Security v. Freedom: America’s next choice

“Let me be one of many to welcome you for another semester here at USF. Now, if you will kindly step into one of the three lines to my left, we will check your identification cards and you can be on your way.”

I don’t mean to sound terribly 1984-ish but if certain crazy people had their way, a return to our humble and exemplary institute of higher learning would probably go something like that.

That is, of course, if the idea of national identification cards comes to pass. The quirky thing is that while there are people on both sides of the aisle, from socialists to libertarians, who oppose the idea, it still will probably gain headway in the months and years to come.

Why? Because people are scared. They don’t want to be faced with the idea that, one day while shopping at International Plaza or bidding adieu to friends or family at Tampa International Airport they might be blown up or shot.

So, when the idea of national identification cards was first presented a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks, a surprisingly high percentage of Americans were willing to forgo their individual freedoms and liberties for some form of national card. The idea, while losing some steam as more and more of the rubble of the attacks is hauled from our memories, is still a frighteningly real and possible end.

I am against the idea of a national identification card and not just because it is a gross infringement of individual freedom and liberty.

I am against them because they are about as dumb as the famous (and dubious) Star Wars project of the 1980s; the idea simply cannot work.

How are you going to catalogue 300 million people? That is quite a database to build. Political pundits who have supported the idea of “the Card” have provided no meaningful suggestions to solve such an organizational nightmare.

But logistical solutions won’t work because the idea itself would never work. How are you going to get an entire nation to acquire, let alone carry, around such a card? Perhaps you could offer them some freebies as incentive. Something like, “Sign up for the Card and get your copy of ‘American Idol: The First Season’ on VHS or DVD.”

The fact is, if I am a terrorist out to blow things up, I am going to do everything in my power to avoid getting the Card. Or, if there was no other option, I would make damn sure I got a good forgery. Forging ID cards is a crime about as old as pick- pocketing, probably because it’s so easy to do.

And to say that forging them would be impossible, as “they” would inevitably do, is dancing with absurdity. When he came out with his new album, Eminem said it would be uncopiable; I believe that statement was true for about as long as it took some guy wherever to get home and burn it on his computer.

National identification cards won’t work, because there would be no way to regulate them. They would simply be a way for the government to keep tabs on people who they suspect of crimes. If such a thing ever passed, we might have to change the title of “president” to the more appropriate title of “Big Brother.”

Joe Roma is a junior majoring in political science.