Friday, September 28, 2007

National security or personal insecurity

Yesterday I was in the check-out line at a local KMart. Just ahead of me was a man with his purchase ready to be rung up. He requested also a pack of cigarettes.

"Can I see your ID?," the female clerk asked the customer.

His face expressed utter disbelief. "That's the law," she quickly fired back.

The customer looked at me. I looked at him. He looked at her. She went over to the locked cabinet to fill the customer's request.

To me, the man didn't look like he was trying to pull something past the vigilant clerk. He was trying to sneak a thrill like some underage teenager, hoping that a couple of isolated peach fuzz would get him noticed that he has reached the age of maturity, that he could make an adult purchase and sneak out the store without detection.

As the man reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet to heed her request, still surprised that he was being carded, softly said, "I'm 72 years old."

Seventy-two years old?

A member of Our Greatest Generation: He lived through the Great Depression. He survived World War II, perhaps even served in it. He endured years of Jim Crowism and other such indignities a Black man of his age surely faced.

He have earned the right to live the rest of his days without such hassles. This man should be able to buy whatever he wants without having to prove his age. And he can't even buy a pack of smokes without showing some form of ID!

Has this country's national security craze reached such a low that a senior citizen can't be trusted to buy cigarettes without being questioned. Does he pose some sort of national threat?

This heightened my fear big time. Could this be a prelude to what I and every citizen, regardless of age, must deal with if Congress do pass a national ID law. You won't be able to vote, travel -- even buy a pack of smokes, without showing two forms of identification. It will give law enforcement types more power to stop us at any time, claiming national security, to check for not one, but two IDs.

A drivers license currently is an acceptable form of ID. But what if you don't drive? If a second photo ID is needed, what will be the cost?

I'm afraid it will cost us a whole lot more than money. It will tax our personal freedom in ways George Orwell never dreamed of. Big Brother will become King Kong. It will be 21st Century Checkpoint Charlie. Another personal infringement opportunity sadly added.

Personally I don't care to smoke, never had. But this 72-year-old has earned his right to do whatever he wish. It's still legal to buy cigarettes, but when did the law changed that seniors must be carded as teenagers and others born after 1982, the year the man moved into his late middle age years.

The senior didn't argue with the clerk, who brought him his smokes of choice. He quietly put away his drivers license and paid for his purchase. He left away without anything else to say.

I had hoped to catch him but when I got outside, but the 72-year-old man was gone, perhaps to get that drink: I earlier joked with him, suggesting that he may want to keep his ID out when he hit the bars later. He briefly smiled, but I could sense the disbelief on his well-worn face was still there, a face that had seen it all until now.

I wouldn't blame him one bit if the man did go and drown away the memory of this nonsense.

For the record, the clerk didn't ask me for any identification on my purchase of candy for a second-grade class, and a four-pack of orange cream soda for myself. I had prepared myself for such request -- after all, I am at least 20 years younger than the previous customer she carded.

It didn't happened, but I'm afraid soon it will.

I don't know what color it is this week on the national security alert meter, but my personal insecurity is at high.

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