Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Big-city big-brother precautions filter to small villages

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

“The land of the free.”

We are fortunate to live in a country carrying that motto.

Each passing year seems to find more and more of the freedoms we cherish encroached upon by our government. Some, by necessity, some by paranoia, some by greed.

The latest council meeting in the Village of Covington saw a directive that will require village employees to wear identification badges as proof they work for the village.

It is really not much of an issue, on the surface. When combined with a never-ending string of other “small issues,” it takes on a different look entirely.

Many residents of Covington can probably remember a time, not long ago, when they felt like they knew most every other resident in the village. No one needed an ID tag because everyone knew everyone.

Safety precautions that were necessary in “the big city” have now filtered down to hamlets such as Covington.

I am not disputing the Covington council’s decision to require that ID badges. Rather, I am saddened at the necessity.

You may wonder how the wearing of an ID badge in Covington may be related to the loss of our freedom. It is one more thing that is necessitated because of lawlessness and fear in our country.

Covington employees must wear an ID badge. School employees in many systems wear identification. In some schools, students wear an ID tag. School doors are locked in order to prevent incidents. You must present yourself for video verification in order to gain admittance to many schools.

I wear my media identification almost everywhere that I go in order that people may know that the person taking their photograph is doing so for the purpose of a newspaper. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it has not been that many years ago that folks would beg to have their kids photo in the local newspaper. Now, if you point a camera in the direction of a child, parents and bystanders reach for their cell phones to call 9-1-1.

Are they just being paranoid? To a certain extent, maybe, but in today’s society, can anyone really afford to take chances?

All of this is a loss of our freedom. Shouldn’t we have the right to be comfortable taking our children to a public park or event?

“Spy” camera are everywhere today. If you think differently, just try running a red light in Dayton. When I was young, the most repeated law enforcement phrase on television was “Book ‘em Dano,” from the original “Hawaii Five O.” Today, that has been replaced with a phrase common to all police dramas — “Pull the surveillance video.”

We can localize that, as well. A recent bicycle vs. car crash in Bradford was caught on video. A store that happened to be nearby had video cameras outside that caught the entire incident.

Granted, from a law enforcement standpoint, video coverage of many areas is a great tool for catching bad guys. The more disturbing issue is that, in many cases, the video is a necessity, not a luxury.

No matter how you paint it, or sugar-coat it, all of this video surveillance, is still “big brother” keeping an eye on us. Our movements can be tracked by these, or by many of our cell phones.

It is difficult for me to believe that I, or anyone, is “free,” in the purist of forms, when our movements must be watched and we must wear photo identification to prove who we are.

This smacks too much of a communist or a socialist existence.

I do, however, realize that compared to many other people around the world, we are very fortunate.

I can only hope that our leaders recognize that every time they pass another law, or just decide to grab another one of our freedoms, they are eroding the foundation of our country.

America’s leaders need to remember that the reason we are “the land of the free” is because we are “the home of the brave.”

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