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The Security Of Common Sense


LET ME SEE YOUR PAPERS by Ed Anger

I’m madder than a porcupine stuck in a thorn bush over the fact that, these days, you can’t get on a plane without a driver’s license or passport.

Yeah, yeah, I know all about security. But I also know that sometimes I feel like I’m living in Nazi Germany and I don’t like it. Folks, we cannot — must not — allow “Let me see your papers” to become an increasingly bigger part of our lives.

To begin with, what if you don’t drive or don’t travel internationally and you want to hop on a plane to see your ailing mom in another state? What do you do if you don’t have those official documents they’re demanding? You’re pretty screwed. And never mind getting on a plane. In many states, you can’t even use your own credit card to buy a ticket (or anything else) without a driver’s license. Even at my own bank, my social security card’s no longer good enough to prove that I’m me.

And guess what: all of these IDs can be easily forged by the bad guys. So what’s the point?

The answer: peace of mind. But is it real peace or delusional? You know where I stand.

Obviously, no American wants another national disaster, of any magnitude. But this ‘prove-you’re-you’ scenario is also a disaster. We have surrendered freedom for the (non)sense of security under the theory that everyone should get hassled so we don’t miss the one guy who deserves it. Those in charge have begun acting without civil restraint of any kind — f’rinstance, if a passenger has a ‘bad attitude’ he or she can be chucked off a plane. Like bees in a hive, security services (let’s call them ‘SS’) are laboring under the assumption that everyone’s a potential terrorist or crook. Hey, with the kind of brutalization we suffer from everyone in a position of even minor power — not to mention delays and cancellations — it’s no wonder we all have bad airport attitudes!

And while heightened security is supposedly for our own good, what are these Gestapo-like tactics really accomplishing? They’re telling the felons what not to do, directing them to try other means of access, use other forms of attack, find new methods of stealing your identity.

You can’t bring scissors onto a plane. OK. But are they checking for plastic credit cards, one end of which has been sharpened to razor-efficiency? No. They’re thinking of arming pilots. Great! Now the terrorists know exactly where the guns are. They’re making us show IDs to buy CDs with credit cards, but what are those seventeen-year-old checkout clerks doing to ensure that the driver’s license is real?

Nothing. They’re doing nothing. So what’s the point?

The solution is to know your neighbor, your client, your public. Not personally, but in the context of an open society. If something isn’t right, we know it. In retrospect, the people who have sold plane or bus tickets to bombers have always said, “Something wasn’t right about that guy.”

That’s the security we need. The security of community and common sense.

There’s no going back to the way things were, but we need to hang on to our lives, our rights and our Constitution. That’s the document that ensures we are all innocent until proven guilty. (Yes, that includes the folks who are being held in Guantanamo. Otherwise, a prison camp becomes more and more like a concentration camp.) If we fail to take a few steps back toward sanity, we will find ourselves increasingly terrorized not from the outside, but from the inside.