In the inventory of everyday evils that beset every great American city, the list of offenses is long and sobering, and our own corner of the world has more than its share.
At one end lie malignities such as drug peddling, gang warfare, organ theft, child porn rings, violent crime, devil worship, unlicensed demolition, and the Charleston County School Board. At the other end are lesser villanies, like leaving gum on park benches, keeping library books past their due date, jamming parking meters, jaywalking, and voting Republican. Somewhere in the middle, among such perversions as shooting BBs at passing cars, taping funny signs to homeless people's backs, and making barking noises at dogs, is a nefarious civic curse that the City of Charleston has at long last decided to stamp out once and for all: sniping.
Yes, it's true. Soon, Charlestonians will be rid of the vile plague of snipes forever! Rejoice, ye citizens! Freedom is nigh!
What precisely is a snipe, you ask? Well, depending on your source, it's either a fictitious woodland creature that gullible types new to hunting are duped into trying to catch, usually with a sack and a flashlight — or it's a flyer that's been tacked onto a telephone pole.
Snipes, according to a recent definition distributed by the City of Charleston Office of Public Information, "are any form of leaflets, handbills, posters, flyers, announcements, or any other advertising and informational materials that are tacked, nailed, posted, pasted, glued, or otherwise attached to trees, poles, stakes, fences, buildings, or other objects."
Wickedness incarnate, you say? No less.
There's little to be done about the former meaning of the word. Guileless rubes will spend long nights in wooded areas waiting for snipes to appear as long as the supply of fools and idiots is replenished. But the hyper-efficient, superbly oiled machine that is Charleston municipal government is on the case of the latter version with a vengance born of furious and mighty righteousness.
Recently, the City Office of Public Information issued a "final warning" to area business owners and their staff restating that snipe signs are absolutely, unconditionally, and in all other ways illegal. Beginning this weekend, the city officially cracks down on snipes and all those who enable them. Violations will be met with a fine of up to $1,087 and as much as 30 days in jail.
Overly severe, you suggest? Nonsense! Snipe signs are often attached with tacks and staples, creating a life-threatening hazard to anyone anywhere near the poles, to say nothing of the unwitting repairmen who have to climb them. How many of these courageous, innocent victims — civic heroes, all — bear the terrible scars and disfigurations that have resulted from an encounter with a staple? No doubt they are legion.
City officials point also to the hideous "visual distraction" the signs create. Far from being the harmless and creative manifestation of a city with a thriving urban cultural scene, these flyers and posters are scabrous blemishes, a blight on our fair city!
In our view, there's only one solution: full and immediate collaboration with the government in its well-considered crusade to eliminate the snipe threat for good and return our city to some semblance of order. Every decent citizen is morally compelled to discourage this outrage! Utilize every available surface to spread the message: "Snipes are Evil! Staples Kill!" And remember, use colored paper. It's much more likely to catch someone's eye.