asked about my free, named parking space.

“If I give up my space, can it become available for anyone to use?” I asked.

Nope. Another name will magically appear if you abandon it, I was told.

Directly behind my parking space at Troy sat a fire hydrant with a “no parking zone” series of lines stenciled on the pavement in front of the hydrant. During one term, a TSU police officer routinely parked in front of the hydrant in the “no parking zone.”

One of the reporters for the student newspaper came to my office one day and asked, “Isn’t it illegal to park in front of a fire hydrant?”

“Yep,” I said.

The next issue of the student newspaper — which I advised — on the front page featured a photo of the illegally parked cop car.

That afternoon the furious police officer who drove the vehicle stormed into my office and berated me and the newspaper for getting him in trouble.

“I am a police officer,” he yelled. “I have authority. This photo got me a reprimand in my personnel file.”

He stormed out, likely to move his illegally-parked cruiser.

As I passed the Suburban Utility Violator in the Chestnut Street lot one day, I got to thinking about power and authority, and that got me thinking about dictators.

History shows that the signature for dictators somewhat resembles the rogue SUV.

Dictators ignore the law and park themselves wherever they please for as long as they choose.

Beyond that:

• Dictators maintain their power by making unilateral decisions without considering the consequences for those affected.

• Dictators use a constant stream of propaganda to make it seem like their practices are fair, equitable and in the public’s best interest.

• Dictators surround themselves with loyalists who get paid exorbitant amounts of money to remain loyal and to stand by the dictators or take the heat for the dictators when they make  bad decisions.

• Dictators swiftly eliminate anyone who questions their decisions. They ship them off to their kingdom’s equivalent of Siberia or they execute them, literally or figuratively.

• Dictators reward themselves financially, and at some point during their regime, they come to believe that they are untouchable, so drunk on hubris that they get careless.

Dictators hang around as long as they can, milking the system, and standing in front of every camera that shows them looking snappy and/or benevolent — media hounds of the worst kind.

And this goes on and on until people get tired of it, or more likely the dictators get caught in one of the many backdoor scams they have run.

And like the ticket-laden SUV, they get “the boot.”


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