From gang symbols and rebellious teenage statements, to doodles and elaborate artwork, graffiti is everywhere. Just as varied as the content, are the reactions to it ... blight on humanity, sign of declining neighborhoods, defacement of property, art, socio-political statement, any combination of those.

Police Everywhere Justice Nowhere is in a tunnel by Fort de Bellecroix. I thought it a fitting description of our post-9/11 world. Governments have taken our freedoms and privacy under the guise of security. But we are no safer than before, although considerably more impinged upon, inconveniences paid for by our taxes.

This green guy looks more innocuous than the statements above, and is one of a series painted on the flower boxes on a bridge over the Digue de la Pucelle here in Metz. They seem to be sanctioned by the city, since all the boxes seem to have been painted by the same person.

Not graffiti, but I saw this display in someone's yard as I was walking down the street. I find this still life of children's toys and garden gnomes odd, creepy and fascinating. Did an adult set these up, or did a child create his or her own little world?

I often wonder how others feel about expressions, sanctioned or taboo. In a recent blog entry, Zaz discusses her dilemma with Freedom of Expression. As a writer, self expression is important for her, but as a mother, she found it impossible to defend a rapper who had been banned from a music festival for lyrics that were racist, misogynistic, and violent.

On the other hand, another friend of mine, who is a father, told me he is against censure because it gives more power to the target group. To wit, I believe that the rapper in question had a surge in downloads of his work since that date.

I am not a parent. Nor does my livelihood depend on artistic expression. But I am a member of an ethnic group that has faced socio-political discrimination. I am inclined to agree that censure tends to grant power to the target, and often forces the movement underground, where it is more difficult to track. In this respect, I would much rather have someone's feelings out in the open.

I had a student who was a self-described racist, due to growing up in a small town with limited exposure to many ethnic groups, and prison time, where racist tendencies are reinforced due to the way inmates group themselves. After her release, she forced herself to deal with her issues, and did that very much out in the open. I spent many evenings after class discussing her progress with her. I appreciated her candor and efforts to overcome her issues. It was important that she express how she felt and why, no matter how ugly those feelings were, in order to work through them. Interestingly, I was disappointed by other peoples' reactions when I described her and her efforts. People I had thought were open-minded were quick to condemn her, completely overlooking her background and the fact that she was working hard to evolve her way of thinking. I did not see the same efforts from them.

I would love to hear how others feel about the freedom of expression, artistic, social, political or otherwise. My door is always open.

Tthis is my final weekend in Metz for most likely a long time. There are so many things I still want to see and experience here, but I am out of time on this run. And as luck would have it, I'm fighting off a cold and feeling a little run-down, so I stayed relatively close to the apartment and packed a few items this weekend, rather than go anywhere interesting.