Guest Commentary by Brian Trent
There’s a lesson in the Aesopian tale of the man who wanted to cook a frog. When he tossed the amphibian into a pot of boiling water, it leapt out to safety. The thwarted cook then changed tactics. He placed the frog in cold water… and slowly brought up the heat.
In much the same way, American freedom is slowly being cooked away. When I was growing up, “Papers, please!” was once the bark of Communist soldiers patrolling state lines. It’s set now to become an American staple. Slipped insidiously into an $81 billion bill for “supporting troops” and “tsunami relief” was a tiny law – The Real ID Act of 2005 – which creates a de facto National ID card for Americans and requires it to be in place by 2008 (the Feds are now “allowing” an extension through 2009 for States that request it). Every driver’s license will be required to include “physical security features” and “a common machine readable technology.” The cultists who support this National ID card say that it’s all voluntary.
And it is. You can refuse to comply, in which case you won’t be able to open a bank account, enter a federal building, ride a plane or train, etc. Yes, quite voluntary. A nice card, containing all sorts of sensitive information about you, which can be scanned everywhere you go.
“This is almost a frontal assault on the freedoms of America when they require us to carry a national ID to monitor where we are,” railed Missouri state Representative James Guest, a Republican. “This does nothing to stop terrorism.”
One of only eight Republicans to oppose the measure, Representative Ron Paul of Texas added, “Supporters claim it is not a national ID because it is voluntary. However, any state that opts out will automatically make nonpersons out of its citizens.”
Today we face a thriving identity-theft market. National ID will be like adding chum to a sea of sharks; a veritable African diamond war for the digital age. Everyone’s value will be melted down to cold equations which will be stolen, which will be seen by people who have no business seeing it, and which will make it very hard to get your life back when this happens to you.
Let’s forget the cost to the states, which has been estimated at more than $14 billion. The ID card will, making use of RFID technology already discussed in another essay of mine, be able to show where you are at all times. Information ranging from mailing address to DNA can be encoded into this little spy.
Supporters of the card say it will help prevent terrorism. Not only do they fail at giving real examples of how this card can magically do this, they completely turn tail from the scores of problems – and yes, security problems – that this card will create.
For starters: The National ID card will eventually be forged. To whom do you protest when this happens? Roughly 20 percent of identity papers, cards, and documents are lost each year; what do you do when your digital self is misplaced? How do we hold the government, FBI, NSA, and president accountable for how they use this information? What magic firewall or force-field will be put into place to prevent hacking? And oh yeah… what happens when the database crashes?
Having all this information available on a database will result in a Golden Age for identity-theft, surveillance, and blackmail. It will make our lives less secure. And there’s something very suspicious in putting a system in place under the guise of “protecting us from terrorists” when all that system really does is staple a lab-tag onto American citizens.
Fortunately, a real civil war is heating up over this — though to what extent that protest will go remains to be seen. The current presidency is notoriously in support of gigantic government (yet another symptom of how the alleged “conservative party” has devolved like political Morlocks.)
Maine was the first state to rebel, passing a resolution to outright refuse implementation of the Real ID Act. Following this trailblazing defiance came Idaho, and a recent storm of protest from Arizona, Hawaii, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. For anyone keeping score, this is a coalition of states not often seen on the same side of an issue.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Historically, Americans have rejected any effort at mandating a National ID card. Sneaking this into law was the coward’s way of circumventing public debate; slipping it under our skin might be next. Or perhaps we’ll have a nice tattoo on our right hands and foreheads? Citizen John Valjean, 24601!
The debate will heat up in the next few months. Exactly how hot it’ll get is up to us.
The Aesopian frog, meanwhile, is cooking.
Brian Trent [send him email] is a professional essayist, screenwriter, and novelist; he is the author of “Remembering Hypatia” and the forthcoming “Never Grow Old: the Novel of Gilgamesh.” Brian is a contributor to American Chronicle and The Humanist Magazine. Visit his website at www.rememberinghypatia.com.