Bureaucratic Bunk

Posted: October 4, 2007 in Bureauacracy, Civil Rights, Homelessness, Veterans

This morning while I was looking in the mirror and combing my hair I noticed that I seem to have more grey hair hanging out around my temples and a few more that are hanging out at various other locations around my scalp.

While I knew it was inevitable that sooner or later they would start showing up, still I have mixed feeling about it because I also seem to be finding more and more of my hair showing up on my comb and brush.

Most people "shed" hair. I certainly do. But, for some reason the only hair I seem to be shedding is my dark hair. The white and grey hairs seem to somehow hang in there with more vigor than the others. Go figure.  

What it all goes to show me is that I’m getting older. But, then again so is everyone else. There are folks younger than I am, but they’re getting older. There are folks who are older than I am, and they too, are getting older.

Here in San Luis Obispo, there are good number of the homeless who are older than I am. A few of them are quite a bit older.

One of the homeless that I met here in SLO city was in his mid 70’s.

On a fixed income, he found himself homeless due to the rising costs of housing and health care. He had moved to this part of the country because the weather here is more temperate than it is in Iowa where he had been born and, because of certain health related issues, needed to be in a warmer climate.

He began having bureaucratic problems straightaway upon his arrival.

The first stumbling block was trying to get a California Driver’s License. The problem wasn’t that he was too old to drive – it was that he didn’t have a birth certificate.

Having been born in the early 1900’s in a small farming community in rural Iowa, his father called the local midwife when it came time for him to be born. The end result is that there were no hospital records of his having been born – thus no birth certificate.

Despite having a valid driver’s license from another state, his social security card, his military discharge papers, his VA benefits cards, and several other pieces of valid identification, the fine folks at the California Department of Motor Vehicles denied him the ability to acquire a California Driver’s License.

When the clerk at the DMV asked him: "What do you mean you don’t have a birth certificate? Everyone has a birth certificate," this honorably discharged veteran explained the situation. The clerk’s response was a sarcastic: "Well, then I guess you were never born!"

She seemed to think that there was humor in that statement. I on the other hand thought how sad it was that this senior was being treated exactly like what George Orwell in his book 1984 described as a "non-person."

Because this man was unable to acquire a valid form of California identification, there were certain types of benefits that he was unable to apply for and receive. In the end, he left the state.

To many that may not seem like such a big deal. Consider this however – he was being denied the very freedoms he fought to protect. And, all because of one piece of paper.

Gee. I thought that things like that only happened in communist countries.

Foolish me.


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