Thursday, December 20, 2007

Showing Identification

There's been quite a bit of consternation about the fact that the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, site of next June's GA, is in a Homeland Security Security Zone (vulnerable port, oil tanks etc. etc.) Everyone entering has to show ID.

Well, that's a bummer. It will be a constant reminder of all the unpleasant changes that have been a part of our lives in the past 7 years and (since no one imagines that terrorists can't get Government Issued ID) will, no doubt remind us of vulnerabilities we'd prefer to ignore. Some people are talking and writing as if it's the step before Concentration Camps, worth boycotting, protesting, and loosing large amounts of money to stand up for democracy.

That's the part that really bugs me. As one who pulls out her ID with every check, every airplane, every Credit Transaction (I sign my credit cards, "Please Check ID") I just don't equate ID checks with Fascism.

It is true that ID checks can be abused. If a government record was being kept of ID's checked, so that a list of people attending GA could be created (not that I doubt that it could be easily created in other ways), that would trouble me. If the ID's were being checked in ways that violated the civil rights of the young, the dark-skinned, or the scruffy, that would trouble me. Every time a layer of enforcement is added to a society opportunities are created to violate the rights of citizens...sometimes because of nefarious government policy, more often because human beings deal so poorly with power. Every local cop has the ability to violate Civil Rights in just the ways we are worrying about, and nobody is talking about observing them! But as I've watched the airport situation develop over 6 years, I have to say that I've been hugely impressed with how much attention has been paid to rights, to cultural sensitivity, and to training people who have a lot of power to use it well. As one who travels with a sometimes scruffy teenager who has looked like he could be over 18 for several years now, I can say that I think we ought to give governments some credit here. We are not the only people in the world who understand privilege and oppression.

The UUA has been assured that ID's will be only checked, not recorded, that everyone will be dealt with courteously, that they welcome observers of this process. One of the conventions they had lately was a Muslem group, and that apparently passed without incident, so I'm not actually very worried about our sometimes scruffy and defiant teens, or our persons of color; something they are actually pretty used to in South Florida.

It is true that those illegal aliens who have not been able to obtain Government Issued ID will not be able to attend our worship services, but I'm having a hard time getting very excited about this. I'm all for putting our force behind a sensible, enforceable immigration policy, but to say as some are saying that we simply can not have a worship service that not everyone can attend makes no sense at all. There are so many people who, for so many reasons can't attend our worship services, week after week, and we do so little about it that in my opinion, it would be the worst kind of hypocrisy to draw our line in the sand about ID checks.

I am still left with the bummer, about how the world has changed, about how much we actually have lost, about the huge expense of dealing with the world as it is today, but that's a post for another day!


Anonymous said...

Hi Christine :)

I've just become aware of this situation and found the idea that people are "outraged" and planning to boycott quite baffling. I decided to search the web to see what people have been saying. I enjoyed your post on the subject and find your thoughts to be quite reasonable.

I understand the idea of accesibility for accesibility's sake, I do, but I really have to wonder, just how many undocumented immigrants are really likely to attend GA or the Sunday service?

And if a person truly cannnot afford the nominal fee necessary to obtain a government ID card, how could they possibly afford the travel costs, registration fees, and lodging and meal costs necessary to attend GA?

I suppose there could theoretically be an ID-less Ft. Lauderdale resident who might see our billboards or banners and try to attend the Sunday service and be turned away. Anything is possible. But it seems rather unlikely to me.

Anyways, you had no comments, so I thought I would leave one. ;)

Madeline Althoff
San Jose, CA

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I really wonder how I managed to misspell accessibility two times in a row...!