Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Are Who?

Occasionally the debate pops up about whether or not the US should require identity cards that everyone would be required to carry at all times. So far it has remained just that: an occasional debate. But the idea behind the debate is not as evil as some people make it out to be.

There already is in place, in some areas of our lives, the requirement to show proper identification. In many cases that ID is a valid, current drivers licence. In other cases it is a valid, current passport. In the school where I teach, no one gets into the building unless they show a current college ID card. If you aren't a student or member of the faculty you have to have a valid drivers licence and have to sign in. Absent those items you aren't getting into the building. And you would be surprised just how many times a student has forgotten to take his/her ID along or doesn't have a drivers licence.

There are many situations where an absence of identification could cause real problems. In the past few years here in our community there were three occasions where someone collapsed on the street. In two cases the people who collapsed were walking to shul on Shabbos/yom tov and had zero identification on them. In the third case the person was out midweek for a "health" walk and was far from his home, again without identification on him. Fortunately for the men in the first two situations, they were found by someone who recognized them as being members of the same shul and could immediately find someone to identify them. In the third case the people who found the man noticed the kipah and, while they didn't know the man personally, did know that someone who was also kipah-wearing lived on the block. They got that person to come out and yes, it turns out that that kipah wearer knew who the person was, and could notify the family. And what if that person had been female instead of male? Would identification have been made quite so easily?

The Willowbrook community, while fairly large and spread out, is still insular enough that people in the neighborhood would be likely to either know someone who was injured or know where to immediately go to find someone who could identify the person. But what about in Brooklyn? The sheer number of people living in Brooklyn would preclude that kind of easy identification. And on a Shabbos or yom tov people walk all over the general area and beyond, not necessarily attending a shul close by to where they live. There are hundreds of people, thousands of people on the streets in Brooklyn on any given Shabbos, and none of them have any identification on them.

Even being inside a shul doesn't mean that you could be immediately identified. We've all heard/read of people in a shul sort of recognizing a lot of the faces in the shul but not knowing those "face's" names or where they live. And if you should just happen to pop into a shul where you've never davened before to catch a mincha or maariv?

Do your children ride bicycles? A fair number of them do. And do those kids have any sort of identification on them? Likely not. bicycle accidents and bike/car accidents are a common occurrence. Absent any ID, how would you be notified if your child was injured or needed help? One suggestion I've heard is that all bicycles should have a clearly visible name and address tag permanently attached to the bike--not a bad idea, but only if you actually go ahead and put that tag on the bike.

We in Klal might want to give some thought to what could be done on a Shabbos about identification, particularly in areas that don't have an eruv. Even in large areas with an eruv we need to consider ID. Sorry, but having Asher ben Dovid embroidered on a talis bag just won't do it. And women won't have even that form of ID on them. It's not that I'm wishing any accidents to befall members of Klal, but by definition an accident is unexpected, and lots of them happen on Shabbos or yom tov. Lots of them happen outside on the street. And yes, in some unfortunate cases, being able to identify someone immediately could make the difference between life and death. Any ideas?


sima said...

You are right that it is a good idea to carry some ID at all times. However, the beauty of this country's policy of not requiring it is something I do not wish to change. We should carry it, but I don't want it to become compulsory.

Allen said...

I also would not like to see compulsory ID carrying but I see where it could be life saving. Maybe in communities with an eruv you could have some organization print up Shabbos cards that have space for name and address and that can be slipped into a pants pocket for the men. Not sure what you could do for the women or in places without an eruv.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how having/not having i.d. can be the difference between life and death. Even when someone has i.d. in an emergency no responder waits until a relative has been contacted to begin treatment. Besides, what if the relative isn't around or doesn't know the person's medical history? If there is something an emergency responder needs to know about you, there are medical dog tags and bracelets you can wear, such as those identifying diabetics.

Anonymous said...

I really don't like the idea of people having to have i.d. on them just to be on the street or a private home or business. It's far different from having to have a license to be behind a wheel or needing an i.d. to enter a building where there are security concerns, such as a school or office building.

The potential -- and indeed likelihood -- of abuse and harassment of people based on skin color or accent under i.d. laws doesn't justify any potential benefit.

emt responder said...

Anon, unless a situation with a minor is clearly life threatening where we must take action (obvious bleeding out for instance) we aren't allowed to do so until a parent or guardian is notified and gives permission to treat or take to a hospital. Even when the minor is conscious they can't give that permission themselves.

In times of trauma children and even some adults can be conscious but confused enough not to be able to give us their names or addresses or phone numbers. We also had one little boy he refused to give us his name becauwse his parents had told him over and over not to talk to strangers. For sure if a child has a medical condition like diabetes or a severe allergy then ID should be worn at all times giving this info. But most kids and adults are not in this case. If your kids travel around your neighborhood and in other neighborhoods without you then it's common sense for them to have some form of ID on them.

Anonymous said...

emt: Your concern can be addressed by having kids and adults wear dog tag id's, although I still don't see how its a life or death issue since emergency treatment is allowed. The issue is that a dog tag is not what the proof of citizenship people want. They want you to have original, official papers on you at all times.

BTW - this is a good reason for kids to have cell phones with their parents work and home numbers programmed in.

Anonymous said...

Millions of dog owners have had tiny microchips installed under their pet's skin. The chip can be read by a scanner to provide the i.d. and owner info, which can be updated on the data base if the owner moves, etc. I don't see why this system can't be adapted for humans and all police, ambulances, hospitals, have a hand-held scanner that can scan the chip and get the i.d. info wirelessly. The data base could also be programmed to add key medical history. For everyone worried about not carrying a wallet or purse on Shabbat, go to your local vet and get a chip implanted.

JS said...

Would someone care to explain what's so bad about a national ID system? We already have a default system of licenses and social security numbers. What's the big deal about centralizing that into one system?

In a given day I rotate between 3 different ID's - license, job ID, and school ID. ID is just a fact of life. You're fooling yourself, in my opinion, if you think not having a national ID makes you safer or more secure or more private.

Besides, think of the cost saving of having a unified system at the governmental level for all benefits, taxes, census, etc.

Rae said...

Unless I really missed something this wasn't about whether we need a national identification card or not, and it wasn't about the possible abuses that could come about. Almost all adults carry some form of identification on them during the week--drivers licences, school ID cards, work ID cards and the like. Social security numbers are routinely given out and they are a form of identification. The government already has you listed in a whole lot of places.

But on Shabbos we don't carry any ID and in an emergency it would not be possible to contact who needed to be contacted or notified if we were not able to give the information ourselves. And little kids who are out of the house during the week don't carry ID with them routinely. Colleges may require ID cards but elementary schools don't so the kids don't have them. They're too young for drivers licences. If a kid on a bike gets hit by a car how are you going to know who the kid is? The idea of having a cell phone with a home number programmed in is fine maybe for older teens. But what do you do with an 8 year old if the parents--like me--don't believe they need to have a cell phone at that age?

I suppose that if parents are required to label clothes for camp with the camper's name we could always get clothing labels made up with a name and contact phone number on them, but you'd have to make it well known to emergency personnel that they would need to check for such a label.