Portland Bans a Guy From Standing in One Place When He Whistles. Wait. What?
PORTLAND – You’ll hear The Whistler before you see him. Some say he haunts the Old Port. To others, he brings amusement. But to Robert Smith, it’s a calling. “I walked around singing for a year,” the 32-year-old said during one of his high-pitched rounds of downtown Portland. “I whistled a tune one day. I don’t know where it came from.” Smith pauses for a moment, a large crucifix hanging from his neck over a football jersey. “It came from God — that’s where it came from,” he said of his passion for whistling. “God is showing me what I’m doing is OK. He shows me every day with laughter.”… Some downtown businesses and the Portland Police Department aren’t amused, however. Over the past year, in fact, Smith has been summonsed, arrested and taken to court for disorderly conduct for “loud whistling.” Smith is now free to whistle, but only under one unusual condition: He has to keep walking while he whistles. His whistling is such a shared experience among downtown regulars and office workers that he pops up in blog posts and online conversations. “He acts like he’s treating all of us to his amazing whistling show and that we should all be so lucky to hear him and his magical ability, but I don’t feel lucky,” wrote one blogger in a 2011 post to Thought Catalog. “I feel deep anger and hatred, because his whistling upsets my dog and every dog in the neighborhood.”… His goal, he says, is to spread joy. “I’m not out here to be the best whistler in the world,” he said. “I’m just trying to make people smile.”
The whole progress of mankind has marched forward thanks to certain great men with radical ideas of freedom that challenged the status quo. Men of vision whose beliefs in the rights of the individual were seen as a threat to the entrenched and powerful. And Robert Smith is just such a man. Those jack-booted thugs in Portland might think he’s just a public menace, but that’s what they said about Moses. Jesus. Jefferson. Gandhi. King. And like them, Robert Smith has been chosen by God Himself to spread his message of freedom to the world. Sure you can look at him like he’s a shiftless, lowlife slacker weirdo with nothing better to do but annoy working people, bloggers and dogs and deserves a good beating. But if it’s OK with God, it certainly should be OK with you. Because when one man isn’t free to stand in one place when he whistles, none of us are truly free. @JerryThornton1