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Editorial: Losing our identity

Freedom, Janis Joplin once sang, is just another word for nothing left to lose. It sure seems like we are testing that premise a lot these days.

Two of the main “freedoms” currently being debated revolve somewhat curiously around proving our identity. If we show up to vote, can we be forced to show a photo ID. If we want to ride on a plane or walk into a crowded public space, can we be forced to show proof of vaccination. In a shockingly unshocking development, Republicans and Democrats do not see eye to eye on these issues.

Let us begin with voter ID laws. The logic behind requiring voters to prove their identity seems almost too obvious. In this country, one person gets one vote. Therefore voters should have to prove which person they are. To the vast majority of people living in this country, and particularly people who live around here, a photo ID is a ubiquitous part of life.

The argument against requiring voters to show proof of their identity is that people who lack proper identification are more likely to be low income, ethnic minorities, elderly or disabled.

Therefore, the argument goes, voter ID is discriminatory.

Let’s start by being honest about what is really going on here. Neither side is making a stand on principle here, this is about votes. Requiring IDs helps Republicans, not requiring IDs helps Democrats. Now that we have taken a deep breath and cleared the air about the real issue, let’s go ahead and solve the problem.

The solution, it seems to us, is as follows. Rather than making it easier for people to not have an ID, let’s make it easier for all Americans to get one. This seems like a no brainer. According to the ACLU, around 11% of U.S. citizens, or 21 million people, do not have a photo ID.

Photo IDs are useful in any number of ways, which is why 89% of us have one. The main reasons to not have an ID are cost and access. That seems imminently solvable, even simple.

Getting IDs to those 21 million Americans will increase their quality of life and solve the concern over potential voter fraud.

Vaccine passports are pretty simple as well. Their utility is obvious, but so are their flaws. There is (almost) no chance that the federal government will mandate any kind of proof of vaccination. Republican governors who are outlawing vaccine passport laws are doing so mostly for show. Vaccine passports represent sanctioned discrimination on the basis of individual health. They are the slipperiest of slippery slopes, the most Machiavellian of all Machiavellian concepts. The absolute last thing we need right now is a digitally enhanced method to cause more division.

As a country, we have become expert at fixating on issues that force us to pick sides. The issue of our identity, however, is fundamental. You should have to prove that you are a citizen of these great United States. Any barriers to every single person in this country being able to achieve that basic act must be removed. Then we must ensure that none of those rightful citizens are discriminated against on the basis of their health.

We should stand and say with pride that we are the lawful citizens of the United States and we believe that freedom is an awful lot to lose.

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