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05/12/2005 Archived Entry: "Stay angry about Real ID"

STAY ANGRY. If I could tell people one thing about the Real ID Act, that would be it: Stay angry. Stay very, very angry.

I'm amazed at the calm in the aftermath of Senate passage of this Stalinist monstrosity. And I don't just mean I'm amazed at the mainstream media's lack of clue. I mean that civil libertarians and other commentators on "our side" are largely treating the Real ID Act as just one more bad development in an era in which bad developments have become routine.

This is so often how it is: The federal government does something horrible, unconscionable, freedom-raping. We all get angry about it for a few days or a week. We blog. We expend our best italics, exclamation points!!!!!, and CAPITALS.

Then a week or two later, the government does something equally horrible. We adjust to the old horror, rant about the new, and whatever we were so indignant about before becomes old news -- part of the background noise of an increasingly tyrannical (but somehow always endurable) nation.

The Real ID Act is not just one more ugly development. The Real ID Act imposes a national ID card. (And don't argue that different states will have different card cosmetics; and don't use phrases like "sets the stage for." This is national ID.) This is not just another bad development. This is a defining moment.

Please keep that in your head and heart: This is a defining moment. When Bush signs that thing, which could be as early as today, the American experiment in freedom will be over. No pretense any more. An America with a national ID card is not America. If the Real ID Act isn't overturned, America is gone.

Now, I'm aware that our drivers licenses have effectively functioned as national ID cards since the late 1990s. Heck, I even wrote a book about that, and if you haven't read it, now might be the time. The moment SSNs became linked with drivers licenses was a bad moment, and if you've given an SSN to obtain the "privilege" of driving, you've alread submitted to the federalization of ID. Most of us have already consented to allow our federal human-inventory number (SSN) to become our permission slip for everything from gettting a job to going to the doctor to opening a bank account to boarding an airplane.

So perhaps Real ID looks like just one more incremental change. (It could be argued that the moment our grandparents let the state control their right to travel was a bad moment, too; I won't disagree. Damn, people were so naive and trusting of government then -- as most are now, long after they should know better.)

But the Real ID act takes the gloves off -- and brings out the brass knuckles -- even while its promoters smile and assure us they're still making nice. It gives control of driving -- and data -- to the Homeland "Achtung!" Security Department. Go ahead and consider it another incremental change, if you wish. But if so, please consider it incremental in the same way that the final straw on the camel's back is incremental. National ID is here. In May 2008, America -- which has been headed that way for a long time -- becomes a nation of serfs and subjects.

And rebels. Please, please, let it also become a nation of angry, determined, adamant rebels.

Do not let this become yesterday's news. Do not learn to live with this. However painful it is, stay angry. And stay angry enough to resist.

Posted by Claire @ 09:09 AM CST

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