Monday, March 7, 2011
Swords and Civil Liberties
This afternoon at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, I was up at my local park practicing the use of my replica-quality medieval broadsword when I was stopped by a local police officer and told that I must put the sword away because it represents a potential threat. The officer was reasonably polite in making his request, but when questioned about the legality of using the sword in the park, he responded that it was a legal “grey area” and that if someone should “feel threatened” by what I was doing that it would create a “shit storm” for me. He even seemed to allude to issues related to national security when he noted that people these days are “jittery” about things like this.
While I appreciate his concern, it seems to me that the objection was premised completely upon the symbolic value of swords. The blade is blunted and is capable of inflicting no more harm than a golf club or baseball bat (both of which I have seen at the park). However, because the sword is an object that represents violence symbolically, it is not allowed. Another thing that bothers me about this situation is the idea that it is sufficient for something to seem “threatening” to some single individual for it to be banned. Last year at this same park, I witnessed two individuals who appeared to be affiliated with a hate group (complete with the image of a burning cross on the side of their truck) angrily discussing politics. Could it not be said that they represent a threat? Yet no one would dare challenge the right of someone to have a swastika tattoo or to paint an image on their truck.
What is your explanation for what happened and how do you think I should respond?