One of the first things I had to do when I lived abroad was register for a national ID card. I’ve lived in several different parts of Europe and they all required a national ID card for me to open a bank account, when I paid large sums via credit card or when I needed to officially identify myself.
But in the U.S. there has never been such a thing. It has, in the past, been considered unconstitutional. One standard national ID with a bar code that can be scanned to show that you are indeed you, has, in the past, been something people have harshly criticized.
But the truth is, we are all but there, except for the fact that we haven’t managed to find a way to actually issue a national ID card.
Last week I found out I had an old bank account that needed closing out. I went to get the money out, and I took my passport. I live in a big city and let my driver’s license lapse years ago because I don’t own a car and never drive. The teller refused to accept my passport as a form of ID, even though it gets me in and out of the U.S. as a citizen, and said they only accept driver’s licenses. In the end I jumped through hoops to get the info for internet banking, but it is absurd that in person, with a passport, I couldn’t prove myself.
The same thing is true with the new Arizona immigration laws. They mean that pretty much every American is required to have ID to prove who they are at all times. If they do not, they will be imprisoned until they can demonstrate who they are. Fine for people that have a driver’s license, but if you do not, you must have your passport or birth certificate with you at all times. And it is questionable if these forms of ID will do, because a birth certificate doesn’t have a photo.
Now with the new voting laws, requiring a strong form of ID, again you need to have a driver’s license or passport. If you are someone who doesn’t get out much, doesn’t travel, or drive, you are pretty much disenfranchised.
If the U.S. decides it is going to go the hardline and require everyone to ID themselves to take part in society then it is about time they start issuing national ID cards so that everyone can easily get a card to identify themselves.
Or, better yet, they go back to touting the idea that one of the great things about our free country is that we don’t have national IDs, because we should have the right to be free from national surveillance if we choose to, and still allow us to vote and not be thrown in jail for walking down the street without papers.