Mistaking My Dad for a Predator

Readers, feenzhaniz
this comes to us from Tiffany, who calls herself “a nomadic mom of 11 & 12 year old Free-Range boys traveling the USA via RV.” How cool is that? 

Dear Free-Range Kids:  My late father’s occupation, and love, was teaching mobility to blind students. He was employed by the school district and taught blind, k-12 students how to move about in the community. The “classroom” consisted of busy intersections, the mall, the post office, and many other places. He had been doing the work for 35 years and had seen society change so much.

During the last 10 years of his career (1997-2007) he prepared himself for police calls, when “vigilant” neighbors would see a man outside with a child during school hours. Police would show up, question my dad and the child, and them send them on their way. He carried his credentials with him. Once, the police told him that a call had come in about a “child predator” that had been seen with different children in the neighborhood (the neighborhood near one of the schools where the majority of district blind students attended).

The last two years of his career, the district pushed my dad to move all of the “lessons” to the school campuses. This was so frustrating, because you cannot recreate busy intersections and shopping on a campus.

The parents of the blind students often offered to pay my dad to work with their child during off hours so he could truly teach the kids to navigate the world. Another note, not once did the other teacher, a woman, get stopped by police when out with a student. So, my dad was seen as a “predator” just for being male as well.

Really, at first my dad wasn’t bothered by the calls because he appreciated people “caring enough” about the kids to question it. It did wear him down though. I recall his frustration over being presumed guilty simply because he was a man with a child.

 The idea that predators are out and about with their “prey” all the time, sauntering around town, is one of the most bizarre and pernicious of our era. Last night I had dinner with Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn (which I HIIIIIIGHLY recommend) and he told me about the time he’d taught his daughter how to bike and then was putting the bike back in the car to drive them back home. An onlooker mistook him for…well, see above. 

We have de-normalized the idea of men interacting with kids except to kidnap and rape them. That’s perverted. – L 

Officer, there's a man with a child going by!

Officer, there’s a man with a child going by!


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61 Responses to Mistaking My Dad for a Predator

  1. M October 9, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    My husband was one of those wonderful dads who took the kids everywhere from the time they were babies. Back then, he used to get annoyed at the “Babysitting your kids?” comments.

    Now, he would have to worry about having the police called on him.

    As a mother of two sons, this makes me very sad.

  2. Thea October 9, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    My dad was the one who did all the school sick/doctor appt/event pick up because he has always worked closer to our schools than my mom. My sister and I were always with our dad on various outings.

    I can only imagine what people might think of the same thing today. Amazing how the world can change in 30 years. Amazing=sad.

  3. Coasterfreak October 9, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    This past week we had two reported attempts to abduct a child in my area. The first one involved a man in a black truck using candy to lure a 9 year old girl into his truck. He was persistent, but she refused and ran home and told her parents. The second one happened the very next day and involved a 30-40 year old Hispanic male asking a 10 year old girl to come over to him. When she refused, he grabbed her and she had to fight him off. She ran home and told her parents and within 24 hours a sketch was released that included details all the way down to him having a spiderweb tattoo on his elbow.

    Naturally, social media was in a tizzy about how dangerous the world is and how you should never let your child out of your sight ever for even one second!

    The problem? Both reports turned out to be false. Never happened. Neither of them. Is social media now all a-flutter with proclamations about how reassuring it is to know that these events were nothing more than children looking for attention? About how our world isn’t as scary as it seems after all?


    Instead, it is filled with warnings about how even though people are relieved that these things didn’t happen, they COULD have happened, so we all need to be extra vigilant in keeping an eye on our kids at all times and never letting them out of our sight, even for an instant.


    I have tried to counter these arguments with a level of sanity, but there’s only so much one guy can do when up against all the crazy people.

  4. marie October 9, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    We have de-normalized the idea of men interacting with kids except to kidnap and rape them. That’s perverted.


    There is a lust for excitement that can only be sated by imagining terrible events. That man is a pervert who wants to molest children! That woman is a terrible mother who cares nothing for safety! Lust is the right word, too. People do not look for the best in others; they want to find the worst. Gossips slaver over stories about child abuse (Isn’t it terrible? Well, no sh!t, sherlock) and they are disappointed if the story isn’t as bad as they thought it would be.

    Match that lust with the certainty that I am an exemplary parent and the iron-willed desire that everyone around me do things my way…add in legislatures who make more and more laws forbidding this and regulating that…along with law enforcement agencies that act on the idea that coming down hard on low-level crimes will prevent the bigger crimes…and a general dearth of treating others with compassion…

    …and we have people calling police to report men carrying weapons and waiting to molest children.

    No reason. No restraint. No thinking. Only feeling. And feeling provides more excitement than thinking.

  5. Ann in L.A. October 9, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    This is one of the saddest stories I’ve seen here.

  6. SKL October 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Yeah, remember when it was recognized that one of the most important indicators of a woman’s success was how much time her dad spent with her as a kid?

    My kids don’t have a dad, so I am always really happy when I see a man involved in their activities – whether it’s a coach, camp counselor, co-leader of their girly scout troop, whatever. I would like to think that most sane people do appreciate these men’s contributions to our kids’ lives.

  7. Steve October 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Does anyone remember the song: “Franklin Park Circle Hero?”

    The hero who did all the activities with the kids was a MAN.

    Here’s the song:


  8. MHM October 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Hmm, Sad that this was a true fact. But I wonder if he had worn a yellow vest with on the back “blind instructor W/ name of school” would have helped. I do find it sad the female teacher never had this problem. I also wonder if both male and female teacher were out together if there would have been calls.

    Marie, “Match that lust with the certainty that I am an exemplary parent and the iron-willed desire that everyone around me do things my way…” I totally understand this. My BIL/SIL recently got into it with us cause we are not following their way of parenting. Never mind our children are older and well different kids. Nope, we are the bad parents cause we believe in rules and boundaries and consequences when you don’t listen. For some reason they think we should implement their parenting style so we need to be taught how to interact with their kid. They even mentioned free-range as not something they were doing but had no idea what it was. SMH

  9. EricS October 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    @Coasterfreak: Social Media is one of the big reasons for people’s ignorance. More and more people are believing everything they read online. Never, ever using common sense to do research to see if it’s actually true. Lazy. And because of this ignorance and laziness, they share with like minded people, who in turn share with other like minded people. So now you have thousands of reposts about something that is half true or not at all. But if it’s online, “it must be true”. This is what we used to call “gossip” back in the day. Even though “gossip” back then entailed about someone’s wife cheating on her husband with the gardner, or the husband is an abusive alcoholic tied to the mafia, most people laughed these off as…well…idle “gossip”. Now, it’s the new “truth” in people’s minds.

    @Marie: One has to wonder about these busy bodies with these terrible things in their heads. I don’t think about men molesting my kid. I don’t think about people doing terrible things to children. And I’m sure many sane, logical, and commonsensical people don’t either. I’ve always said, perverted thoughts come from perverted minds. So who are the “perverts” then? These people don’t even stop to think about that. Less and less people stop to think about consequence of actions. Only thinking about themselves, and to assert their sanctimonious attitude on people. Makes themselves feel superior. Imo, deep down, this is the main reason for people’s “gossip”, to feel better about themselves, and to be praised for doing “the right thing”. Less to do with the children themselves. Extremely selfish, and self-absorbed. And Social Media makes it worse, because these people now have a place to “brag” and garner more attention.

  10. BL October 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    “We have de-normalized the idea of men interacting with kids except to kidnap and rape them.”

    … and then, in the next breath, complain about how women always get stuck taking care of the children.

  11. Paul October 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Situations like this are what I fear most for my child.

    I encourage my wife to get out and socialize with friends. When she goes out, I like to take my 3 year old son on outings. I don’t often see other fathers out with a baby/toddler at the store or zoo when we are out. I always worry some person is going to report me as some man walking around with a young child or even worse, a man with a screaming child, when he throws a fit after he doesn’t get his way with something. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I would respond to a police officer in that type of situation.

  12. marie October 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Makes themselves feel superior. Imo, deep down, this is the main reason for people’s “gossip”, to feel better about themselves, and to be praised for doing “the right thing”. Less to do with the children themselves. Extremely selfish, and self-absorbed. And Social Media makes it worse, because these people now have a place to “brag” and garner more attention.

    EricS, you and I must have the same FB newsfeed. 🙂

    Great point, that it less about the children and more about their own need for attention.

    Sidenote: Judging by my earlier comment, I need a preview of my comment before I hit Submit. Sheesh.

  13. Robert Monroe, Jr. October 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    When my children were younger they would hold my hand when I took them with me to run errands. I would always get strange looks from people, more often than not women, especially when I was with my daughter. Fortunately, the police were never called.

  14. delurking October 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    “We have de-normalized the idea of men interacting with kids except to kidnap and rape them. ”

    No, we really haven’t. Calls to police about men with children are becoming more frequent, but they certainly aren’t normal. Because my wife worked from our house many weekends, I spent years-worth of weekends out with my children, all day long. I have never had anything like this happen to me. I have never had anything like this happen to anyone I know. The only place I hear about stuff like this happening is on the internet.

    Claiming that society views this as abnormal grossly exaggerates the problem. The problem is that a tiny minority of people view it as abnormal, rather than a truly negligible minority. It will be easier to combat the problem if we don’t pretend it is something it is not. Heck, even in the story above, the guy went to malls and busy intersections. If even 0.1% of the people who saw him called the police, he would have been stopped multiple times per day, every day. I think that counts as a tiny minority.

  15. Beth Holmes October 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    So sad! My husband was a stay-at-home Dad and took my daughter to the park and elsewhere all the time. That was 1999-2002 or so. Tonight I’m going to ask him if this sort of thing ever happened to him. If it did he never mentioned it. I guess it really is different now — only 10-15 years later.

  16. pentamom October 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    delurking, critical mass can still be a pretty small percentage. That’s the problem. It’s become more frequent over the years to hear weird comments like “Why would a guy without kids want to volunteer coaching (or whatever) kids anyway if he’s normal?” Sure, it’s still the minority of people, but it’s common enough that when someone says that, the entire room doesn’t always freeze in shocked silence — it’s considered a non-insane way to think, even if most people still don’t buy it.

    It doesn’t have to be a lot of people to start affecting the culture.

    As for MHM’s comment “But I wonder if he had worn a yellow vest with on the back “blind instructor W/ name of school” would have helped” well I guess it would have cut down on the problems the man had, but there’s a big problem if it happens often enough (which I would consider more than twice over an entire career) that such a thing would even be considered worth doing, and especially if the problem is that a man gets that reaction and women never do. On the level of “how should my Dad’s school have coped with that,” it’s not an unreasonable thought. On the level of “if we need to do this for that reason, there is something seriously wrong with society,” it’s not a solution.

  17. Margaret Moon October 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    I would also like to remind folks of the much believed myth that “children never lie about these things.”
    ‘Nuff said??

  18. Puzzled October 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Coasterfreak: Another problem – both stories actually show (if they were true) that kids are not helpless and infirm.

  19. Puzzled October 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    By the way, the “babysitting your kids?” mentality led directly to the denormalization of men with kids. It’s social evolution, not some tremendous difference.

  20. Megan W, October 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    My partner has had the same experience working in the school with visually impaired kids on their mobility. The worst is that the suspicion has come from school personnel themselves. One time a male principal tried to report him to his supervising for taking a child off campus, with signed documentation of the parent’s permission. This irrational fear is harmful and causing serious detriment to our children.

  21. Ben October 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    @Paul: Don’t you have some form of ID for your child? If you can ID your child and prove you are his father, that’s a lot of problems immediately averted.

    Over here having ID is compulsory…

  22. Reziac October 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    A series of studies and papers on the unreliability of “eyewitness testimony” and how the imagination is easily led — which especially applies to suggestible kids:


    Now, think of someone questioning a kid, with a kid’s imagination and typical desire to please adults… and worst case, you wind up at the McMartin Preschool fiasco.


    I can foresee a day when all males are required to wear realtime tracking devices, lest they find themselves alone with a child, and then who knows what they’d do! cuz, ya know, male. Have none of these people experienced normal male protective instinct??

  23. common sense October 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    we all mourn the lack of male role models in children’s lives, but look what happens when they try, all the false accusations and rumors.

  24. BL October 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    “Over here having ID is compulsory…”

    Are your papers in order, citizen?

  25. no rest for the weary October 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    ID for a young child? That I’d be carrying around just in case a police officer questioned my relationship to my own kid?


  26. Cate October 9, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    I guess I am very lucky that our daughter is the miniature of my husband (red hair, freckles, blue eyes), as they have a daddy/daughter day once a month, plus he takes her to some of her appointment and walks home from school with her on days he gets out of work early. It would kill him to have the cops stop and question him about what he is doing out and about with his own daughter.

  27. JKP October 9, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    I’ve never taught the blind, but I would imagine that having him wear a yellow vest announcing that he’s an instructor for the blind wouldn’t work, because it would probably interfere with teaching the kids real world skills if the general public around them altered their behavior to “help” make things easier for the blind student.

  28. Ben Trafford October 9, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    When I take my son anywhere, I carry his ID with me. Why? Because unlike delurking, I have been stopped by “concerned citizens.” Multiple times. It’s only been once by police, thank goodness, but I’ve been stopped about twice a year since my son was born.

  29. Gina October 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    So hard to believe. My husband took our kids (3 boys, 2 girls) everywhere, changed diapers, kissed, hugged, etc…..never had a problem at all. They are 17-30, so this was in the 80’s and 90’s. Amazes me that times have changed so quickly.
    On the other hand, my 27 year old son is a preschool teacher. He has never had a problem with a parent, but I am constantly reminding him that he needs to be careful. He blows me off, but I am always worried that some little girl is going to say something that will be misconstrued. He’s an amazing teacher he is loved by staff, parents, kids and administrators…but he could lose everything if one crazy parent comes along.

  30. delurking October 9, 2014 at 9:04 pm #


    I think your description of the issue is spot-on. Few people buy it, but it is considered a non-insane way to think, which is a cultural shift. The way to combat it is to point out that, really, on the number that attitude is paranoid. It would require a different approach if it really were the case that society believed the normal goal of men interacting with kids was to kidnap and rape them.

  31. Coasterfreak October 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    @Gina – Your son would be doing himself a favor to heed your advice. That exact thing happened to a very well-liked young (maybe 30 year old) male teacher at my kids’ elementary school about 12 years ago. A 5th grade girl accused him of following her into the girls bathroom and molesting her.

    This supposedly happened during the day when there would have been scads of kids and teachers around, and the girl was a troubled child and a known liar. Not one other teacher or administrator at the school believed he was guilty. Nevertheless, charges were filed, court dates ensued, and eventually the teacher was found not guilty. That was a relief, but the damage was done and his career was ruined. He had to leave the area and we have never seen or heard from him since.

    Such a tragedy because this man was everybody’s favorite and he loved kids and truly loved being a teacher, and all it took was one child looking for attention to destroy his whole world.

  32. Rhode Island Mom October 9, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    @Gina – just curious what your son as a preschool teacher would have to do differently than a female teacher so he doesn’t give the wrong impression. I would love it if our preschool/elementary schools had more male teachers. They are few and far between around here.

    Also, I’m wondering if this skepticism about men being alone with children, in PUBLIC for god sake, is a regional thing. I see dads in the park or at the store alone with their children here in the Northeast and I’ve never seen someone questioned or heard moms in the park whispering about their motives.

    But i do agree that if someone where to talk about it not many people would think they were crazy.

  33. Gina October 10, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Rhode Island Mom: I was a preschool teacher for years and I was extremely “lovey” and hands on with all the kids. I think my son has to be careful about holding kids on his lap, helping them in the bathroom and just being affectionate. He doesn’t agree and for the most part, I think he’s right…but I always worry about that ONE parent who doesn’t get it. Once, when he subbed in my TWOS classroom with me, a mom with triplets told me that it was ok for him to change the little boy’s diaper, but if he changed the girls, I should never tell her husband. Can you believe that? But still, this was a rich and powerful family who could have done him a lot of damage if the dad ever asked one of the girls “Has Mr. X ever touched you near your vagina?”. If my son had changed a diaper, she would have (honestly) said “yes”.

  34. J.T. Wenting October 10, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    @Ben you should never have to show ID to random strangers to prove that you’re “allowed” to be with a child.

    And what about the father driving his son’s friends home after a birthday party of soccer match?
    He’s clearly not the father of those boys, his ID shows the wrong name.
    So he MUST according to your logic, that you need to be able to prove you’re a parent of a child you’re with at all times, be a child molester…

    See where that whole “just carry ID” leads?

  35. NicoleK October 10, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    I live in Switzerland. The paranoia is coming here, too.

    I gave birth yesterday and am hanging out in the hospital. Protocol is if I want to shower I need to send the kid to the nursery, or bring the bassinette into the bathroom.

    Because kidnappers.

    No, this has never actually happened around here.

  36. Bob October 10, 2014 at 3:13 am #

    that’s so sad.

  37. gap.runner October 10, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    That attitude is on military bases, at least it is at the one where I work. Every few months the base chapel puts out an announcement for “responsible females” to volunteer in the church nursery during services. Men need not apply even though I know many men who are more nurturing with kids than women.

    Being a bit of a rebel, I called one time and asked why only women could work in the nursery. The response was because of the possibility of having to change diapers. Most of the married men on base are fathers themselves and have changed a diaper or two. There is a big difference between cleaning a baby’s genital area during a diaper change and fondling that area. If there wasn’t, every father and mother would be considered a sex offender.

  38. Paul October 10, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Were it not for the fact that my two youngest children look like carbon copies of me (poor things) I would be much more concerned about this happening to me, particularly when I take the kids home from the playground and I use the shortcut through the woods near the house. Just waiting for the day some busybody calls me out for abducting the kids.

  39. anonymous October 10, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    It would be quite nice if we would stop, think, ask, and listen. Before we jump to conclusions, that is the poorest form of mental exercise. I am getting quite annoyed that we condemn without evidence to back up or claims. Though it reminds me of that poem of how an ax was lost, and the conclusions we make on what our eyes and mind see alone.

  40. Neil M. October 10, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    delurking said:

    “The problem is that a tiny minority of people view it as abnormal, rather than a truly negligible minority. It will be easier to combat the problem if we don’t pretend it is something it is not. Heck, even in the story above, the guy went to malls and busy intersections. If even 0.1% of the people who saw him called the police, he would have been stopped multiple times per day, every day. I think that counts as a tiny minority.”

    To me, it’s not about the number of people who make unfounded and ridiculous complaints; it’s how seriously those complaints are taken by authorities. If the police (or whomever) are empowered to dismiss complaints that are absurd, there’s no problem, but that is clearly not the case. These days, we live in a better-safe-than-sorry environment in which security personnel have a strong incentive to treat every report as equally credible, regardless of how dubious they seem. Given this, even a tiny but vocal minority can wreak havoc on the lives of many, simply by picking up a phone. Thus do we have parents pursued by CPS for letting a ten-year-old go to a playground by himself.

  41. Paul October 10, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    @Ben Over here having an ID is not compulsory. Except when voting but that causes my own problems for me since the Department of Safety clerk refused to put “Jr” on my ID card. In fact getting a State ID card for a child would require 4+ hours in line and multiple records to establish identity. It’s not something I feel we should require people to do.

    I would prefer a positive change in culture over this. To consider that a man being around kids is okay and not an immediate threat to their safety.

  42. Papilio October 10, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    If Ben is talking about the same ‘here’ as I, then it’s only compulsary for people of 14 and older, and police is only allowed to ask for it if they need to know your identity to do their job.

  43. JP Merzetti October 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Why is male interaction with kids not normal?
    I’ve known an awful lot of kids in my life who truly loved their daddies, uncles, grandpas, older cousins….
    and trust was the glue that held the whole package together.

    I recall one time, throwing a history book across a room in disgust. Tamerlane was not kind to kids.
    I recall thinking then, on the spot: boys and men need more, not less, experience nurturing and taking care of children – serving and protecting them…learning from the inside out what that’s all about. Perhaps then, this world would be a happier place for them. Everybody benefits.

    Yet small minds and over-active paranoias twist it all into gender-specific strait-jackets.
    I recall the stormy and stony stares while looking after little girls. Frost on my back while surrounded by giggle fits. Food fights and high energized passions. Innocence untouched.
    (But for all of that, hearts need clear eyes.)
    There are two genders in this world. Ironically, that’s where kids come from, in the first place.

    But how else are men to learn the trick?
    Hands-on experience. A man has a heart and a soul, like any other. It is not rocket science. But it is a very human thing. When a gender is a badge of honor, proudly worn, and not an automatic indictment, kids learn through natural process, rather than procsribed dogma. Pop culture has little to offer when filtered through narrow ideologies.
    When a man is defined only by the potential damage he might be capable of doing, our return on investment dwindles down to leftover coffee grounds.

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  45. Andrea October 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    First they came for them, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t one of them. Then they came for me.

    This is why it is so important to speak out against discrimination and prejudice. It affects all of us negatively, not just “them.”

  46. Papilio October 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    @Anonymous: Please return to reading Harry Potter, it sounds like you enjoy the books…

  47. Flurry October 10, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Call me dense, but I don’t understand how carrying ID proves that you’re the parent of the particular child you’re with. Is my state weird? My driver’s license doesn’t have my kids names or photos on it…..

  48. pentamom October 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Leaving aside the question of carrying ID and how ID would prove that’s his kid, why should someone have to prove he’s the father of the child he’s with to avoid arrest anyway? Aren’t men allowed to be with kids not their own? AT ALL? Under penalty of arrest?????

  49. everydayrose October 11, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    I’m curious to know what kind of ID some of you have for your children? My children have never had any sort of ID and have never needed it. And even if they did, their last name is different than mine so that wouldn’t prove anything. Really the only thing I have linking us is their birth certificates and no way am I going to carry those around with me everywhere. Is a birth certificate what you mean as ID?

    They’ve been flying with me and as unaccompanied minors for years and I’ve never once had anyone ask me for ID for them. I figure if the TSA doesn’t need it then why would anyone else be asking for it?

  50. Tiny Tim October 12, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    There just aren’t that many pedophiles. Yes they exist. Yes if you add “men who would sleep with <18 teenage girls" you'll get a much bigger list, but they aren't pedophiles.

  51. Papilio October 12, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    The whole ID thing makes little sense – if you really think you need to be able to proof that you’re a kid’s parent, carry a family photo.

    ID cards for kids are needed here when going on family vacation to *another country*, which is usually the case in Europe.
    Within the USA I can image there’s no point in having IDs for kids.

  52. Kevin October 13, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    Thank you for this story. This same thing happened to me and because I had tutored my neighbor’s daughter, I was made out by a nosey lady on the block that I was molesting her.

    Nothing to that nature ever occurred. Sick to think that we can be adults around children with out the “lynch mob” standing by. Thank you for putting this out there.

  53. Bob Davis October 13, 2014 at 5:01 am #

    On two separate occasions, I took my daughters to San Francisco, but since this was in 1970 and 73, I had no trouble. I can imagine a dad doing that today, and having to show the room clerk a notarized letter from the children’s mom that this journey was OK. On the first trip, we stayed at a hotel on Powell St. and I just about had to put harnesses on them to keep them from falling out the window while watching cable cars. Then I gave them a tour of the lower level of the cable car barn, where all the ponderous machinery that keeps the little cars moving was rumbling away. Egad! Industrial area! Child endangerment! What if one of the wire ropes came loose! Meanwhile their mom (first wife) was probably back home near the Pasadena area, enjoying peace and quiet. I also took them to LA Dodgers baseball games–now my older daughter takes ME out to the ball park.

  54. Ben Trafford October 13, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    To those asking about ID: Yes, I carry around my son’s birth certificate, as well as family photos. Like many here, I’m concerned about having things escalate, so I’ll carry whatever’s necessary to defuse a possible situation. Like most sane humans, I’d rather avoid dealing with police and social services. I’ve heard one too many horror stories.

  55. Puzzled October 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m split on ID. All else being equal, as was said above me, a sane person wishes to avoid the hassle of dealing with the police/CPS/etc. for no good reason. On the other hand, it seems to encourage, or at least fail to discourage, such behavior when the citizenry obligingly reach for their pockets when the demand “papers please!” is made. I just have the image which I can’t shake of cowering and cringing while searching for proof of innocence. Maybe that’s the way it is now and I should just accept it, but maybe it wouldn’t be that way if we didn’t act as if it were ok.

    Perhaps more importantly, though, is the message sent to the children. We are role models every second and every small action sends a message about the right way to interact with authority. Do we want to tell our children it’s ok that strangers demand proof that our existence is justified? Do we want to tell them to give in to unjust actions? If not, well, then why would we do it?

    At the same time, yesterday I was pulled over because I forgot to renew my registration, and I didn’t have insurance ID card with me. Should I have renewed it? Well, in context, sure – but registration is just a money-making racket, so my failure to do so wasn’t a moral failing, just an organizational one. The ID card – I got it in the mail, stuck it in my pocket with the intent of putting it in the car, then that day got called to a fire and ended up throwing it away since it was soaked after 8 hours working at a fire scene. Should I have printed a new one? Sure. But in any event, the end result was having my car towed.

    I could have pointed out that I work absurd hours at low pay, yet spend 10 hours a week volunteering, plus hold elective office, and just didn’t have time to get this stuff done (it doesn’t help that the DMV is closed half the week.) I could have pointed out that registration is a racket, and that the taxpayers are wasted absurd amounts of money paying this guy to sit in a parking lot and nab people for a victimless crime. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Instead, I was polite, thanked him for giving me time to look for my card, etc. I regret doing that, to some extent. I look back and feel like I was that cringing person licking the boots of unjust authority. But I also act like that because, 1, I have things to do, and 2, when dealing with people who carry guns and have been using them pretty often lately, I tend not to fight. I don’t know if that makes me soft, or a tool of tyranny. I don’t know what message it sent to Eli, either, when I asked him to stop calling the cop an asshole (at least I didn’t say he was just doing his job…)

  56. Donna October 13, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Puzzled – I am appalled by the notion of demanding that law-abiding citizens must stop and provide ID.

    But I am equally bothered by your story. Being an a-hole to cops and making their jobs more difficult when you are clearly in the wrong is equally repugnant to me. Like it or not, registering your car is the law. If you don’t like the law, the proper response is to try to change the law, not to be an a-hole to the people whose job it is to call you on your failure to follow the law.

    Standing up to authority that is overreaching and violating rights is admirable and a good role model for children. Mouthing off to authority when you are completely in the wrong is just being a jerk and a horrible role model for children. You don’t seem to understand the difference.

  57. Puzzled October 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Well, I’m not sure why it would be bothersome that I did what you’d advise, but have wondered if I did it exactly right or not.

    But, to be clear, those authority figures work for me, and decided to tow my car over what they knew was a paperwork issue. Roads are paid for with gas taxes, and I consider it illegitimate to require an annual fee for the use of something my taxes already pay for. So, in reality, yes, I consider the very requirement of registration to be overreaching. I would agree that the individual cop who spent his day parked in a parking lot scanning cars for registration status did not write the law, but he did accept a job enforcing overreaching and wrong-headed laws. I’m not sure what discretion he has in whether he’ll spend the day collecting a salary while engaged in this particular work. I am sure that “doing my job” doesn’t really answer any questions, though.

    If a law as written violates rights, then so does its enforcement; they can’t be completely separated. Taking a job doesn’t remove us from moral agency. It’s a pretty well-paid job, paid out of taxes, so I’m not convinced that making it harder is a terrible thing. It was also my understanding that the job of police is to enforce public order and protect the public generally, not necessarily to call out every administrative misstep.

    I don’t think the insurance requirement is rights-violating, but I do think it’s overkill to insist on a specific card when the car is insured and the requirement has been met. In addition, this particular instance was only noticed (by both of us, actually) because of a stop I do consider invasive and wrong. If a law is wrong, morally wrong, then its violation by omission is not morally defensible grounds for a stop, or to begin an interaction at all. As a matter of public policy, even with such a law in place, it is an abhorrent waste of taxpayer money to have an officer looking for its violation. The law is simply money-farming and serves no legitimate purpose.

    In any case, I’m unsure what’s bothersome when I actually did exactly what you advise, and then wondered later if I was right or not. I think it’s a good practice to consider after all major encounters if we behaved properly and what messages we sent. Is it bothersome that I lack your certainty?

    I would add that there are many ways to change laws. Bad laws can’t stand without police willing to enforce them, without juries willing to convict, without popular support, and so on. Every small action contributes in one way or another to the culture at large. Every time I cringingly accept a violation of my rights, it does contribute to a culture where people do not stand up for their rights. Every time the job of enforcing an illegitimate law is made more difficult, it increases the likelihood that the person who finds it so difficult might spend their time in other, more productive ways.

    Faced with the same scenario again, what would I do? Probably the same thing I did. I still say I have the right to think through whether it was the right or wrong response, and exactly why. Even if I agree with your conclusions, I cannot accept your reasoning.

    For what it’s worth, yes, I do understand the difference, even if I may disagree in a particular instance where the difference lies. I also believe that the act of ‘doing your job’ can be wrong if the job is wrong, and is not a defense against annoyance.

  58. Puzzled October 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    Thinking again, perhaps I chose the wrong example. If we go back to IDs, though, I think the point stands – the value of presenting ID when asked (whether by police or, as might be the case with some of the instances discussed here, by a non-police citizen who will call the police if not placated) is that you go about your day with less annoyance. The value of carrying your child’s birth certificate is the same. The drawback is that it promotes the idea that this sort of thing is ok, that guilty until proven innocent is ok (worse – that it’s ok for certain subsegments of the population, such as active dads) and it misses a chance to take a stand.

    Taking a stand, though, takes time – time most of us would rather spend doing things we like. I don’t have a good answer to that dilemma. I’m not saying that to be dismissive either – I don’t think it’s incumbent on us to take a stand instead of, say, going to the zoo. But I worry about the cumulative effect of all of us doing rational things, and I worry about the effect on the generation that witnesses it without having known anything different.

    It’s not like I’m averse to taking stands. I’ve left jobs because of philosophical issues, without a clear plan as to where I’m going. I’ve run for office numerous times and lost all but once, expending a lot of my money and effort in the process. I am all about taking a stand. But if you stop me on my way to the zoo (well, we wouldn’t go to the zoo, but whatever) I’m probably going to be as polite as I can and try to get on with my day.

  59. Donna October 13, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    Puzzled –

    Unless you are the dictator, you absolutely are going to disagree with some of the laws of your country. That does not actually make those laws invalid towards you. Taking that disagreement out on people who are validly and respectfully enforcing properly passed laws – and who have no more ability than you to change those laws – is childish.

  60. Puzzled October 14, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    They have no more ability to change the laws than I do, true. They do have the ability to not enforce those laws. Laws do not have effect because Congress will bust in your door – it’s because of their hired muscle. I don’t think it’s particularly respectful to seize the property of your employers, as an aside.

    But, on your point – it depends on the reason for the disagreement. As Aquinas said, an unjust law is no law at all. Law rests on the foundation of ethics and justice. A law which violates those foundations is invalid, unenforceable, and no valid claim on a right to initiate force.

  61. Christine October 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    This whole idea of male predators everywhere is disgusting and scary. My daughter’s Girl Scout troop is going on a field trip to a farm this weekend and one of the moms asked if it was okay if her husband came because she was unable to. The troop leader said all was fine and men could even be official volunteers as long as they completed the same background check we all have to do (which is another story). She said dads could even come camping as long as they slept in their own tent-completely alone. A dad (with a full background check) is allowed to lead songs, help make dinner, and build a campfire but per GS policy he is not allowed to share a tent with anyone even his own daughter. As if he would attempt to molest his own child surrounded by other people with only a few sheets of nylon between them. {Sigh} What I thought was a fairly progressive organization has succumbed to the hysteria just like the rest of society.