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06 December 2010 @ 10:41 am
"If you have nothing to hide..."  
I guess I haven't written much in my LJ as I used to because a lot of my childhood issues are either resolved or not surfacing as much as they used to.

One of the things that still nags at me from time to time was the whole "little Grig is a trouble maker." I spent a hell of a lot of my youth under some cloud by select adults that I was out to make mischief in some way when that was never my intent. In fact, I was really shy and didn't want attention most of the time because that was a good way to get beaten up. When I think back at some random stuff that happened to me, I still wonder WTF?

Like there was this teacher named Mrs. Mongul. While many of my friend has her for a teacher, I did not, and the only encounter I ever had with her was when I was working the library for the A/V club. I was by the magazine rack, straightening the periodicals, when this 5th grade teacher grabbed me, whipped me around, and demanded I apologize to her. The conversation went something like this:

Mrs. Mongul: APOLOGIZE AT ONCE!
Me: [scared at her anger] What?
Mrs. Mongul: I DEMAND AN APOLOGY!
Me: For what?
Mrs. Mongul: YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!
Me: What did I do??
Mrs. Mongul: I DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOU WHAT YOU DID, YOU KNOW!
Me: No I don't!
Mrs. Mongul: I DEMAND AN APOLOGY OR I WILL MAKE YOU STAY AFTER SCHOOL!!
Me: I'm sorry!
Mrs. Mongul: SORRY FOR WHAT??
Me: ... [crying] I don't know...

This conversation went on for a bit, and in the end, she accepted my apology for "hurting her" which was never specified. For many years, I was traumatized by this because I never did know what she accused me of, but I felt horrible. My main theory was she mistook me for someone else, or someone told her I did something to her to avoid getting in trouble themselves. I am not sure why that memory still sparks pain, but it's one of the highlights to many incidents where I was blamed for things I didn't do, and never did know what I was actually accused of. This was not only teachers, but my own parents. Yes, it was rare, but it only has to happen a few times as a kid before your distrust of authority figures spreads like a weed.

This is the main reason why I hate the phrase, "If you're not guilty, you have nothing to fear..." I see a lot of people spouting stuff like this these days, usually because they have a blind trust in authority figures knowing what's best. They are human like the rest of us and need checks and balances. Let's take this to another level. Mark is a photographer, and just got a call from his sister-in-law that his brother is very sick, and wants to see him right away. Mark gets a one-way ticket from New Jersey to California, but is stopped at the security gate.

AuthFig: May I see your papers please?
Mark: [in full compliance] Yes. Here you go.
AuthFig: Are they all here?
Mark: Yes.
AuthFig: It says here that you traveled to Amsterdam in 2006.
Mark: Yes I did.
AuthFig: What was the purpose?
Mark: I was shooting photographs for a magazine.
AuthFig: What magazine?
Mark: It was Modern Highlights, a European fashion magazine.
AuthFig: Do you smoke marijuana?
Mark: No.
AuthFig: You know Amsterdam is where people go to smoke marijuana.
Mark: I have heard that, yes. It's legal there.
AuthFig: You know marijuana possession unn the United State is illegal, correct?
Mark: Yes--
AuthFig: So why did you shoot there?
Mark: Well, because that's where the models were--
AuthFig: How come you couldn't shoot them here, in New Jersey?
Mark: The job was in Amsterdam--
AuthFig: Oh, so you were working in Amsterdam?
Mark: Well, yes.
AuthFig: Do you have a visa to prove this?
Mark: That was in 2006--
AuthFig: I didn't ask you when it was, I asked you if you have a visa to work in Amsterdam?
Mark: I don't anymore, why would I need to prove that from 4 years ago--
AuthFig: I don't know, you tell me.
Mark: I am only traveling to California--
AuthFig: I didn't ask where you were going! Why do you insist on changing the subject? Do you have something to hide?
Mark: No, I--
AuthFig: You seem nervous.
Mark: I don't know why I am being interrogated for--
AuthFig: Don't get snippy with me. You one of those liberal types that hide behind the Constitution? You think that will make you get away with whatever it is you're up to? Let me tell you, I am an officer of the law here. I don't have time to take attitude from you, and if you had answered the questions I asked you instead of changing the subject, all those people behind you in line would be on their way!
Mark: I don't have a visa because I am not going to Amsterdam--
AuthFig: But you told me you had all your papers.
Mark: I didn't know you'd ask for a visa from a job from 4 years ago.
AuthFig: Is this your passport?
Mark: Yes it is--
AuthFig: And does this not show you went to Amsterdam?
Mark: Yes it does--
AuthFig: So explain to me why you didn't think you needed to prove a worker's visa when it says so on a passport you gave me for ID that you went to Amsterdam.
Mark: I didn't think I'd need to bring it for a trip to California!
AuthFig: You say you know marijuana is illegal. Did you know it's illegal in California as well?
Mark: What does that have to do with--
AuthFig: Answer the question.
Mark: Yes.
AuthFig: Oh, so now you're aware marijuana is illegal in California!
Mark: I have always been aware.
AuthFig: But you said it was legal in Amsterdam.
Mark: Yes, I did--
AuthFig: But you shoot photos for Modern High Life, a marijuana magazine?
Mark: No, Modern Highlights, a European fashion magazine.
AuthFig: I am aware of what I said. I don't see a camera in your things.
Mark: I am going to visit my brother; I didn't bring my equipment.
AuthFig: That seems odd, a photographer traveling without cameras. I am going to detain you until I find out more about what you're up to.

Now, nothing either side said was false. Mark did nothing wrong. So why is he afraid? In this case, the authority figure was being a complete dick, but operating under the compliance of the law. Now suppose Mark looked like he was from the Middle East? Full name, Mark Aziz Muhammad. Mark was born and grew up in this country, but he has relatives in Lebanon and Iraq. Mark is not religious, but his parents are Muslim. Is he "more guilty" now?

One of the main reasons that "innocent until proven guilty" must be protected is because "guilty until proven innocent" is nearly impossible to prove innocence when authority figures automatically assume that the person is already guilty of SOMETHING. It's a mind game that can't be won by your average citizen. "Innocence" is lack of blame, and you can't prove a "lack of" anything. Guilt requires a burden of proof, but if the assumption is that they are guilty, and now they have to prove a lack of guilt... it would take a pretty sharp mind to get out of that.

And corrupt authority figures know this.
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maugornmaugorn on December 6th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
Amen amen amen!
Preach it Punky!
If you can't win the game, change the rulesbadmagic on December 6th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping you made up the name "Mrs. Mongul." If you didn't, well, some sort of confronatation with her was inevitable. With a name like that, she was pretty much doomed. She'd either end up bullying little kids, or fighting Superman.