Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bye-bye, MMG.

For a long time, the most popular feature of this blog has been the "Monday Morning Gabriel" series, wherein I post pictures of my son, Gabriel.

This was not only out of familial pride, though I am certainly a proud papa. There is also some aesthetic value -- he's a lovely child, really: a blonde-haired and blue-eyed boy with a soulful face that often reminds me of the putti from the art of the rinascimento. (Art that I love and find a great comfort, to which I return constantly, and now I can look at this boy and see that beauty everywhere he steps.)

One image I love was taken when he was a year old, in our backyard garden, turning his upper body around to look through the distance over the photographer's head in a beautiful pose. He is wearing a Led Zeppelin onesie and jeans. His body is long and lithe. It's a timeless, beautiful picture -- the more so for its spontaneity.

Another is a picture that almost looks like a posed portrait. My son is on one knee, grasping the neck of a ukulele in one hand, head tilted, very much a putto in pajamas, just gorgeous and innocent.

There have also been photos of him partly clothed or unclothed. I have practiced my best judgment in the selection of these images and there has not been any controversy before today. However, my son is now two years old, and a new concern has emerged.

This morning I posted a picture and it occasioned a rather anguished battle at the Burning House. One member of my family raised the specter of kiddie porn prosecutions. (A woman, I am told, was arrested in Boston for photographing her kid in the tub. How old? What kind of picture? Who knows. It almost doesn't matter when our country has become so sick and neurotic. It doesn't need to make sense. Welcome to Salem.)

Another member of my family envisions predators hunting us down somehow.

I emerge from this -- let's call it "spirited debate" as they say in Washington -- feeling embattled, bruised, and unjustly set upon. However unwilling I am to cooperate with this ethos of fear and repression -- in a land where attorneys general cover up classical statues that show bare breasts -- I also care about my wife and do not wish to cause her pain or anxiety.

So that picture is coming down.

There is, however, a painful consequence. (For me, anyway. Maybe nobody else cares.)

We could be having this discussion about most of the pictures I have posted. Once we start toying with the possibilities, once we start imagining what could set off the hypothetical pedophiliac manhunter, we could start to question even the fully clothed pictures.

As for the concern about legal or political repercussions -- one family member mentioned my teaching career -- this anguished enquiry widens even further. Might someone see a picture of me in Buddhist robes and start complaining to my school district? What about that glass of wine I am holding in one of my Facebook pictures? True, Facebook has privacy controls -- but those have been the subject of controversy as well. Nothing is really private on the internet.

The door has been opened. Things are different now.

And personally, I'm not willing to hash this out repeatedly. If this is about caution, then I will exercise caution by removing all images of our son from this blog, as well as pictures of our home. If this about being cautious, then let's be cautious.

This awful darkness that is inexorably shrouding our country, where we must look over our shoulder and watch what we say, what we write, what we look on as beautiful, and even what we think, has touched this blog and it will not be the same.

But I hope you'll keep visiting, keep reading, and comment freely.


Adam said...

I went through the same thing when posting pics of my infant/toddler son on photobucket. Some of the best pics from the 4-8 month age were of him in the tub. It's when we could elict the biggest smiles. But then upon going to post them, it was like... "okay, does the splashing water cover up his privates? no? probably shouldn't include it..".

And you're right, it is all part of the culture of fear we've created here in this country (can't speak for other countries either way) which I believe leads to more crime and more instances of abuse toward others.

But given the climate of the times, how do you not exercise caution? I see many, many posts on this subject alone.

I understand and support your position, mostly because I've done the same, even though on a pure philosophical basis I don't agree with it.

Kelly said...

I'll miss the photos of Gabriel. He really is a lovely child. Although you pulled the post, I was still able to see the photo in my dashboard preview. Cute.

As a parent, I have to admit I can understand the concerns some have. We still like to think we have some semblance of privacy in our lives on the internet.

Lorianne said...

I worry whenever bloggers post pictures of their kids. There are just too many weirdos out there, and given that your Zen Group meets in your house, it's easy enough for some weirdo to figure out where you live. So I can definitely understand your wife's fears, because I'd share them if I were her.

I saw the picture you posted this morning, and it troubled me for these reasons, although I'd never meddle in your business to mention it unless you introduced the topic, as you now have. Obviously I know YOU see the photo as innocent...because it is. But to some weirdo trolling around for pictures...well, if that were my son, I wouldn't want that picture falling into the proverbial "wrong hands."

For all the innocent eyes like mine who have enjoyed MMG over the years, there might be some eyes that aren't so innocent. And even one encounter with such a creep is too much.

Algernon said...

Actually, our address is not on the Zen Group website -- neither the current nor the upcoming location. I screen folks before inviting them here. But that doesn't matter.

And so we dutifully play these acquiescent chords, and consent to lose MMG.

For an illusory sense of security (that never lasts, by the way) we are willing to give up many important and beautiful things. The loss to the world of pictures of my kid is little. Sadly, there are much larger poverties, far greater deprivations, because of our obeisance to vapid taboos and mandated fears of terrorists, pedophiles, communists, zombies, and axe murderers (to say nothing of zombies wielding axes).

I'm looking over my shoulder along with the rest of you, but to tell you the truth, I'm finding less worth looking at in any direction.

Kyle Lovett said...

Ah, I'll miss the MMG! And the facebook privacy is a bit scary these days.

Algernon said...

That's okay, Kyle. Out with the old, in with the new. I'm brainstorming a new Monday feature inspired by this incident.

Nathan said...

sad that you and your family have to be concerned about the photos, but it's better to err on the safe side.

Algernon said...

Ah, but safe from what, in fact?

No image that has appeared on this blog would ever need to be repressed in a truly free society.

DeeAnne said...

It was a gorgeous picture.

Sad to know we live in a time where a gorgeous picture of a beautiful child is fodder for some people's sick fantasies.

I shall miss the MMG...

DeeAnne said...

and.... I agree on the school thing. How many people were flipping out on the article about you? It is crazy the lengths some people will go to in order to keep things they don't like from happening even when they don't understand them.

Too many people feel the only way to be is the way THEY are and everyone else is wrong and evil...


Algernon said...

As far as we know, they weren't fodder for anybody's fantasies. We are responding, here, to instilled fears, imagined terrors, to neurotic phantoms. My acquiescence to this censorship, frankly, sickens me.

DeeAnne said...

ahhhh, I understand now.

I misunderstood. This is a whole different issue.