The following is a fictional account
HOWEVER IT IS ALL BASED ON REAL EVENTS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN THE USA IN THE LAST YEAR. Keep telling yourself you are "free." Again, this is a fake story but all the events described in it really happened, just to different people.
It was your stereotypical all American family. Not much different than the Cleavers, in the 60s. John and Mary Smith even named their only son after the 1960s sitcom. Theodore. Or, as everyone calls him, Theo.
Today, this day, started out like any other for the Smiths. John, the father, was entrepreneurially minded and owned a small manufacturing company - a rarity nowadays in the US - but despite the tough regulatory environment John always found a way to make it work and employed over 150 people in his town.
A proud father, he always enjoyed being able to impart some of his business wisdom to 13 year old Theo who was showing great potential.
John tried to instill personal responsibility into Theo through small projects. Nearly a year ago John prompted Theo to raise bunnies and sell them to his classmates as a way to teach him about operating a business. Theo, who had always had an affection for bunnies, took to it easily. He showed great business sense, like his father. So much so he even began to sell bunnies he had bred to a local pet store and made an impressive, nearly $4,000 doing so in the last year.
Theo bought himself a new BMX bike, invested in guaranteed, risk-free Government savings bonds and still had $500 saved in his bank account, accruing interest at a rate of 0.05%. He was learning the magic of saving and compound interest. At that interest rate, imparted father John, proudly, in 20 years you'll have $530.
Theo's eyes opened wide. "Wow, Dad, is that really true?" asked Theo.
"Yes, son. And you never have to worry, either, because the banks are all guaranteed by the Government. Those dollars will always be as good as gold!"
The world seemed so big and exciting to Theo. He was blossoming as a young man, as well. He had his first girlfriend, Raquel. The two would walk hand in hand in the park. Theo told his dad he wanted to make some money to buy her tickets to the upcoming Justin Beiber concert.
John smiled to himself as he thought of Theo and the young man he was turning into. He returned home early from work on this beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon - an irregularity - but John had made a pact with himself that he was going to try to spend more time with the family. They grow up so fast. Today, he had a special surprise for Theo. He was going to take him to the Jefferson Memorial in nearby Washington DC to introduce his son to one of the great founding fathers who had made this country the great, free land it is today.
John turned the final corner and drove up into his driveway.
Theo was sitting out front of the house, and had fashioned a cardboard sign. "Lemon-Aid - 50 Cents", it said.
John's heart lept with pride. Theo had started up yet another little business. The boy's a chip off the old block, thought John.
Theo even had a customer already. A middle-aged, woman.
But something seemed amiss. She was holding a clipboard, had a dour look on her face and was pointing her finger at Theo and the signage.
John exited his car and walked over to the stand.
"Is everything ok?" he enquired.
"I'm afraid not," said the woman. "I'm from the County Health Department. Do you have a license for this operation?"
"License? It's a kids lemonade stand," responded John, thinking she must be pulling his leg.
At that moment a squad car pulled up. An officer got out, brows furrowed, and approached the group.
"I'm going to need some ID," said Officer Brown, matter of factly.
John stood bewildered. Little Theo looked up to his mentor, "Dad?"
"ID? He's a 13 year old boy," said John.
Officer Brown, who had been jotting something on a notepad, looked up and glared at the man. "Do we want trouble here, sir?"
"Trouble?" said John, now waking up to the seriousness of what was going on. "Of course we don't want any trouble!"
"Then let's see some ID," barked Brown.
Theo pulled a plastic document from his pocket. "Will my student card do, officer?" asked Theo, his voice shaking.
The policeman took the document and continued jotting in his notepad. Tearing a page out of the book he handed the paper to John.
"Your son has been charged with operating an illegal, unlicensed business," chanted Officer Brown, "This is a $120 fine and a summons to a court date, the details of which you will be advised in due process."
"Public safety must come first," nagged the woman, who attempted to engender a wry smile, as though to show that she is only doing what's best for everyone involved.
John stood in shock. As he extended his arm to accept the ticket the wailing of police sirens grew closer. Three squad cars were racing down the normally quiet suburban street.
Six armed officers wearing bullet proof vests exited and charged up on the scene.
"Theodore Smith?" queried one of the officers gruffly.
"Yes, this is him," responded the officer who was already on the scene.
"Hands behind your back," said the officer, pulling out his handcuffs.
"What is going on?" shouted John, his protective instincts kicking in as the officer manhandled his son.
"Don't act like you don't know, sir!" barked the officer. "Does the word 'bunnies' mean anything to you?"
John stood in shock, his mouth agape.
By this time yet another man had walked up on the scene wearing a blue vest, "USDA" was written across it.
"John and Theodore Smith?" asked the man.
"Yes," the father responded.
"We've had your illegal rabbit operation under surveillance for the last year. I have here a letter from Sarah Conant, the chief of the Animal Health and Welfare Enforcement branch of USDA's enforcement division, our investigation shows that you have violated the United States Code of Federal Regulations ... You may settle this matter by paying $90,643."
"90 what?" stammered John.
"$90,643. You have 30 days to make payment. Should you choose not to pay during the designated time period that amount will increase to $4 million," stated the officer with an uncaring expression on his face.
"Four MILLION??" blustered John.
The officer had begun to root through Theo's pockets and had come across the mobile phone John had given Theo for his birthday. Theo loved the phone. He'd spend half the day texting back and forth with his girlfriend.
"I'll be right back," stated the officer, walking back to his vehicle with the phone.
"Dad, my phone," said Theo, still handcuffed and looking up at his father for help.
"It's going to be okay, son," replied John, hoping this was all just some bizarre mix-up.
After what seemed like an inordinately long amount of time the officer returned, seemingly upset.
"Take the perp into custody," he ordered one of the officers.
"What is going on?" shouted John, reaching out to grab Theo.
"Stop resisting!" barked another officer, throwing John to the ground.
"Sir, I am sorry to have to tell you, we found pornography on your son's phone."
John, now face first on the front lawn, looked up to Theo who had now started to cry.
"Pornography?" he asked.
"There was a picture of an exposed breast on the phone," stated the officer.
Theo now was bawling. "I'm sorry Dad! Raquel sent it to me! I know it's bad!"
"Bad?" barked the officer, "This is more than bad. It's called sexting. It is a felony! You will be added to the registered sex offender list."
They took Theo by the arm and took him into custody, placing him in the squad car.
They allowed John to sit-up now and the officer who seemed in charge returned from the car to speak with him.
"Sir, I'm afraid, with the illegal lemonade stand violation, the unlicensed bunny operation and, for sexting, that's three strikes."
John sat glassy eyed on his lawn. Frozen. His world appeared to have collapsed around him in a single afternoon.
"He's probably looking at 25... but that will be up to the judge," said the Officer.
"25 what?" responded John, weakly.
"Years," said the officer as he walked away.
The policemen returned to their cars after congratulating each other and the health inspector lady for their work. Theo peered out of the back window of the squad car, waiting for his Dad to come to his rescue.
John sat motionless on his front lawn as they drove into the distance.
Yes, it was just another day in the land of the free.