Wednesday, May 11, 2005

And they said it would never happen here...

Over the years, Americans have gotten into a lot of arguments with foreigners about so-called freedoms. We have historically criticized any country that restricted the freedoms of its population - from the obvious lack of freedoms in the totalitarian states (Soviet Union, ex-Zaire, North Korea, Syria, etc.) to the less hostile but still intrusive threats to freedom in the "quasi-socialist" states (think Europe). The most popular critique of the latter group was the fact that the police could ask to see your carte d'identite anytime so you had to carry it with you at all times. "What rubbish!" said we.

Well, we're about to eat our words. In legislation passed yesterday the senate approved spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (yes, by the way, there's still a war going on in Afghanistan). Attached to this bill, which already passed in the House, is a little rider calling for the establishment within three years of a national identity card which the federal government mandates and the states have to provide. It will most likely be a modified version of the driver's license, but one with much more information stored on it and, if the Department of Homeland Security gets its way, a radio reader device so that simple proximity to a scan machine will allow your information to be read/shared. This Orwellian technology is no longer just an idea, it's becoming a reality. And to add insult to injury, the Supreme Court decided last year that it was not a violation of a person's civil rights for the police to ask a law-abiding citizen for identification. And to think this is happening under a Republican administration! What will we tell the children?

The best response that I've heard to criticism of id cards is the oft-repeated, "You just don't understand the situation in the US right now." Right, because the rest of the world hasn't been dealing with terrorism for decades already. Do we have a monopoly on pain and suffering? We certainly seem to on fear. I guess you can file this under F for FEAR, just like the bogus missile defense shield that's supposedly going to protect us from those North Korean missiles.

Freedom or fear? How about freedom from fear?


At 10:35, Blogger Uma said...

Apt, very apt comments.


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