It is increasingly difficult to move freely in a world that seems otherwise to move too quickly. It is becoming very difficult to prove who you are to those who need (or may not need) to know. To say that "Big Brother" is watching is pure understatement.
Anticipating that my daughter would be serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I encouraged her a couple of months ago to get her passport in case she was called to serve outside of the United States. Kids being kids, she ignored me until she actually received the mission call to Brazil. Then I insisted she move quickly because we both have heard that getting a visa to Brazil takes time.
First revelation: The website for information for a passport says, "Warning, the rules have changed," or something to that effect. As of April 1, 2011, a passport applicant has to submit a birth certificate that has been issued within the last year! In addition, that birth certificate must list the full names of the parents. We now were faced with having to get a new birth certificate for our little missionary.
Second revelation: My daughter's original birth certificate listed my husband's middle name as "LER," when it should be "LEROY." This put Mom into panic mode. I could not imagine that I would not have caught that error when my daughter was born -- I'm a legal secretary -- trained to look at legal documents with careful eyes. On closer examination, it looked like there was a possibility that the "OY" might have just rubbed off over the last 21 years, as other letters were starting to become faint. (I was hoping that I didn't miss an error because she was the fourth child instead of the first.)
At first, we were going to fill out paperwork for an amended birth certificate just in case we needed it. My research uncovered the fact that an amended birth certificate would take MONTHS to complete. Notarized statements are required from both parents, as well as one from the hospital medical records department stating the error. An "Amendment Specialist" is assigned to the "case." We decided to go to the County Recorder's office, order her birth certificate, and just see what it said. FORTUNATELY, my husband's name really is LEROY on her birth certificate. After we had the new one in our hands, we pulled out the old one to show the County Recorder. She was absolutely amazed that the old birth certificate had deteriorated to that extent. She also verified that had my daughter needed an amended birth certificate, it would have taken "a very long time." This is really interesting to me because my first-born child has an amended birth certificate because of an error in my husband's age -- and that only took a couple of weeks to accomplish -- but then that was in 1977 -- long before 9/11.
In spite of the birth certificate scare, her passport application was submitted (expedited) Monday afternoon -- which is great since she only received her mission call last Thursday evening. She should have her passport in the next two weeks. Hopefully, the process for the visa will move as quickly.
In this fast-paced world, it seems crazy that our freedom to move around has become so entangled in red tape and scary paperwork. We may not have numbers engraved in our foreheads, but have you tried to do anything without a Social Security number, birth certificate (issued within the last year remember), driver's license, and proof of insurance lately? If you book an airline flight, you have to give them your birth date and your name exactly as it is on your driver's license. Passports now have "chips" so we can be tracked -- of course, so do cell phones these days. I get lectured by bank tellers (until I put them in their place) each time I go to the bank because I don't own an ATM card. I don't need or want an ATM card!! If they want my business, they can give me customer service!
Where do we draw the line between fear and privacy? Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but in a lot of ways, he won -- we no longer live in a land of the free and the home of the brave. We live in a land of fear and red tape. I'm not an expert on the scriptures by any stretch of the imagination, but if I were a betting woman, I'd bet we aren't too far from the Second Coming.