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"Papers, please"

A tween's MBTA ride shouldn't be held to a higher standard than voting.

I wrote last week about some of the harassment my children and I have been subjected to on the MBTA (I didn't go into the four other similar incidents that have happened in the last year) and an assault we witnessed.  .  Most of the reactions I received- publicly and privately- were what you would expect when someone tells you that bad things have happened to them multiple times.  "I'm so sorry," sums it up.  I thank those people for their kindness.

But there were a couple of people who were not satisfied that there wasn't more to the story.  Wasn't there some way that I was contributing to this?  When they seemed to be convinced that, indeed, I wasn't doing anything more than trying to enter a train station with my children, they could not understand why I wouldn't simply bring a copy of my child's birth certificate with me to end the harassment.

Because.

The regulations of the MBTA do NOT require me to show any identification when I bring my underage child with me.  Period.  In fact, scroll all the way to the bottom of that page- you will see that it says "No ID required."  When I called to complain about the employee who harassed us, the customer service people assured me as they apologized that this was indeed the case.  I am deeply offended by the suggestion that I should have had to have taken this extra step to get the treatment I deserved in the first place.

But... I considered doing so for one moment, then discarded the idea.  If they're going to think I'm a liar, why couldn't I also be a forger?  In the age of the digital computing, how hard would it be to alter a document?  I'm sure some people would be satisfied, but I'm also sure some wouldn't.  If they don't take my word for it when I'm asked, why are they going to believe a piece of paper?

The comment that really made me choke though was when someone said that (and I paraphrase) showing ID to get my daughter on a train shouldn't be a big deal because we have to show ID when we go to vote.  No, we don't, but some are trying to change that.

I live in Massachusetts.  I know you know, but I want to repeat that.  While I find many faults with my fair state, we do a bunch of things right.  One of them is not requiring voters to show ID at the polls.  We are not the only state without this requirement, and unfortunately we are not the only state where this is under attack.  As my friend Chris Matthews covered last week, two losers in New Bedford had tables at a polling center asking people to show their ID to vote, with a sign below that said the compliance was optional.  The Secretary of State is not happy, and he shouldn't be.  This is voter suppression.  (Rachel Maddow picked up the story as well.)

I'm not worried about this happening again in Massachusetts, at least not in this election cycle.  But as this site explains, this is a big, huge deal in many other states.  This New York Times article also lays out some of the threats and implications- I think the loss of 800,000 voters in South Carolina and Texas is a big deal, no matter which party they might be inclined to vote for.  (It kind of amazes me that the United States Supreme Court didn't think Indiana was violating the Voting Rights Act... until I remember the Citizens United decision.  A corporation is a person, a person has to show ID to vote... does that mean a corporation can vote if it shows ID?)

Read this story about the 96-year-old woman in Tennessee who was denied a voter ID card because she didn't have her marriage certificate.  God, what an idiot.  What was she thinking, going somewhere without every last scrap of paper proving that she was indeed whom she said she was?  And we should let her vote?  What country do you live in?

Lucky me- I have my daughter's birth certificate.  If I really needed to, I could show it to someone if I was legally required to do so.  But I am not handing over anything before that and I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that Dorothy Cooper and others like her won't have to either.

Why is this so important to me if it was just an MBTA ride?  Because it was just an MBTA ride.  My daughter shouldn't be held to a higher standard than I am when I go to vote, and she's not going to be while I have anything to say about it.

This is cross-posted from the author's personal blog

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marc near the Park October 27, 2011 at 01:48 PM
I am sorry you've had such poor service and treatment on your rides, and thank you for bringing this to light, and this second post is even better. There are some great MBTA employees, but more often than not I feel like they, on a customer service level, provide the public with substandard service. When I've had to ask a question of one of the MBTA workers it's almost always felt like I'm bothering them. Sorry, you are sitting in a booth or in a chair, in mostly direct contact with the public, you are going to get questions!
Bill October 28, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Deb, I concur. Not once in my life have I been asked for ID on a public transit system, aside from airports, obviously. And comparing it to the voter ID issue makes little to no sense, like apples and palm trees. Show an ID to vote for the President -- yeah, okay if I must in order to vote. Show an ID to ride the T -- we think not. I hope this issue soon resolves itself with no more hassles for you and your family.
Deb Nam-Krane October 28, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Marc, I just wanted to say that the majority of the people I've dealt with in fact were very nice. But just a handful of lousy interactions or even actors can make a big difference to one's commute. Bill, palm trees make me smile- and indeed.
Em October 29, 2011 at 04:36 AM
The comment on voting was taken out of context. The point was that later on in life, we frequently have to prove our age or identities for one reason or another. There were other examples listed in addition to voting. I'm glad it sparked a new blog post with valid points.

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