By David Post . . . When I was growing up, in a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1950s, Hitler and the Holocaust were common subjects of conversation in my household. Though at the time it all seemed like ancient history — along with the Civil War, the Black Death, the fall of Rome, and everything else that had ever happened before I was born — I realized, when I became an adult, that to my parents and their generation it must have seemed as though it had happened the day before yesterday.
I remember asking my dad, when he had been talking about the roundup of the Jews and the infamous “yellow star,” a simple question that deeply puzzled my 7-year-old brain: How did the Germans know who to round up? How did they know who was, and who wasn’t, Jewish? My own family wasn’t observant in the least — we didn’t go to synagogue, or celebrate the Jewish holidays, I didn’t go to Hebrew School, etc.; so if they were rounding up all the Jews in Brooklyn, how would they know about us?
And I vividly remember his reply: They knew it because in Germany, they recorded your religion on your birth certificate, and on all your other important government documents (ID card, passport, etc.). [I’m not sure that that was entirely accurate — but it does capture the substance of the matter]. And, he reassured me, we — here in the United States — don’t allow that sort of thing.
I was reminded of all that by a provision in a statute that recently sailed through the House and Senate: “International Megan’s Law” (IML for short), ostensibly designed to “prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes through advanced notification of traveling sex offenders.”
The statute (full text here) requires the secretary of state to affix a “unique identifier” on all passports issued to “covered sex offenders” — a “visual designation affixed to a conspicuous location on the passport indicating that the individual is a covered sex offender.” A “covered sex offender” is anyone previously convicted, at any point in his/her life, for a sex offense involving a minor.
It is, as far as I can determine, the first time in U.S. history that any such special designation will appear on the passports of any U.S. citizens, and I think it should send at least a small chill down all of our spines. Not to overdo the analogy, but it does call to mind Martin Niemoller’s famous dictum (“First they came for the communists . . .”). It is part and parcel of a dispiriting and disheartening campaign (on which I have commented a number of times in the past — see e.g. here, here and here) piling punitive disability upon punitive disability — not just public shaming, but also restrictions on residency locations, employment, Internet use, etc. — on this particularly despised class. (Read full column at The Washington Post)