Wednesday, July 16, 2008

D.A.R.E., fear-mongering, and a question about identity fear

So when I was in high school, it was a cliche to make fun of D.A.R.E. as a fear-mongering, ineffective program. I don't actually remember if I ever went through the D.A.R.E. program, so I can't comment on whether it was or was not effective or fear-mongering as a high school program, but I had an experience today where I was accosted by a D.A.R.E. representative on the street in my role as parent (I was with Grace), and I learned that our local D.A.R.E. folks were involved in a whole new kind of fear-mongering: working off of the fear of medical emergencies (and, oddly, identity theft).

What the D.A.R.E. representative tried to sell me on was not (as I would have guessed) donating to D.A.R.E. Instead, she wanted to sell me, for a mere forty dollars, an identity card for Grace that would include medical information about her and give permission to treat her in case of emergency. She showed me a sample card and explained that it was an "official" something-or-other. She then reassured me that the card wouldn't have Grace's full name on it, so if it fell into the wrong hands, I wouldn't have to worry.

This raised a number of questions for me. Some of them rhetorical, some genuine (actually, maybe they're all both rhetorical and genuine):
  1. If a child were to show up in an emergency with a treatable, life-threatening condition and no guardian present, would they deny treatment? I somehow feel like they wouldn't (it's also hard for me to imagine just how Grace could end up in such a scenario, but I understand that in order to get into the proper D.A.R.E. mind-set I am to imagine the worst of all scenarios in the worst of all worlds...)
  2. Is there in fact a subset of plastic-like-identity cards that are "official"? What makes them so?
  3. Why would I be afraid of someone finding out my daughter's name? Aren't names public information? Is there anything scary that can happen to her with her name known that couldn't happen to her with her name unknown? (I've heard the name worry come up in a web context. A number of students have told me they're allowed to have facebooks/myspaces/etc., so long as they don't use their full name, or their last name, or what have you. I presume that the fear behind this is that someone will see their picture, decide to stalk them, and then, knowing their name, be able to track down their home address, etc. Are there other things about names that I should be afraid of that I don't know?)
  4. Why is D.A.R.E. selling medical-alert-ish identity cards? (Note: I couldn't find anything about this on their website, nor could I find the cards -- is it possible the D.A.R.E. table in Arlington center was actually entirely a scam? seems unlikely...)
If anyone knows the answer to these questions, I'd be interested to hear them.


Sam M said...

What I was always told when I was a kid is that I shouldn't wear anything with my name (even just my first name) on it, because then a stranger could call me by name and I'd be more likely to be convinced that I knew him. This sounded fishy to me even then ("I'm not that dumb, Mom!").

The internet stuff about not giving out your full name or other identifying info does make sense, though -- kids are way too easy to stalk that way. But nobody's going to stalk a baby. :) (Um, I hope.)

drlynch said...

I think there has been a culture of fear for a long time but that it has become more acute in recent years. I don't know what Dare has to do with this unless it helps identify a child who has overdosed.

A few years ago when I was in Buenos Aires, I noticed women scurrying down the streets clutching their purses and looking around suspiciously. This was in a time when crime rates were slightly elevated but not truly high like in many cities in Brazil. It was strange because I realized that if women in São Paulo were similarly paranoid in proportion to violent crime stats, they would never leave their homes. On the one hand, it made me sad that people in Brazil have become complacent to the situation (and to fight it would necessitate all sorts of questioning about class and drug policy and Columbia, so I understand this as well). On the other hand, I really understood for the first time that the nebulous threat of an unreality is very scary to people and that in general they fear anything unknown including changes in their societies.

Katharine said...

The DARE thing happened to me too today. Additionally, the woman trying to sell me the card said that they would be "required" in 2009 and that I would need to pay $65 annually to keep it updated, but if I paid $40 that day only, DARE would pay for my maintenance fee until my daughter reached 18.

Katharine said...

maybe it is related?

drlynch said...

next thing, they will want to put a chip in her.