civil rights, my ass

Market + Noe. 3pm.

Came out of Peet’s after grabbing a coffee to get me through the afternoon when I passed by a young woman pulling what is best described as a small freakish creature on a leash. The latter of the two – the elfen one – was skittering around in the dirt beneath one of the trees along the sidewalk.

It was a mostly hairless dog in a busy checkered sweater with tufts of fur sticking out around its head and paws. It looked like a miniature runt freak that must have been left in the litter cage, lost among the shredded newspaper and towels, after the rest of the puppies – the better looking ones – had been adopted. It squatted down to take a dump by the tree, which was right in front of the natural foods store. Its mommy, a young blonde haired woman who is probably fairly fun to have around at parties (hide the good tequila, though), cheered him on: “Do your business, baby :-) ”

I took a glance at the little runt, who’d squatted down low on his haunches and straightened his right leg all the way out parallel with the sidewalk, in what I swear was a nearly perfect yoga shoulder press known as Bhujapidasana.

Awed by the little rat’s blend of yogic flexibility and strength, the scene made me want to do a photo expose – a series of diptychs in which the left side is a photo of a dog or some other animal in a beautiful, asymmetrical asana, and on the right side is a photo of a yogi in a similar pose. It’s probably been done before, but regardless it struck me as an entertaining concept. Though I admitted to myself that it might be difficult to capture random shots of dogs in yogic positions. One could hang out in Duboce Park with a telephoto lens, or -.

Certainly there were better ways to spend one’s time.

Interestingly, all of this contemplation took place in an instant. In that instant I was confronted by the choice of whether I should lift my cell phone and quickly and adroitly open the camera app and snap a shot of this four-legged marvel in trailer plaid, or whether I should play the unperverted passerby and let the dog do its business in peace.

As I pondered whether to snap a shot, I was led to the question: would I be violating the dog’s civil rights in doing so? Furthermore: do dogs even have civil rights? The answer, of course, is no, they do not. They have doggie rights that bestow upon their owners certain obligations, but dogs are not citizens in the socratic sense, therefore they have no civil rights. Then, in due course of inquiry I had to ask myself: what about the owner? Would I be violating her civil rights by taking a picture of her dog taking a crap? Again, of course not. She chooses to parade her hairless little squirrel along a busy urban sidewalk and therefore has relinquished her animal’s ‘rights’ to unmolested toiletry.

Now, then, she herself could squat down by a tree and take a dump and she’d be legitimate picture fodder. That’s public domain, I say: she’d relinquish her rights to personal privacy the moment she began to defecate in public. Naturally, I doubt that the gentle folk eating their sprout sandwiches on the rustic wooden benches in front of the store would have been thrilled to see that particular scenario play out in front of them.

In any event, in that moment of decision, I decided not to to take a picture. It’s all well and good to verbalize certain odd proclivities, but once a camera becomes involved you’ve crossed a line.


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