The hubub was horrible. And somehow, also surprisingly unHardyvillian.
"We gotta keep out those people!"
"Yeah. Their kind don't understand our traditions of freedom. They got no business comin' here and ruinin' it for the rest of us."
"They want all our benefits without paying the price."
"Close the borders!"
Not the kind of talk you usually hear in Hardyville. Here, people are pretty much accepted on their own merits, and Borders is just a chain of book stores in far-off Big Cities. But that day at the All-Hardyville Real ID Emergency Meeting in the One-Plex, tempers were hot.
And who could blame us? We were bracing for a rush of unwelcome immigrants. No, not Mexicans. But Americans who suddenly wake up and realize their freedom is gone.
With their latest vote to turn our drivers licenses into a Homeland "Achtung!" Security-controlled national ID (The Real ID Act of 2005), the GovBorg had just assimilated one of the remaining manifestations of federalism. And set plans in motion to assimilate the last remaining bits of our freedom.1 They didn't call it national ID. But that's sure as heck what it was -- and what it will be if we don't get a grip.
We weren't worried about what Hardyvillians would do about Real ID. We'd do nothing. And I really mean nothing. Wouldn't get one. Wouldn't accept one. Wouldn't use one. Wouldn't ask for one. Wouldn't let anybody ask us for one. Hardyville's sharply pointed viewpoint on government ID is well known.
But we were definitely worried about what other people would do. That is, what they'd do to us. And our culture -- when they came flooding in seeking shelter from their own government gone power-mad. So you'll forgive some uncharacteristic zenophobic outrage.
"DON'T PANIC," Carty barked, gaveling the meeting to order. "First off, this damn thing might never come to pass. There might be court challenges by the states. A few states might even resist it like they're starting to resist the Every Child Left Behind law. 'S'even possible that once people discover that the lines at the DMV are hours long and they have to make three trips back before they can prove who they are, the actual 'We the People' will actually stand up and tell the feds to go to ... Washington."
"Yeah, but that's a lot of ifs!" somebody shouted from the dark theater seats. "IF dumb Americans do let their government stick them with this thing, a whole bunch of just-slightly-smarter Americans are going to pack up one of these days and try to escape into Hardyville. They ain't gonna know nothin' about how to take care of themselves. They won't know what to expect from life without a gummint permission slip. And what are we gonna do about that?"
"Yeah," somebody else muttered, "especially since the Chamber of Commerce told us it was rude to run anybody away from town at gunpoint."
"Well," offered Nat, "Mebbe we could do something good for other Americans and for us by gettin' 'em started on practical ways of rebellin' against this nonsense on their own."
"Precisely," Dora-the-Yalie piped up, springing to her feet in the front row. "Like Russell Kanning from New Hampshire. He's going to board a plane on June 11 without government ID or get arrested. He's doing it as a protest gesture, inspired by Gandhi. We should encourage more people to take stands like that."
"That's not my idea of a good time," another voice muttered from the dark. The crowd burst into agreement.
Bang! Bang Carty's gavel slammed down again. "If that's not somebody's idea of a good time, then they can do something they like better!"
"Like Just Say No -- in every way from refusing to get a license to not doing business with businesses that insist you have one. People are already talkin' about all kinds of resistance," Carty shrugged. "The ideas are out there for anybody who gives a damn. The only big stupidity is doing nothing to stop it or resist it."
"There are various other forms of passive resistance," Dora offered. "You can borrow techniques from war resisters. If Real ID does get implimented, for instance, you could hold a 'comply-in' and gum up the license application process so completely the system breaks down. Instead of bringing the four kinds of ID they insist on, bring huge folders with everything from your first-grade report card to your high-school prom program to verify your background. Stand there at the counter and sort through it all."
"That'll just make people mad," Marty Harbibi said. "They'll blame you, not the government, for inconveniencing 'em. Gotta be other ways."
"Like leaving the country," Mrs. Nat ventured, standing up next to Dora. "I know that would be a last resort for some of us. I know some of us would never do it. But a nice lady named Lightning says she thinks we're coming into a 'last window of opportunity' -- like Jews had to get out of Germany in the late 1930s -- to leave the country before it goes completely tyrannical."
"I ain't surrenderin' my country to 'security' wimps who want to make themselves safe by making the rest of us slaves. They should be the ones to go, not me," snarled Carty, evidently forgetting he'd once threatened to make the big escape himself.
"But leavin' the country's exactly the problem we've been talkin' about!" somebody bellowed from the dark. "We're worried 'bout people leavin' the rest of America and comin' here!"
"Yeah!" another voice shouted. "Comin' to the one part of America that took care of itself -- but that ain't gonna take care of a buncha people who thought freedom was free."
"Well," I spoke up, "Don't forget there's always the option of creating freedom enclaves right inside America. Creating communities where people can work, bank, get medical care, and trade without having to show their government 'papers.' Uh ... I wrote a book about that, you know?"
"Yeah," Marty agreed. "In other words, you wrote a whole book about risky, illegal stuff people might have to do to keep from bein' tracked and controlled by their own government. Tellin' people how they can live dangerously. Big help, thanks."
"I guess you could put it that way," I admitted. "Or you could say I wrote a whole book about how people could create their own Hardyvilles."
"People do keep sayin' they'd like to live in Hardyville," Nat mused. "That'd sure be a test of how much they really mean it."
"Better to have 'em build their own Hardyville than havin' 'em move in on us," one of the angry audience members muttered.
"But dangerous," Marty insisted. "You'd have to be desperate to ..."
"Definitely," I agreed. "That's the thing, though. When you live in a country and a time when the government's making it dangerous to be free ... that's a big, flashing neon sign that it's time to take freedom back -- however you've got to take it. The longer you wait to take a stand for freedom, the stronger the government's grip becomes ... and the more dangerous life gets."
"Yeah," Carty nodded. "And one thing's for damn sure. If people are so busy ignoring reality that they don't stand up for themselves now, then there's not going to be any magical Hardyville to escape to when the time comes.
"It won't be us that closed the borders, though. It'll be all those Americans who didn't care enough to save themselves and their families until it was too late."
Experience the brand new novel by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman: RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone. First four chapters are online.
1 If you don't see why Real ID should be a line-in-the-sand issue, read on: Real ID = Real problem. You can count the ways. The ACLU says there are five reasons why a national ID system is bad. But there are really more.
Real ID creates a great new career path for ID thieves. And it puts the whims of the Department of "Achtung!" Homeland Security above the law. It's just a bad thing, altogether. And it won't do a thing to stop illegal immigration or terrorism.