We live in the land of the free, the strongest country in the world espousing the freedom to be a citizen and to live without any fear of reprisal from those in authority. So, why am I afraid? Perhaps, more specifically, of whom am I afraid?
Let me provide some examples. Like every faithful American citizen, I filed my income taxes with the expectation that my tax forms would be accepted. After all, they have been the same for over 20 years. But then, someone at the bureau sent me a letter saying that I owed them over a hundred dollars. In response, I called and they referred my inquiry to someone who then sent me a letter saying that I owed over $700 in taxes. Wow! I was afraid to further inquire about what was going on, but I did anyway. As of this writing, I still have not heard back from anyone with the Internal Revenue Service. You may imagine, "I'm afraid."
Since I knew my birthday and the renewal of my driver's license was fast approaching, I decided that I needed to quickly renew my license and to upgrade it to one of the federal "enhanced" licenses. I faithfully waited for almost two hours before my number was called, only to discover that they would not accept my documentation. I had an active passport, two pieces of identification bearing my social security number, proof of residency, my birth certificate, and evidence that I had received a background check by law enforcement; but no, they wanted to see my original social security card. Wow! What does it take to prove that I'm an American citizen? Maybe they think I'm an alien. Luckily, I did have my original social security card, and they finally agreed to allow me to drive when I returned a few days later.
To make matters worse, I calmly asked what my wife might need to get her license renewed and upgraded. I was told that she would need all of the things I had brought in for myself plus a copy of our wedding license. Since we have been married for 53 years and no one ever thought about obtaining a copy of the wedding license during those years, we both wondered if we were in fact married. When I researched obtaining a wedding license, I discovered it had been reduced to a file in another state's capital, and that it would take about two weeks to obtain it for $47. That's more than a driver's license costs. My wife turned to me and exclaimed, "Does this mean we have been living in sin for 53 years?" Maybe we weren't legally married. After waiting about two weeks, we did receive a copy of our wedding license, but it was scary there for a moment.
Since I am a duly sworn deputy sheriff chaplain, I always assumed that if I were stopped by law enforcement, I would at least receive a small degree of common courtesy. However, it was a bit unnerving to have several deputy sheriff officers tell me about being stopped and even having their credentials questioned while in uniform -- as if someone would go around wearing a law enforcement uniform on a hot day just for the fun of it. After doing some checking, I also discovered that some law enforcement agencies will not "honor my badge," a practice that has been in practice for decades. Now, I'm afraid I might get stopped for some minor infraction of the law and receive some kind of citation. Believe it or not, I'm a good driver in spite of having to fight for a driver's license.
These are some of the things that make me fearful while living in the land of the free, and there are others, but I have to wonder about the people who are less fortunate than I am. Can you imagine what it must be like to be living in the United States without citizenship documentation, knowing that since your children were born here and are automatically citizens, that the time might come when your family is torn apart with some being deported while others remain here? I am not talking about criminals, but law-abiding people upholding the law and being good workers and neighbors. There are laws all over the country to deal with criminals, and they don't seem to be afraid of anything. I'm talking about living in fear while the government does nothing to relieve the tension.
And, what about those people who are a different color, religion or ethnicity? I happen to be a white person, but that does not make me a part of some supreme race. It's scary and downright fearful these days to be someone different. Yes, America is the land of the free, but I have to confess that right now it also is the land of fear.
Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Religion on 07/31/2019
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