I don’t think of myself as excessively vain. When I look in the bathroom mirror in the morning, I don’t imagine that the face staring back at me looks like a graying Brad Pitt or a youthful Robert Redford, much less a haggard Justin Bieber after an especially exhausting bout of autograph-signing. But surely I look better than the guy pictured on my driver’s license.
Of course, forms of photo ID other than driver’s licenses can also be presented at the polls. I still carry one other acceptable form, a military ID card from when I served in the Army. In that photo, I look like a dyspeptic skinhead who just heard that his favorite biker bar was closed down by L&I.
There’s a good reason I look that way. The photo was taken shortly after I and my fellow inductees were awakened at 4 a.m. and forced to run two miles while shouting, “What’s the spirit of the bayonet? Kill! Kill! Kill!” Then we were sent off for a coffee-soaked 4,000-calorie breakfast and a ritual head-shaving.
Also accepted as voter identification now are passports, which may well bear the only depictions that make Americans look less attractive and trustworthy than we do on our driver’s licenses. It’s only a theory, of course, but I think the decline of America’s prestige abroad, spoken of so frequently by scholars these days, has less to do with our weak economy, dysfunctional government, and reviled foreign policy than those passport photos.
The new voter-ID laws are yet another depressing symptom of an unhealthy political system. In a healthy system, the contending parties focus on bringing out the voters who support them — not excluding the voters who don’t support them.
So here’s an idea. As a penance, the legislators who passed these bogus antifraud laws should be required to use the images on their own driver’s licenses in their campaign commercials and posters, complete with the jowly cheeks, thick necks, bags under the eyes, and apparent need for more sleep and a professional airbrushing.
It would serve them right.
Michael Silverstein is the author of “Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan.” He can be reached at email@example.com.