Ohio Patriot Act

OK, for this to work, you have to summon a stern, Teutonic Colonel Klink voice. For those of you too young to remember Hogan’s Heroes, just conjure your best Nazi SS officer impersonation from those old World War II movies.

Got it? Good. Now — with feeling — I want you to bark these words:
“HALT! You vill show me your papers.”

Oh, very good. I can practically see the swastika on your arm.

Get used to that phrase. If Gov. Bob Taft follows the will of the Ohio General Assembly and signs Senate Bill 9, which is now on his desk, you might be hearing those words any time you traverse a “transportation infrastructure site,” meaning an airport, train station, bus terminal or — at the rate we keep handing our civil liberties over to Big Brother — when you pull out of your garage.

Just kidding about that last bit, of course; a touch of hyperbole. After all, before they start checking your ID in the driveway, they’ll first want to mount cameras at red lights and such.


Sorry, had to drive my Inner Libertarian back into his cave. I was getting a visual of the guv in jodhpurs, brown shirt, armband and jackboots. Got to stop reading those American Civil Liberties Union press releases.

And release they did:

“Despite mounting pressure from the public,” the ACLU email said, the Legislature passed Dayton Sen. Jeff Jacobson’s “much amended” Ohio Patriot Act, which would give the police the right to check your bona fides before you could enter an airport terminal — let alone board a plane — or whenever the cops suspect that you either committed a crime or witnessed a crime or just looked suspicious.

“It’s fundamentally at odds with whom we are as a people that we have to carry our papers and show them routinely,” said Jeff Gamso, the ACLU’s legal director.

You might think the General Assembly was in virtual lockstep on this since it passed out of the Senate on a vote of 29-2, but the bill gives even some Republicans a case of the vapors.

Supporters, like Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, argue that “the police need to manage these sites when there is a credible terrorism threat.”

But Rep. Ron Hood of Ashville worries about that. “I do not want to see these Gestapo tactics get even a foothold in the United States of America, much less the state of Ohio,” he says.

Hmmm. We’ve got conservative Republicans like Hood and the ACLU on the same page. What does this tell us? Maybe that civil liberties aren’t the exclusive province of the left or the right?

Besides all that, if you can’t keep the president’s daughters from flashing fake IDs to knock back margaritas in Austin, what makes Jeff Jacobson think showing a driver’s license in Vandalia will stop the next Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

Perhaps at birth every Buckeyeborn child should be tattooed � preferably in a visible place, say the forehead � with a unique number and an image distinctly Ohioan, say, a flying pig taken straight from the Cincinnati street art collection. That way we won’t have to fumble for our papers every time we’re challenged by the ATF, the FBI, the CIA, the TSA, the NSA, the DIA or whichever three-letter acronym accosts us.

This technology is not beyond our reach. After all, the fundamentals were mastered decades ago. In places like Auschwitz, Dachau and the like.

(Yes, I know, the president of Iran said this week the Holocaust was a myth, but you know what, I think he could be wrong.)

Or maybe the governor should, to quote a former first lady, just say no.

We live in scary times. We want to feel safe. But we need to remember that liberty entails an element of risk. Downtown Moscow, which I visited many years ago, used to be crime-free. There was a soldier on every street corner with an AK-47. It discouraged muggers big time. But it didn’t eliminate fear. Instead of criminals, the people were terrified of their own government.

We don’t want to go there. This is a slippery slope we should not descend. Taft should veto this bill.

Copyright, 2005, Jeffrey C. Bruce. All rights reserved.

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