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Big Brother really is watching

By William S. Lind
web posted August 12, 2002

One of the things I forgot to do before I left Virginia for Cleveland for the summer was to renew my Virginia driver's license. Since it only expires every five years, my forgetting it may not indicate Alzheimer's. In the past, Virginia always sent me a renewal form well before the old license expired.

This time, I didn't get one. Instead, long after I was out in Ohio, I received a form letter saying I could not renew my Virginia license because I had an address in another state. Of course, I do. It's a summer house. People have been fleeing the Washington summer miasma for a couple of centuries.

I vote in Virginia. I pay my state income taxes in Virginia. I have owned and occupied the same house in Alexandria, Virginia, since 1979. The house in Cleveland doesn't even have mail delivery. By every imaginable standard, I am a Virginia resident. And after all, I was just renewing an existing Virginia license.

So why did I get the form letter? When I called the Virginia DMV and asked, the answer was "9/11."

Thanks to the good people who work for Virginia's DMV -- they were uniformly polite and helpful -- I got the mess straightened out and received my new license a couple of days before the old one expired. But why had it happened?

I am sure I never put down my Ohio address on anything I sent to the Virginia state government. How did they know I had one? The answer, I suspect is Big Brother -- some hideous "supercomputer" that in effect paws through our garbage to see what scraps of "information" it can find. Thanks to 9/11, Big Brother really is watching us.

The result is not security, but absurdity. Big Brother creates messes for people like me, who by no shred of the imagination have anything to do with the Middle East -- the name Lind is as Arabic as smorgasbord -- while doing nothing against any "terrorist" with half a brain, who can buy a false identity from the same people who sell them to the illegal Hispanic immigrants. Real security works bottom up, through local police, especially "community police" who work the same beat all the time and get to know the people on it, and through ordinary citizens. It's the modern version of the old militia.

Sadly, by chanting the mantra "9/11," government seems to be able to justify anything, including "Big Brother. One begins to wonder whether pressuring honest citizens while allowing the "threat" to remain viable might be the real agenda,. That's a tactic Orwell's Big Brother understood very well.

William S. Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.

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