Fifteen years ago, when we were all more vigilant citizens, raging against the machine with Goodie Mob and Rage Against the Machine, ranting about the fact that there are so many surveillance cameras in New York City that anytime you can see the Empire State Building, you can also be sure that you are being filmed, an op-ed in the Times arguing for the governmental institution of a universal DNA databank would have seemed terrifyingly Orwellian.
As a practical matter, universal DNA collection is fairly easy: it could be done alongside blood tests on newborns, or through painless cheek swabs as a prerequisite to obtaining a driver’s license or Social Security card. Once a biological sample was obtained, its use must be limited to generating a DNA profile only, and afterward the sample would be destroyed. Access to the DNA database would remain limited to law enforcement officers investigating serious crimes.
Oh, yes, I’m fully confident that access to the database would remain limited to law enforcement officers investigating serious crimes. But really, fuck it. Today, when such an article runs alongside a piece wherein Ross Douthat argues-very eloquently, as he does-that the Bush administration’s lying us into a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives was actually not as evil as Hollywood movies make it out to be, and when stories in the Business section of the same paper inform you how best to broadcast your current location via satellite triangulation and other ways to share the vast amount of personal information we’re all so intent on putting onto the Internet, protest seems very, well, 20th Century. That ship has sailed. DNA samples? Sure, why not? And, yeah, I’ll take one of those bar-code tattoos on the back of my neck, too-and embed a homing-device microchip in my temple while you’re at it.