Not long after the move, Lisa and I took a nice walk around Montclair to get to know the town a bit. Not too surprisingly, along the way I found various subjects to photograph. Some of these included the beautiful houses around us, the cracked old sidewalks, and the nearby museum. Some of these also included signs on the main road through town. Nobody confronted my or made me feel uncomfortable, nevertheless I became self-conscious that these days my activities would be included under the heading “suspicious behavior”. What really bothers me, is that people all over are being stopped for doing exactly what I was doing, enjoying a wonderful day outside and wanting to capture the moment.
A couple months ago I had read about one of these unforunate encounters and the resulting fallout. Today (thanks to kottke’s remainders) I found Ian Spiers’ complete recounting of this tale of a fear-driven, authoritarian nightmare. Reading the story in its entirety made my blood begin to boil. I will stress this right now: if what happened to Ian Spiers does not enrage you or bring any amount of sympathy, you’re missing the big picture. If you can read that account and feel that the authorities conducted themselves appropriately, then YOU ARE UNAMERICAN. That’s right, I said it. Anyone who condones such activities is as far from a patriot as you can get. As a matter of fact, they are signaling defeat to terrorism with ever law signed into the books.
The terrorists are not here to take control of the country. They are not overthowing our government. They do not desire to kill all of us. Rather, they wish to destroy our way of life. They want us to live in fear. They want us to surrender our freedoms in an attempt to feel safe. And that is exactly what the government is doing in the name of security. And this supposed security that so many conservatives cling to as reasoning that our lives are better and that America as a whole is better and that the rest of the world is wrong is a complete fabrication.
Stopping a photographer from taking pictures of a public place merely because his skin is brown is not security.
I’m am sick to my stomach thinking about such transgressions of civil liberties. I once respected people in authority. I never will again. With these current attitudes we are quickly deteriorating into the totalitarian regimes that we used to disparage, with their constant cries of “Your papers, please?” How can you possibly encourage these power hungray egomaniacs that are supposed “to serve and protect” instead to subjugate and humiliate? Wasn’t the ideal for our government to give power to the people, not take it away?
And so now I find myself googling for “photographer’s rights” , which quickly takes me to a lawyer’s handbook on the matter, complete with a downloadable PDF flyer. I have printed multiple copies (at least one to keep with each camera) and am now printing the ACLU Bustcard. No, they are not legal counsel. No, they will not protect me from the powers that be. Nevertheless, they will now be kept on my person at all times. They are my new “papers”.
I will now try to follow the truly important stories. Not this farce of an election (I have little hope that Bush and company will allow this one to slip out of their hands, no matter how much cheating it takes this time), rather what people like Ian Spiers and John Gilmore have to say. We already lost an important one with Dudley Hiibel, let’s try to stop the bleeding there.