In a world where we have all become professionals at photography, carrying our cameras with us all the time, because they are built into our phone, the selfie picture has become the norm in society. We use every version of facial expression from a smile, to a pout, to a look of shock, to a look of anger…real or faked. We use no smile, a toothy grin, or a soft closed-mouth smile, or we might even pucker up, or stick out our tongue. The idea of the unusual or even ridiculous smile is as commonplace as is picture taking itself.
It wasn’t always so, however. When we look at pictures from the early days of photography, the people almost always appear straight-faced, and almost angry. Many people theorized that they didn’t smile because they had bad teeth. It was all too common prior to the days of modern dentistry. As it turns that wasn’t the case, since there were plenty of individuals who had fabulous teeth, yet still kept their mouths shut during pictures. Not to mention, humans can smile without showing their teeth. Another theory was that that because the cameras of old took time to set up and had a long exposure period, anywhere from five minutes to more than 30. It was impractical to hold a smile so long. While that idea does make sense, it doesn’t explain why subjects were rarely depicted smiling in old paintings or why people didn’t start showing their pearly whites in the 1840s when exposure times for photos were under a minute. While these issues might have prevented some from smiling, the major reason for the serious looks was because most people thought smiling made them look ridiculous. Ultimately, the real reason folks didn’t smile was because they thought it made them look stupid. Many people don’t think they have a great smile. They think their smile makes them look goofy, and they didn’t want that to be how they were remembered. Mark Twain summed it up best when he said, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”
These days, that thought is ridiculous. People smiled and laughed in those days, so how could it make them look ridiculous? I find it funny that in different eras, different things are cool or not cool, or even ridiculous. It would seem that each generation has their own uniqueness, and often the prior generation things they are crazy…as do the future generations. According to Nicholas Jeeves, who wrote an extensive article on the topic, by the 17th century “it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment.” These days, we smile in photos to show happiness or warmth, but back then it was viewed as the equivalent of duckface…a look no self-respecting Victorian would want recorded. As photography advanced and became more common, folks didn’t have to choose a single expression to serve as their memorial for the ages, which opened them up to showing a range of expressions in photos. Still, we can only imagine what the people of the past would think of the hundreds of thousands of pics that are now taken every minute, complete with our foolish smirks, photobombs, and even goofy filtered selfies.
A few days ago, I wrote about the United States Constitution, and how it was ratified by Massachusetts, with the condition that it be amended to include some rights that they felt were very important. On this day, September 25, 1789, those amendments were created. The first ten became the Bill Of Rights. These amendments would not be ratified until December 15, 1791. These days, there is some confusion and some complete ignorance as to the meaning of some of these rights…especially the first amendment. I can’t count the number of times that I have heard that according to the constitution, we are to have separation of church and state. That could not be further from the truth, and in fact would be an impossibility. The very idea that a person who holds political office could separate his or her religious values from their voting on matters concerning laws of the land is insane, and it is not what our forefathers meant when the Bill of Rights was created. The first amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” All the first amendment…the part concerning religion, anyway…means is that Congress in not allowed to make a law saying that the United States is going to be one certain religion. England had such a law, and that was one of the main reasons the pilgrims left there.
Religion has been in the news a lot lately, and there have been many arguments about it. Which brings me to the next part of the first amendment “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” People don’t have to agree with my views on religion, but they are prohibited from telling me that I cannot express my religious views in speech, or on the internet. There are a lot of people telling other people that they have no right to talk or post about their religion, but they are completely wrong. We have every right to do so. Contrary to what some people might think, these rights are not negotiable…they are absolute. I can’t tell others not to talk about their religion, and they can’t tell me not to. It is the law.
As to “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”, we may not always agree with what people say, and sometimes it isn’t nice, but they have a right to speak. They have a right to give their opinion, whether others like it or not. By the same token, we have the right not to like what is said, and thereby we can decide not to like the person. That is our choice. The same applies to the press. That is the main reason why so many people just don’t believe a word some rag newspapers print. They can say what they want…true or not.
There are so many other violations of the Bill of Rights, that it would take a book to list them all, but I would really encourage everyone to get a copy of the Bill Of Rights, and find out for yourself exactly what is written there. Every time we allow our rights to be trampled on, we lose a little bit of the rights that we were intended to have through the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. The longer those violations are allowed to go on, the more people think that they understand their rights, when they really don’t, and so they end up giving their rights away. Our Constitution and the Bill Of Rights, and indeed, all the amendments to the Constitution, are so important to each and every one of us, and we need to know what is there, so that when some branch of the government steps on those rights, and someone speaks out about it, we don’t find ourselves on the wrong side of the issue. It really isn’t about whether or not we agree with the issue, but whether or not it is legal, because if the government will take away one right illegally, they will also take away another right illegally, and someday, they will get to one that affects you…but by then, it may be too late to stop an already runaway government.