Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Onerous Burden

A cable news station reported recently that an Arizona law that requires voters to prove they are citizens before they are allowed to vote has been struck down by an appeals court.  Supposedly, having to furnish this proof would be an "onerous burden." 

It seems like society's motto has become:  Let's see how complicated we can make simple things.  And seriously - this seems like a simple thing to me.  Either you are a U. S. citizen or you're not.  If you are, you must have something in your possession to prove that you are.  If you're a natural born citizen, you have a birth certificate.  If you are a naturalized citizen, you have some papers to document your citizenship. 

I know, I know - it's possible that you had your birth certificate or naturalization papers at one time, but you've lost them - or spilled coffee on them - or let the dog chew on them -or accidently lined the bird cage with them - or flushed them down the commode, mistaking them for toilet paper.  If any of these disasters have occurred, you take the initiative to contact the appropriate government agency and get a duplicate document.  Granted - getting this duplicate may take a while.  Government agencies are not known for speedy service.  If you wait until the day before the voter registration deadline to locate your proof of citizenship, you may have to miss voting in an election.  But if you really want to vote, I bet you'll have your act together before the next election rolls around.

And now, let's get to the pertinent question - how is producing this documentation when you register to vote an "onerous burden?" I thought I knew the meaning of "onerous," but I went to the dictionary to be sure.  It gives two definitions.

1.  burdensome, oppressive, or troublesome; causing hardship
2.  having or involving obligations or responsibilities, especially legal ones, that outweigh the advantages

The dictionary gives eight definitions for "burden."  If you want to know all of them, you'll have to go to your own dictionary and look them up.  If looking all this up would be an onerous burden, just take my word for it that the definition that applies in this case is the one that says a burden is "that which is borne with difficulty; an obligation."

Is furnishing a birth certificate or naturalization papers really an oppressive, troublesome act that is borne with difficulty, causing hardship?  Is it an obligation that outweighs its advantages?   Really - honestly - is it that bad?  Is it any worse than showing your driver's license to prove how old you are when you want to buy a fifth of whiskey?  Is it any worse than producing your library card when you want to check out a book?  Is it any worse than whipping out your health insurance card when you go to the doctor?  Have we become such whimps that simple things like these are onerous burdens?

You know what I think an onerous burden is?  I think the blood, tears, sweat, toil, and treasure given by those who founded our nation were onerous burdens.  I think being a combat soldier today in a war zone is an oneous burden.  And isn't it incredible to think that the founders of the nation made extreme sacrifices, and present-day soldiers are - at this very moment - making extreme sacrifices for people back home who think furnishing proof of citizenship in order to vote is an onerous burden!

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