It’s just an ordinary thing—renewing your driver’s license. I remember waltzing in (actually, one never waltzes into the DMV, “trudging” is more accurate) to the DMV to get my new license. Apart from the federally mandated several-hours wait, it wasn’t too bad. You finally get to the counter, they snap your photo, laminate it, you pay, and you leave. You’ve wasted a good part of the day, but you can legally continue to drive. Then September 11 happened. Fake IDs were deemed a national security threat. You had to prove who you are before you could get that renewed license. Never mind that for the rest of the days during those past four years nobody gave a fig who you were, for this day of your life you have to prove it.
Now we’re taking it a step further with REAL ID. Forget your past, fake news ID. Now you really have to prove it. Mostly by bringing in documents that are all electronic now. Your gas or electric bill? Uh, don’t look while I type in my password. My phone counts every step I take and knows exactly where they were taken. It wants my fingerprints to even open. Doesn’t this prove I’m me? Can’t I just show you I can open my phone? Besides, I know no one else who wants to be me, but now I’ve got to bring a stack of paperwork in (and some of it could easily be faked online by people who know far more about computers than me), stand in that endless line, to have my nation rest secure at night that I actually am who my driver’s license says I am. Of course, we self-reflective types often wonder who we really are anyway. Don’t they read my blog? Given the strictures I have to sign into my own work laptop, I can only conclude that the internet has made us extremely insecure.
My issue is more philosophical. Who am I? An editor? A writer? An ex-professor? A husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and cousin? A pacifist? A vegan? A critical thinker? I suppose it depends on who you talk to (and that’s presuming anyone wants to talk to someone else about me). When I walk out with my shiny new driver’s license I guess that will all be resolved. Of course, you need to take the word of the bored-looking woman behind the counter who will cursorily examine my paperwork, knowing that there are approximately 5,280 other people she’ll see today, cataloging and certifying each one. Does she really know who I am? Does that magic box in front of her face have the answer to my question? They hand me a plastic card. Who am I? A potential driver with proven ID.