May 8, 2008
Me and Brad Pitt were together recently in the Capitol. He’s been in Austin shooting a movie, and parts of the Capitol building were used.
The producer, director, or maybe the key grip thought it would be neat, since they were using the Senate Chamber, to have a few real-life senators in the scene. It sounded like fun, so I killed a little time wearing 1950’s era clothes (and a good haircut), walking past Brad Pitt or having him walk past me. It’s powerful cinema.
I worry a little that the public isn’t really ready for me and Brad in the same flick. I’m guessing that having the two of us on screen at the same time might require some sort of rating change – it just may be too much excitement all at once.
Me and my buddy Brad drew a crowd. At one point, I was getting into character so that I could walk across the rotunda carrying a briefcase. There were several people standing in the Capitol hallway behind me. I could hear them whispering things like, “That’s Senator Watson,” or, “There’s Kirk Watson.”
I decided to take advantage of the moment and shake the hands of some fans. I introduced myself by saying, “Hi. I’m Brad Pitt.” The laughter sort of echoes in those big hallways, and I said, “Don’t laugh. This is what living with Angelina does to a guy.”
There was another story – a serious one – about identity over the last week.
In just one documented instance during the Presidential primary in Indiana on Tuesday, about a dozen women were turned away from the polls because they didn’t have the right type of photo I.D. The Indiana law requiring people to produce documentation before they can vote was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
Now, as it happens, these women were elderly. And they were nuns. Somehow, the story seems to come across as more of a novelty when the victims are dressed in habits. As the Washington Post declared on a blog, “Voter ID Law Consequences Mild in Ind.“
If you’re viewing all of this only through the lens of national partisan politics, maybe the consequences are mild – people lose their vote and their voice, but not enough for folks in Washington to worry about.
But to the individual voter who gets sent away, it’s different. It’s really about the fundamental rights of Americans who, for whatever reason, don’t need or don’t have the driver’s license, passport, or other document that almost (but not quite) all of us take for granted.
That’s why voting can’t be compared with driving, flying, renting movies, and so many other activities that most would call “routine.” Americans don’t need identification to speak their minds, or to pray, or to be created equal.
Voting is our right. It bonds us all – lawyers, custodians, gardeners, cops, teachers, politicians, and nuns. It’s the defining act of our equality. It’s who we are, and it transcends the licenses, passports, and other pieces of bureaucratic confetti that simply allow us to do some of the things we want to do.
So why, some of my colleagues will surely ask, don’t these folks just head on down to DPS and get licenses like normal people? Well, first of all, the cost of getting a driver’s license is real money – a prohibitive amount, in some cases.
The inconvenience can be just as imposing. If you doubt it, try to remember your last trip to DPS, and the last time you got to stand in that line, taking time away from your day and your job, to get your license or get it renewed. And think about having to do it if you don’t even drive. Think about not needing that license for anything other than to be a patriot. To vote.
This wouldn’t be nearly as troubling if there were many – or any – instances of voter fraud. But there aren’t. Even in the Supreme Court case, Justice John Paul Stevens went all the way back to 1868 – three years after the Civil War ended – invoking a case of a voter getting away with something. Meanwhile, I now can give you about a dozen cases of disenfranchisement just in Indiana since the law was upheld.
Unfortunately, when election fraud occurs, it’s normally the higher-ups – politicians, election judges, vote counters, etc. – who did it. Voters, in these cases, are just bystanders or victims. But it’s easier to prey on fears of weirdos without driver’s licenses than to actually prove something so wrong is going on that people should start losing their rights and equality.
None of these arguments persuaded the Supreme Court, however, so we’re going to have to fight this judicial activism in Congress and the legislatures. In Texas, I’m sure we’ll get our chance.
Last year, a bill that would have enacted a law like Indiana’s nearly threw the Texas Senate into an angry chaos not seen since, well, the Texas House. It’s a good bet that bill will be back during the legislative session next year.
We’ll be ready, and I feel pretty good about our chances. Actually, I didn’t realize we had the nuns on our side.