Bridle in the stable

While driving home from the ACLU board meeting, I got to thinking about horse training. When I was a kid, Dad bought a Shetland pony. I wanted to name him Red Fury, after the horse in the books I had been reading, but Dad named him Pal. In spite of the Shetland's Red Fury personality, the name Pal stuck.

Pal came with a halter, which is several strips of leather fashioned to fit over the head so a horse can be led around. It gave enough of a hold on Pal so that if someone was strong enough, they could encourage Pal to go in a certain direction. However, with a halter, the horse had a fair chance if he didn't want to cooperate. My brothers and I could drag Pal to the corner of the pasture, then hold him still while one of us jumped on his back and held on for dear life while Pal galloped back to the corral. One day, when Pal was in a Red Fury mood, he drug my brother, Mike, against the barb wire fence. Dad decided Pal needed a bridle.

The main difference, and a very significant difference, between a halter and a bridle, is a metal bar called a bit, that fits up in the horse's mouth. Now the horse must obey or suffer. Try putting a metal bar back between your jaws, if you need proof. However, horses are skittish critters, so in order to break a horse to a bridle, you have to ease the horse into the idea. We hung the bridle in the stable so Pal would be familiar with the look and smell of it. Eventually, it was fastened on his head, then later we led him around gently. Step by step, the bridle became a controlling tool.

The reason this went through my mind on my way home from the ACLU board meeting was because Washington State legislature was considering a bill to fingerprint everyone with a driver's license. A "voluntary" clause was added to quiet the civil liberties types. That would allow those who objected to being treated like a suspect, to have a specially marked driver's license that indicated their reluctance to cooperate.

My next door neighbor, Ray, told me with noticeable pride in his voice that during WWII, he had been fingerprinted as a serviceman. When I asked him if the Department of Motor Vehicles required the power and control of the military, he allowed that probably wasn't necessary.

Of course, this legislation got me thinking about the bridle in the stable. Already courts have ruled that airlines can treat every passenger as a suspect, subjecting them to searches as they enter the boarding area. Teenagers use the slang term "getting pissed" for the familiar urine test for drugs. Anyone in our town who seriously wants a job at a local grocery store must be willing to submit to a drug test.

The other board members at the ACLU meeting already had a term for this- citizen suspect. While the police must have probable cause and a search warrant before collecting body fluids or fingerprints from criminal suspects, citizen suspects submit only to be cooperative. Why have Americans become so pliable?

As for Pal, he didn't become any more good-natured with the bridle jerking him around. When my cousin, Linda, got her mind set on showing him who was the boss, he kicked her in the head. The next week, Pal was castrated.

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