Sunday, November 4, 2007

DOA The presumption of innocence

DOA The Presumption of Innocence

While standing at the checker’s window at the local Federal Credit Union, to cash a check from a friend, I received some bad news. A very dear friend to all of us has passed away. You may not have even realized that you had this friend, but one day soon you to will awaken to your loss.

I am talking about the death of the presumption of innocence. As far back as any of us can remember we have all heard that when accused of a crime the brilliance of the American Legal system had provided us with a protector. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Now this may never have seemed relevant to you, since you probably never planned a bank heist, or stole a car, or (no matter how tempting it may be) barbecued your neighbor’s cat and fed it to them unawares, but beware this kind of thinking it applies to you too!

Here is what I discovered. In order for me, a non-member of this union in which I stood, my state issued driver’s license would not be sufficient, oh no, they then asked me for my social security number. Now for many of you this all seems a little reminiscent of Mel Gibson as the lunatic cab driver in “Conspiracy Theory”, but like he said, “ Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean no one is after you”.

I continue, she asked me for my social security number and I was informed upon my polite protest that I would not be able to conduct my business here without it. But it didn’t stop there, she then proceeded to interrogate me about my place of employment, my occupation, my home telephone number, and my mailing address, all of which she copiously typed notes about into her computer, ostensibly to assist in ascertaining my identity (which she had already assured me was not in question) and protect her client from fraudulent check cashing. ( and let me remind you, I am not writing a check, I am only trying to cash one)

I was one request for verification of my personal account number and password away from informing my ISP that I was the potential victim of an internet scam involving some lowly church worker in a third world country and her beloved late husbands wishes that his money be used to feed orphan pygmies, which of course necessitated me giving her my info to receive a small slice of the seventy million dollar pie in exchange for the use of my bank account for some type of “legal” money laundering, when she informed me that we were almost through.

After seven and a half minutes of interrogation I asked, as politely as I was capable of at the moment, why they didn’t just take my fingerprint as that seems a fairly accurate way of ascertaining identity and thus curtailing fraud. As it turns out they would be needing that as well and since I had questioned the process I was now a person of interest and subject to the glories of managerial review as well (lucky me).

So fifteen minutes later, I left after a not so polite encounter with the off duty police officer/ security guard, (who came on like gang busters until I asked what law I had broken by my quiet protest then disappeared when it became apparent that I would not become belligerant nor would I bow to his threatening presence, he is after all only a citizen, I owe him nothing more than my respect) with my $100.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with the presumption of innocence, well I will tell you. There was a time, not so many years ago, when even citizens who could not read nor write could still conduct business at financial institutions with an x and a handshake. It was generally believed that most people were honest and that was expected of them. Now it seems we have turned the corner and everyone is a crook just waiting for their opportunity. The law doesn’t have to be broken for you to find yourself under scrutiny anymore, Big Brother is here!

Now I am sure that they are somehow saving the world by scrutinizing me at this level. As we all know many terrorists start their hunt for a suitcase nuke by cashing $100 checks at credit unions. (I have a sneaking suspicion that the “new law” referenced by the aforementioned checker may possibly have had something to do with, oh I don’t know, The patriot act?)

I have a strong feeling that the Department of Homeland Security has very little interest in my petty personal transactions. But it is rather unnerving to think that someone somewhere is checking up on me, like some tax collector’s version of a “Minority Report” scenario! How long until they start caring about other things, and how desensitized will we be by the time they get to the really important stuff?

So what’s the big hairy deal if I have to give a checker a sample of my DNA and put up my first born as collateral to cash a $100 check? In and of itself it really is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. As a pattern however it seems to me to be a troubling trend. Anyone that ever speaks out is immediately silenced (don’t taze me bro) the right to freedom of religion will be a moot point next to losing the right to free speech and protest.

This big ole experiment called the American Republic only works on the honor system. The reason more and more of us are having socialist tendencies is, at least in part, due to the fact that we have legislated everything from vehicle emissions to the manufacturing of toys. Things that were once governed quite nicely by the free market have now become Congressional cash cows, and the resulting increase in the need to police the populace has created a monster!

We are incapable of keeping up with the myriad of “issues” that must be mastered in order to keep oneself up to speed on politics! So, we reason, it is easier to give them more of my money to hire more of my neighbors to do it for me! How far do we go down this road before we no longer have the ability to turn the bus around? Disassembling government is a messy business, one I’m afraid the American people of our day have little stomach for.

So how many more unmarked traffic cops do we need to make us realize its out of control? (Oh come on, wake up if what they wanted was compliance with the law the marked cars are much more efficient at making us slow it down, they want your money!) When do we say enough is enough? DO I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE GROCERY CLERK ASKS FOR THOSE NINE LITTLE DIGITS ON MY (“NO IT’S NOT A FEDERAL ID” THEY WHISPERED REASSURINGLY TO MY GRANDPARENTS) SOCIAL INSECURITY CARD BEFORE I CAN TAKE HOME MY TAPIOCA TO MAKE IT OKAY TO SAY I HAVE HAD ENOUGH???