I Had To Take A Stand: The Power of No


I had a “Cameron Frye” moment the other day.

Here’s what I’m talking about, for those of you too young to have seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Earlier this week, I walked into a subway station in New York City and saw this sign which I’ve probably seen hundreds of times.

Photo by Wayan Vota
Photo by Wayan Vota: http://www.flickr.com/people/dcmetroblogger/

I have consented to these searches before, despite the fact that it offends my libertarian sensibilities to require to be search before entering public transportation. I have consented to searches by private entities when going to various sports arenas (which, by the way, are not covered by the 4th Amendment) What can you do? It’s part of the cost of living in the “big city,” right?

On that day, an NYPD officer politely walked up to me and said “Excuse me, sir, but please place your bag on the table for inspection.”

I didn’t have anything of note in my bag. I certainly did not have anything illegal. I had some papers, a phone charger, my iPad, and other assorted personal items.

Well, on that fateful day earlier this week, I said “No.”

I pointed to the sign which said that I do not have to consent to such a search, and said “No, thank you.” The officer, who was a model of professionalism, told me to have a good day. I wished the officer the same. I turned around and left the subway station. I arranged for other transportation to my ultimate destination that day.

So what did I prove? Probably nothing. Maybe it was meaningless and stupid.

But I felt that I had to take a stand.

Yes, these searches conducted at random by the NYPD have been determined to be constitutional. Nobody is forced to be searched. You can refuse, but you are not permitted to go into the subway if you refuse.

Maybe I over-reacted. It delayed me that day, perhaps for no good reason.

I had to take a stand.

Will I affect some massive policy change with my small act of defiance? No. Frankly, the police are just doing their job. They are trying to prevent sick bastards from attacking innocents on the subway. Like I said, the NYPD was perfectly polite to me.

But I had to take a stand.

I said “no” to what I felt was an invasive search with no basis. Every day, we hear about the depths of government surveillance. The NSA is spying on us when we play Angry Birds. Other government agencies are mining for our data constantly. I am fed up.

You see, I had to take a stand.

Too often, we are conditioned to not question authority. Of course, the vast majority of government officials on all levels are good people, just trying to do their job. But eventually, at some point, I had a moment where I would not consent to what I think is a violation of my rights. The policies are wrong. The lawmakers are wrong. The enforcement is wrong. But nothing changes. Every day, we have more and more violations of our privacy. It doesn’t stop.

I needed to take a stand.

“Mike, do you want unsafe subways?”

Of course not. I just think there are better, less intrusive ways to achieve the same goals that we all have–a safe city and a safe America.

I took a stand. I said no.