Sunday, August 28, 2016

A failure of imagination

From a local Facebook group: “His name should be posted, he was taking pics of kids he did not know. That is disgusting. And obviously every kind of wrong. Why protect his privacy? It is scary that anyone can take pics at any time. But something should be done to protect kids. A grown man that has no connection to these children should be in trouble. There is no reason for him to take pics of kids. Wrong Wrong Wrong”

This is the park my mother used to play in when she was a child. Her mind is back in that time now half the time we see her. Some photos will help to keep her company.

I helped design this playground when it was built 15 years ago. It’s wonderful to see it being actively used, and I can get much better photos for my portfolio now. Have you ever seen a playground designer’s portfolio? It’s far more persuasive when it shows happy kids than when it looks empty.

When I was a kid, we lived in an apartment building on this block. They tore it down years ago to build a park and playground, and my brother never forgave the city. I want to show him that while it was hard on us then, at least the playground is making a lot of kids happy now.

We’re hoping to adopt a child, and the adoption agency told us to put together a book showing that we live in a kid-friendly neighborhood. Birthmothers choose adoptive parents based on those books, so if we ever want to be parents (we’ve been waiting for years), we have to get some really good photos of our local playground and show that there are lots of kids in the neighborhood.

My grandchild’s church is raising money to rebuild their playground, and they also are trying to figure out what playground features kids will actually use. There’s so much variation in playground equipment these days. They’ve asked people to send in photos of what we think they should include.

I’m teaching myself photography, preparing for when my grandchild will come to visit me in the fall. I promised his parents I would take lots of photos while he is here. I’m getting better, but it takes a lot of practice. You wouldn’t believe how many of these photos come out blurry. Kids are in constant motion.

This is the playground where we always thought we would raise our child, but he was stillborn. I have come here every month for the past 25 years to try to remember how our lives were supposed to turn out. If he had lived, he might have been pushing his own child on the swings right over there. My wife cannot stand to even walk past the playground, but some photos give her comfort.

And a million other stories that don’t fit today’s paranoid mindset. Right now, photography is not a crime, even though lots of parents want it to be. And photography is not really the issue, because the response to adults taking photos is the same as the response to adults entering a playground at all. We have collectively lost track of the fact that most people aren’t child molesters, and most people who are child molesters prey on kids they actually have personal access to.

From a local Facebook group: “Not sure if it's illegal but I can't think of one GOOD HEALTHY reason to take pictures of kids you don't know.”

Thanks, Facebook group, for helping to spread hysteria
Last week an adult in an SUV spoke to a 10-year-old boy who was on the sidewalk in front of his house, and then drove off. Within a couple of hours, hundreds of local parents heard falsely from other local parents that there had been an attempted kidnapping at a playground. Far fewer heard the police issue a statement the next day saying that there had been no attempted kidnapping, and asking people to stop spreading rumors like that.

From a local news article: “One park-goer approached the man and asked if he knew any kids at the park, to which the man responded, “No.” When asked if he was taking photos of the kids, he reportedly did not immediately respond, and then continued taking pictures. The man then allegedly began to delete pictures and attempted to flee the park.”

Thanks, local newspaper. A guy was taking photos in a public park using his cell phone. After someone confronted him, he started to leave before being stopped by the very people who didn’t want him there in the first place. And you managed to use the word “flee” four times in one short article to describe the guy trying to leave, including in the headline, even though the police confirmed that the guy had not done anything illegal. When you left your house this morning to go to work, did you “flee” the residence? How much creepy language do you need to use to keep convincing parents that the world is a terrifying place?

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