The Angry Czeck recently stumbled into an interesting debate concerning the value of traffic light cameras. The three of us shared decidedly different views on the topic, all three of which had merit, to varying degrees.
For example, Debater One (we’ll call him “Dad”) argued that if the cameras are installed only with the intent of recording minor traffic violations, then such measures can only lead to good.
Debater Two (we’ll call him “Mary”) took a more Byzantine approach. He maintained that since the American government was already violating our rights to privacy by more egregious means (such as illegal wiretapping), then our squeamishness to traffic cameras is basically misappropriated. Essentially, he shrugged his shoulders at shoplifting in the face of murder.
Me, the idea that government agencies (whether local, state, or federal) are installing cameras anywhere on public grounds gives me significant pause. I’m all for catching crooks and “stopping the terrorists.” I just don’t want to be under constant observation in the process.
When it comes to the question of civil liberties, the Angry Czeck has one litmus test: If the rationale is “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about,” then that’s when I begin to worry.
For example, when President Bush decided it was okay to secret away American citizens to Cuba for interrogation, many supporters said, “Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.” As if this were enough to condone kidnapping and the discontinuation of the Constitution. So long as I live the clean, Protestant life-style of White America, then I can be reasonably assured that I won’t be stacked into a naked pyramid anytime soon. Thanks, Government.
But let’s return our attention back to traffic light cameras. How many of you, loyal Czeck readers, have ever idled at a traffic light, perhaps very early in the morning, maybe on your way to a Young Republican Morality Conference and Fish Fry, saw that the streets in all directions were deserted, and against your appreciation for the law ran the red light?
Me! Me! Me! Hell, I once did it with my parents in the car, much to their horror. I’d do it again, too, you know…just to make sure I got good seats at the Morality Conference.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: traffic laws are fair game. Much in the way the Bush Administration treats the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, we as Americans tend to adhere to traffic laws only when it’s convenient. If we’re late, we speed. If the roads are empty, we coast through the stop sign. If you’re a congressman, you drive drunk. Fair game. Running a red light is an act of civil disobedience that’s not only harmless, it’s a reflection of the rebel spirit that this country was founded upon. When Americans wanted land granted to Native Americans, we just took it, goddamnitt. We didn’t let laws stop us. Why should we let laws prevent us from zipping through cross-streets unfettered?
To be double honest, let’s identify traffic laws for what they truly are: a device that enables police departments to secure more revenue. Wouldn’t that be the only reason a city government would want to install a camera on a traffic light? To generate more funds? What City Council in the world would think, “Hey, too many people are running the stop light on Main and Cherry, and we need to put an end to it!” Who would okay a measure that only irritates voters…unless the primary purpose is to make somebody money?
But let us assume that we unanimously agree that cameras on stop lights pose no threat to civil liberties. Even I admit that, by themselves, traffic cameras are not a significantly threatening measure to privacy. The true threat is, Where does it end?
For example, why not place cameras in every street lamp? Prostitutes and drug dealers often conduct business beneath street lamps, so that would be a good thing, right? For that matter, most crystal meth is produced in garages. I say, if you want to own a garage on your property, you must submit to to the installation of a governmental camera. It’s not like you’re naked in your garage anyway. Furthermore, in light of recent developments on Capital Hill, perhaps we should install cameras in Congressmen’s underwear. The first sign of movement during a meeting with an intern or page, a red light flashes and the SWAT team storms the room! The more cameras, the less crime.
After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you’ll have nothing to worry about.