Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

1.11.2011

Here a Zig, There a Zag

For years, the debate has been raging. Votes have been called—votes have been cast. Ayes have been tallied, and naes have been recorded. Newspaper articles have been written, laws have been examined, protests have been waged. But starting last month, strange metal towers materialized, with expressionless prosthetic eyeballs surveying the scene. Traffic cameras have officially come to my city, and with them a small, but daily and growing infringement of my constitutional rights.

Suits have been brought against these noxious cameras on the basis of amendments four, six, and fourteen of the Constitution, not to mention state constitutions[i]. Ultimately, however, the key lies in amendment six, where I am promised the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against [me][ii].” Thus, if I am charged with running a red-light on the basis of a photo snapped robotically, analyzed by a worker in Arizona, and then approved by a police officer in my town, then I have the Constitutional right to be assured of the machine’s working condition (which is often dubious), to confront the layperson, and to cross-examine the police officer. Anything less than this is a violation of my rights as supported by the Supreme Court[iii].

However, the burden of my city to prove my guilt does not stop here. You see, my city has failed to consider that they are paying this company to procure traffic offenders—and the numerical success of the program will determine if it lives to a ripe old age, or dies in its infancy. How can I be sure—how can they be sure—that my traffic citation was not influenced by the desire for monetary gain? Justice Scalia wrote in the majority opinion of Melendez-Diaz vs. Massachusetts—which was based on the Sixth Amendment—that “a forensic analyst responding to a request from law enforcement officials may feel pressure-or have an incentive to alter the evidence in a manner favorable to the prosecution.”

I have never ran a red light, nor do I plan to. I do my best to contribute to safe transit via asphalt and rubber, and I appreciate the premise that photo-enforced intersections can be safer. However, I do not appreciate the fact that when Washington State made such photo-enforcement legal, it posed itself as a benevolent protector instead of the greedy money-collector it truly is: “I know that some people would perceive that a local government would use this as a cash cow,” said Senatar Mary Margaret Haugen. “That is not our intention at all … What this amendment does is it restricts them, so that they cannot have a fine higher than their parking violations. Which is about — the state recommends $20. The idea is to change behavior, not collect a lot of money[iv].” Of course, no one could help themselves, and municipalities soon found the most expensive parking ticket on the books to aid in boosting red light tickets into the triple digits (usually close to $200).

We’re in the age of technology—about which the writers of the Constitution never dreamed. So a little zig instead of a zag couldn’t cause that much harm, right? After all, these cameras have been proven to reduce instances of red-light running. They certainly must be making us safer. They’re bringing in revenue for cash-strapped governments. Everybody is happy! But when you are faced with the incapability to confront the only pertinent witness in the case—then will you be happy? When you suspect the camera of malfunctioning and falsely condemning you for a jaunt across an intersection glowing red—then will you be happy? When you are forced to scan your driver’s license to start your car and drive throughout your city with each and every road and intersection monitering your car for illegal behaviour—and recording your location at every point—then will you be happy? What about allowing an agency such as the TSA who does not even have law enforcement rights to violate decency laws in the name of safety? What about searches without warrants in the name of safety? How about censoring of the internet and the free speech you value so much? Shall we all turn in our firearms so that nine year old girls do not die and Senators are not shot at?

Dozens of zigs do not add up to one happy zag. Whether these Constitutional deviations are reality—and most of them are—or merely a storm cloud in the future, no good can come of them. Whether they realize it or not, law-abiding citizens live by a moral code established by the Scripture—the same moral code that is the basis for the Constitution. And whether we like to admit it or not, those who choose to disregard the God they will stand before some day will continue to zig through red lights, shoot up crowds of people, and blow up planes, regardless of cameras, weapons laws, and indecent scanners. Meanwhile, we will be huddling defenseless, ignorant, and humiliated, having given up our rights to the government long ago. All in the name of safety.

Thankfully, the good thing about zigs is that they can be counteracted with a whole lot of zags. People who understand the magnitude of obeying our Constitution and fight against every aberrance are doing their part, whether they are contesting a red light ticket in court or demanding their rights in an airport. Christians must recognize that this great nation of ours will topple like a clown on stilts when the majority of its citizens no longer live by God’s moral code. But to zag, however, we cannot just acknowledge this fact--we must brighten our corners and do something to remedy the erosion! We must let the Holy Spirit use us to bring others to a saving knowledge of our Holy, Righteous, Perfect God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer eloquently wrote, “Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make hiswhole life an answer to the question and call of God.”




[i]Automated Enforcement Myths, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, October 2010. http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/myths.html
[ii] Constitution of the United States of America.
[iii] Melendez-Diaz vs. Massachusetts, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009).
[iv] Westneat, Danny. “Red Light Tickets Veer off Course,” Seattle Times, November 2009. http://o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/dannywestneat/2010349143_danny25.html
Picture Credit

3 comments:

  1. I loved this post. Such a great soap box speech. I too am afraid or should I say unhappy with what our country is doing in terms of taking control of things they have no business taking control of, or attempting to control in the case of cameras at stop lights. I mark it up to a society being lazy. They don't want to hire more police officers to parole areas so they put up the trusty camera instead.
    I am about to fly to San Diego with my young kids. I "can't wait" to go through the whole airport rigamaro. Hey at least they are not at the point of checking our children's underwear for underwear explosives. For that we can be thankful.
    Great post!

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  2. This should be posted somewhere else! You are truly so great with words, convincing and factual.

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  3. God-speed on your travels Summer! I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I made it to England and back without encountering any scanners (my airport doesn't have them yet, and Atlanta wasn't using theirs for us international entries).
    I'm honored, Brandy, by your kind words. Thank you!

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