Correspondence

I.D. Cards for Men

Letter From England

"I don't want to have to carry a handbag all the time" was the way an aggressive British opponent of the compulsory carrying of identity cards (as proposed by several members of the British government) yelled it to me recently. In fairness I should add that this defender of supposed civil liberties was svelte and female. She lacked the kind of bulky clothing equipped with capacious pockets in which middle-aged males such as myself still automatically carry the British National Registration Identity Card issued to them during World War II. Mine still carries the distinctive signature of my father, since I did not learn to write until I was three. Even at the age of one month I carried that card to prove I was not a German spy, and today I still wave mv card with its British royal motto Honi soit qui mal y pense on the front at the French customs officials, to prove that I have nothing to do with France either. For men the carrying of identity cards is a belligerent proclamation of our central collective identities, whether as patriots or riotous supporters of a football team, and it carries our National Health Service code number so that in case of injury we are entitled to socialized medical treatment.

But why should the British government in peacetime in 1996 want to force women to carry identity cards? Women do not rob banks, mug elderly victims, start fights in bars, steal Porsches, vandalize phone...

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