At around 6:00 this evening, I walked under Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, and I was treated to the following sight:
The main thing to notice is the brightly displayed sign in the back. Because I have a terrible phone-camera, you can’t make out what it says, but you should be able to tell that it is one of those warning signs that they have on the highways to inform motorists of important information. For example, the sign could explain that there is an accident ahead and that drivers need to be cautious. It could say that, but it doesn’t. In general, such signs are only used for a single thing and that was the case this evening:
That’s right: the sign was alerting us to the fact that some child had been kidnapped and it really pisses me off. “Why?” you ask. “Isn’t it important for people to be on the look-out for children who are kidnapped?” Yes and no. Yes, real kidnapping is a serious business that we should all work to stop. But this is never the case with these alerts. When Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped, there were several witnesses. It should surprise no one, however, that none of these witnesses had the ability to not only take note of the color, make, and model of the car, but also to read (And remember!) the complete license plate number. If these signs alerted us to such abductions, I would have no problem with them—but they never do.
What the signs do alert us to should be clear enough by the accuracy of the information provided. This “kidnapped” child was not only in a silver Toyota Corrolla, it was in one registered in the State of California with a license number XABC123! It certainly sounds as if whoever witnessed this kidnapping was quite the trained observer. But, of course, we know this isn’t the case. Most likely, there was no witness at all. The child was simply “kidnapped” by one of its parents—the one who doesn’t have legal custody of the child. That’s why we know exactly what car the child is in.
These signs that could be very useful to motorists in saving time and decreasing the risk of accidents, are used almost entirely to police custody battles that are part of contentious divorce proceedings. I am not suggesting that when a parent resorts to kidnapping his or her own child, it isn’t very upsetting for the child. I’m also not suggesting that some of these cases aren’t very serious. But these alerts only serve to distract drivers without making anyone safer. In almost all cases, the situation will resolve itself within days or even hours. Meanwhile, we move ever closer to a police state—making the idea that policing your fellow citizens is the way things ought to be—over the most minor of problems.
What is next?