Who hasn’t seen a war movie in which a prisoner refuses to divulge any information other than his “name, rank and serial number”, as prescribed by the Geneva Convention?  But nowadays most of us are obliged to offer far more by way of identification.  Consider the following examples:

  • Once a highway patrolman pulls you over, you know what to expect.  Your license, registration and insurance forms better be available.  Otherwise be prepared for a flurry of tickets.  You’ll pay even more if your vehicle inspection sticker has lapsed.
  • Before a doctor, lab or hospital ER will “see you”, you’d best have your health insurance cards in hand.  Otherwise you may be denied admission, and experience long waits or be obliged to pay dearly for the services.
  • Don’t have a boarding pass to present at the airport gate?  Until you do you won’t be getting on the plane, or into that country without a passport.
  • Until you show school authorities paperwork confirming that your child has been vaccinated he or she is likely to be kept out of the classroom.
  • Try entering many commercial or government buildings.  You won’t get far until you’ve been photographed and are wearing a badge displaying your name and picture.
  • Unless they can produce a school ID, or have a key, students and faculty will be denied entrance to many college facilities.
  • Applying for a job?  You’ll probably be asked to bring along a copy of your diploma to the interview.
  • In an ever increasing number of states, those intending to vote will be required to first show a valid photo ID.
  • Purchasing a pack of cigarettes or ordering a drink at the bar?  You’ll need proof of age (whether valid or bogus) before you will be served.
  • Your credit card must first be “swiped” before the hotel or motel desk clerk will hand you the room key.
  • And what may be the oldest form of personal identification – a library card.   You’ll not be taking out any books without one (but don’t forget your regular ID or household electric bill in order to obtain that library card!

The list goes on.  But what does it mean – that we’re expected to carry around a lot more cards and documents proving our identity, eligibility and compliance with ”official” requirements?  Our society has doubtless become more complicated, fearful and vulnerable, and, as a consequence insists upon greater controls, “proof” and a closer scrutiny of individuals.  DO NOT TRUST – VERIFY.  The message is unmistakable.

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