Favorite

Papers 

The way the new Arizona immigration law works, as I understand it, is this: If the authorities suspect you might be an illegal, they can demand your papers; and if you can't or won't produce them forthwith, you can be detained. No telling what will happen to you then.

This seems wrong to me, not because I know anything about the legal or constitutional issues involved, but because of the influence on me of at least a hundred old movies. In those movies, when armed authorities demand your papers, it's merely a preliminary to their hustling you off to a death camp or shooting you on the spot.

The movie goons who demand your papers really don't want to see them. Saying they do is just an excuse to haul you up so they can get the drop on you. Never once did a movie villain demand papers from a protagonist, examine them politely and return them cheerfully, then raise the gate, apologize for the delay, and say, with evident sincerity, “You have a wonderful day now.”

Rather the whole rigamarole is rude, crude, and patently un-American.

So I'm thinking the best way to defang this new law might be to democratize or Americanize it. Amend it to require everybody to carry papers and to present them for examination on demand. Any “authority” who wants to could demand your papers under my proposal. A constable could. A coroner. A hall monitor. Gomer, Floyd, and Otis after Barney swears
them in. Kim Hanke when he was still a quorum court member in good standing.

If he'd kept his nose clean, by the way, under the law I'm proposing here, Kim could've demanded your papers, examined them, and then let you off with a warning if you'd agree to buy some siding or new windows from him. He'd have to let you off anyway, of course, but you have to admit it'd be a good sales tool. The best-ever foot in the door.

Remember when members of the Little Rock City Council used to flash badges and pretend they had police powers? Well, under my proposal they could indulge those old fantasies again. Impress their friends. If someone at a council meeting was giving them a hard time, they could demand the troublemaker's papers and “run a make” on the rascal to their hearts' content. They could run makes on each other, on the mayor, on nosy reporters, or on prospective opponents.

In return, since nearly everybody is an authority in some sense of the word, you could reciprocate, demanding that they produce their papers for your examination. You probably have some authority in some organization — a church, or lodge, or vigilante group, or booster club — or you hold a position, as a scoutmaster, say, or a bouncer, or a contributor to public radio — that qualifies you an “authority figure,” one with every right to demand and examine the papers of people you suspect of something, or people you don't suspect but want to pretend that you do. People you just want to red-belly a little bit. Like Sen. McCarthy used to do, only less so.

I'm thinking our first task here is to decide just which “papers” we're talking about. Which papers exactly would we all be obliged to carry for the “authorities” to demand and examine?

The best of all possible papers of that sort would be Letters of Transit, which nobody knew about until their existence was revealed or at least alleged in the movie “Casablanca.” If you have Letters of Transit, nobody can touch you, not even the Gestapo or Homeland Security or the Israeli Mossad or Jack Bauer. You could wave them under Hitler's little mustache or Stalin's big one or under Dick Cheney's drooped eye and they could only fume and splutter while you went on your merry way.

But Letters of Transit would lose their magic if everybody had a set. There'd be no point in requiring people to carry papers and present them on demand if everybody — everybody — could thereupon claim Letters of Transit immunity and tell you to go Leahy yourself. So let's exclude Letters of Transit.

Basic citizenship papers, certainly we'd want some of those. But with redactions so the “authorities” couldn't steal our identity.

A birth certificate perhaps, though those things are easily duplicated by scoundrels who would sneak fruit pickers or future presidents into the country.

I'd want my papers to include my Living Will. And my card certifying me as a charter member of the Cactus Vick Straight Shooters' Club. Notes of encouragement from better people than I am. Yelps from crooks who said they weren't crooks and liars who admitted that just because they said it didn't make it so.

Disses from pricks. Snoots from the pompous. Pearls before swine. The job-performance evaluation that time by the efficiency expert who moonlighted as a shrink. My pickerel frog's certificate of merit for his third-place finish in the 1967 state jump-off.

Rejection slips from the likes of Larry Flynt and Dr. Raoul Withers.

Near misses. A paid-off mortgage.

My license to rassle professionally in the state of Arkansas. The relief map of the roads not taken.

A great many obituaries.

And of course my cum laude diploma from the UHK.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Bob Lancaster

  • Wretched rez

    I had some New Year's Rez(olutions) for 2016 but that ship sailed so I'm renaming them my Spring Rez or my All-Occasion Whatevers and sending them along.
    • May 26, 2016
  • Nod to Bob

    A look back at the weird and wonderful world of Bob Lancaster.
    • Mar 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Bob Lancaster

  • Lancaster retires

    Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.

    • Feb 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • Making it through

    Made it through another January, thank the Lord.
    • Feb 6, 2013
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Fake economics

    • Trump economic proposals: Rates for Married-Joint filers: Less than $75,000: 12% More than $75,000 but…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation