W e have had some interesting conversations in my family lately, having to do with the loss of privacy and liberty in this country.
I know, it's not the kind of thing families usually talk about -- but in my family we do. So I've witnessed several debates/discussions between my two adult children, Stacy and Matt, that became quite animated and an octave or two louder than normal.
And I've been involved in those discussions with my children, as well. Put mildly, they both have their own minds, and they both like to think for themselves.
Stacy isn't the slightest bit concerned about the various infringements the federal/state governments, Congress, the president and the U.S. Supreme Court have approved/encouraged/allowed in the past 10 or 15 years.
Her theory is simple: If you're not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about if the government/police/anyone is watching your every move with the use of electronic and telephone surveillance, Internet snooping, cameras in every nook and cranny and a whole host of other efforts to keep track of what people do in their daily lives.
Such talk makes my son's eyes roll back in his head. He strenuously disagrees.
Me? I lean more to my son's point of view than my daughter's.
I don't like being watched. I don't like my every move passed through a government filter -- Did I break a rule? Did I do something wrong? Was someone passing judgment on my actions, though perfectly legal?
Why, I wonder, do the courts allow 24-hour-a-day public surveillance of perfectly innocent people, but then not allow you to be challenged by a police officer without probable cause? Why is it OK to watch me every step of the way as I'm walking down the street, but it's not OK to pull over a drunk as he's driving out of the parking lot of a bar?
It's all very inconsistent. And that bothers me.
At the same time, however, all this surveillance does sometimes come in handy for those of us who like the idea of law and order.
I admit I struggle with it.
It would have been wonderful, for example, if a couple of years ago someone in my neighborhood had had a video camera focused on my house when it was being robbed. That would have come in handy for the police who investigated the crime.
And I do admit I chuckled a bit when I read the story early last week about a murder suspect, Bryan Wayne Brackbill Jr., who was snagged by the Missouri State Highway Patrol when officers were using an automated license plate scanner -- which I opposed for the City of York -- on Interstate 70 as Brackbill drove past in the murder victim's car.
All of this modern technology doesn't always benefit just the police and government, either. Sometimes it benefits real people.
Take, for instance, the resisting arrest charge brought against Steven Landis by Springettsbury Township Police. As everyone knows, or should know, most cop cars have a video camera mounted on the dashboard to record every action and verbal exchange between the police officer and the public.
So when Officer Chad Moyer stopped Landis -- a routine stop, Moyer said -- and he and Landis ended up in a physical altercation that resulted in Landis' arrest, the camera caught the whole thing.
And when York County Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn viewed the video, he had to agree with Landis -- he had not resisted arrest. And he was found not guilty.
Ring one up for modern technology in Landis' favor. Because not too many years ago, lacking the video support, Judge Renn would no doubt have taken Officer Moyer's side, and Landis would have been found guilty. End of story.
One more example. Last week, I went to the Mezzogiorno restaurant in the Central Market for lunch. When paying my bill, I couldn't help but notice the 8X10 photo of an alleged thief that was taped on the front of the cash register.
Apparently the man had sauntered into the market, walked up to the counter, picked up a briefcase that didn't belong to him and dashed out the side door, headed for Cherry Lane.
But there was a video camera mounted somewhere outside the exit door, and several more mounted in the Cherry Lane courtyard. So just about every move the guy made from the time he ran out the door was recorded. York City Police are looking for him as we speak.
The question on the picture is: "Do you know this man?" It's a pretty decent likeness. He'll probably be recognized. I'll be surprised if he's not eventually arrested.
So my point is cameras and surveillance and all this electronic tracking stuff do sometimes benefit the average Joe.
And it's a lot cheaper, I guess, than placing a cop outside every door.
But I still don't like it. It feels like my space is being invaded. I can't even take a drive up I-83 without having cameras following me as I go along.
I can't walk into my bank without 10 cameras being focused on me from the time I enter the parking lot. All I want to do is make a routine deposit or pay my mortgage, and I'm made to feel like I've done something wrong.
Same goes for my grocery store, the movie theater and every store in the local mall.
You can't eat lunch without a camera focused on your face.
If I think about it too much -- and I try not to -- it irritates me. A lot.
Because in my mind it violates the theory that we're all supposed to be considered innocent until ... Yeah, I know, they're using all this electronic stuff to prove we're guilty.
Say what you will about not having to worry if you're not doing anything illegal, the truth is every single one of us has fewer individual liberties and less privacy than we did 20, 30, 40 years ago.
What it comes down to, I guess, is where each of us draws the line.
Maybe it doesn't bother you.
But it bothers me. Even when it helps me.
So in my family the debate continues.
At the moment, we each draw the line at a different place.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.