The private public square

The shopping malls have become the "new Main Street." Except that nobody owned Main Street.

Stories like this one — about the ways malls are restricting Salvation Army bell-ringers this Christmas — are a reminder of the freedoms we give up when we exchange a truly public square for one that is the private property of some distant corporation.

That's not a particularly new insight, of course, but I do have one additional suggestion:

Before you head to your local version of The Mall, find out if they're allowing the Salvation Army's bell-ringers on the property. If not, get yourself a bell — a big, clanging, town-crier bell, if you can find one — and spread a little Christmas cheer while you shop. (Extra credit: When someone, inevitably, tries to get you to stop ringing the bell, try to get them to sing "Silver Bells" with you. Loudly.)

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  • Ron

    There are an interesting series of cases from the SCOTUS which deal with one’s rights in Mall’s. It is interesting to see how almost every time a new case came before the Court, they found “good reasons” to find that Mall’s did not really replace the town square, and private property rights prevailed over any right of freedom of expression. Interesting, in the same way that watching a slow motion movie of a train wreck is also interesting, I mean.

  • pablo

    Your point is well taken, but the Salvation Army can go to hell. They want special dispensation to discriminate against gays. If I can’t work for them then my money and my donations can go to a secular charitable org like Goodwill.

  • Catsy

    I’m with Pablo on the Salvation Army. They’re arguably one of the worst of their ilk of institutions. Aside from the abovementioned discrimination policies, another odious policy is their requirement that you attend church services if you want to stay for meals. To some random, starving homeless man, this is contemptible extortion to which he can hardly say no.
    Having been on the streets before, I can speak from personal experience on these issues. And personally, I can’t understand why businesses allow the bell-ringers on their property–it’s noise pollution and the incessant racket drives me up the wall every time I have to walk by them.

  • PJ Gropinator

    The LA Times has a Mall story today too, only regarding the Assaultinator. He limits his political rallies to malls becuase he has tight contol that comes with private property, and fake crowds – no demonstrators in wheel chairs, you know.

  • Charles2

    I have to add my disgust at the Salvation Army to the others’ here. All the above comments are dead on and when you add in their gratutitous use of military “rank” titles, you get the feeling that these are some seriously deluded individuals. I’m pretty sure they really think they are in ‘god’s army.”
    Plus, I hate those damn bells. I wish – if they are going to keep soliciting – that they would at least go to jingle bells.