Ridin' the Bus With Deborah

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by Doris Colmes by Doris Colmes

When Deborah Davis hit the news, I got hit as well — right in the pit of my stomach where terror hides, and panic lurks. u201COh God, I mumbled, u201CIt's happening againu201D

And just exactly what had Deborah done to get this emotionally detached old lady into such a replay of emotions left over from 1938 Nazi Germany? It was the gut-wrenching realization that the Nazi Police State in which I was raised has come back to roost — in the United States.

Deborah, who commutes by bus in Denver, Colorado, had been asked to present her I.D. to a man in uniform. If she didn't, she was told, it would mean walking several miles to her job. So, she complied, but it rankled. Deborah knew that, unless she was being a danger to self or others, behaving irrationally, or drunk and disorderly, no one had the right to ask for her identification. As long as she was sitting quietly in her seat, she could not be arbitrarily asked for ID. (She'd learned that in her 8th grade Civics class, where she had also been taught about police states, and how casually they usurped the rights of their citizenry.)

And so it went. For several weeks, when asked to show ID, Deborah refused, and, when asked if she were getting off at the Denver Federal Center she said, u201Cnou201D was left in peace, completing her bus trips right on schedule.

And then it happened: On September 26, 2005, when the bus reached its stop at the Federal Center, a guard got on the bus and confronted her. When Deborah insisted that she was under no obligation to show any ID whatsoever, the bus was halted, a supervisor climbed on, and demanded ID. This time, when she refused, a second cop arrived, and, when Deborah stuck to her guns, she was suddenly arrested.

And it was not a gentle arrest, as she relates on her website.

” ‘Grab her’ was the shout, and with the police wrenching her arms behind her back, she was jerked out of her seat, handcuffed, thrown into a police cruiser, rushed off to the police station inside the Center, where cops had a bit of difficulty deciding with what to charge her. So they wrote up a couple of tickets (contents unknown) took off her cuffs, and told her that if she ever entered that Center again, she'd go to jail.” No more bus commutes for Deborah!

Reading this took me straight back to that living nightmare called Nazi Germany. There, if one didn't show ID upon command, and/or if anything was even the slightest bit out of the ordinary on these papers, it was u201CBye-Bye,u201D and — if one were a Jew, a Gypsy or seen as u201Cgayu201D by the arresting officer — that was some long Goodbye, indeed. Death camps were waiting, needing monthly quotas, and age was not an issue. Little kids zoomed off to extermination just as quickly as adults, and all for the sin of, perhaps, an inkblot on an identifying number, or the magic word u201CJewu201D printed on the top.

And, now, it seems, we've come full circle. Not only do we now have the Patriot Act (a wonderfully modern up-date of Germany's u201CEnabling Act,u201D right down to the last comma) but we also have a 82 billion dollar defense bill, which (with a vote of 100 to 0) had the Real ID Act hidden inside it. (S.1637, FSC-ETI. Passed May 11, 2004) This law allows a national identification process in which each and every person in the U.S.A. will be on computer. And, yes, you'd better show that ID upon command, or you'll wind up like Deborah. And, as time goes by, much worse: Honorable, ethical, racially profiled, and dead.

Is this an exaggeration? Well, let's look at the current administration expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon Agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago to protect military facilities from attack. According to Washington Post writer Walter Pincus, a presidential commission will expand and transform the CIFA into an agency that has authority to investigate crimes within the USA, such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage. And would allow it to label — at will — any person or activity of which it did not approve under these headings.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about US citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence (See CIFA).

This, of course, in addition to the Patriot Act revisions which give unlimited power and access to any and all governmental agents to anyone or anything they choose, without warrant or even u201Creasonable causeu201D (whatever that now means)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote: u201CIf the least important soldier in the German Army had chosen not to comply with orders to execute innocent people, others would have followed his lead, and there would not have been a Holocaust.u201D Those words still ring true, right along with the actions of Mohandas Gandhi and Rosa Parks, and, today, with the action of Deborah Davis.

Sure, lots of folks protest that they have had enough and that u201Csomeoneu201D needs to take action and then — at least in my experience — they say, u201COh this is such a shame,u201D shrug their shoulders and start talking about the newest TV Reality Show.

In Deborah's case, why are there not crowds holding signs, protesting, outside the Denver Federal Center? Could it be because of current media censorship? Diversionary news, such as Michael Jackson and/or Scott Peterson get major coverage — to the point of insanity — but persons like Deborah, or, just as currently Jos Padilla, are shuffled off to the side-lines. My hunch is, that although Deborah faces arraignment in Denver on December 9, 2005, hardly anyone in that town is even aware of what just happened. As for media censorship and how it works, that's a whole other article.

It takes someone with not only the courage of her/his convictions, but also with a deep sense of urgency, to actually do something concrete that graphically shows the rest of us what is actually happening here. And that is what Ms. Davis has accomplished. The same steely resolve needed for anyone to say, u201CI have had enough, and my answer is NOu201D is reminiscent of Rosa Parks, also on a bus, a half-century ago.

I love this country. It literally saved my life at a time when I was pretty convinced that there was nowhere left to go, except, perhaps, to the nearest oven. And, through the years, I've witnessed all that is so dear, so valuable, so much the essence of my entire existence, dissipate. Dissipate into a haze of hidden agendas, corruption and increasingly self-serving administrations.

Of necessity, what happened to Deborah Davis must be compared to what happened to so many people at the start of the fascist regime in Germany, when u201Ccomplianceu201D was the daily hymn, and acquiescence to the German 
u201CEnabling Actu201D (Bona fide ancestor of our u201CPatriot Actu201D) was so absolutely expected, that anyone who protested disappeared immediately and permanently.

I thank Deborah Davis not only for being a role model, but also for setting an example that I, for one, will unconditionally follow.

In conclusion, let us all memorize and act upon together, this poem, written by Pastor Martin Niemller in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Doris Colmes, MSW, [send her mail] is an independent writer in Portland, Oregon. Her book, “The Iron Butterfly” was published in 2002, and she received the Kay Snow Award for non-fiction in 2003. She can be reached via: www.doriscolmes.com.

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