One of the fundamental laws of physics is that an object will move in a straight line unless it is met with resistance.

Isaac Newton issued that law nearly 350 years ago.

Mr. Newton’s law can also be applied to the efforts of our government to keep information secret so that only its few selected bureaucrats can have access.

Government has never been a fan of giving out information. Newspapers have on regular occasions had to sue government agencies in order to get records the public is entitled to see.

But ever since 19 extremists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a more concerted effort to keep information away from the public. Each time, the public is told that it is being done in its best interest.

The latest example of the growing secrecy creep is the bill that would seal Maine birth, death and marriage records for 100 years. The argument being used by supporters of the legislation is that criminals can use these records to steal people’s identities.

For about 10 years one of my obsessions – other than frozen yogurt – has been genealogy. I have always been a student of history but had focused on events of the country or state, not my family.

Genealogy is a life affirming effort. The research helps you to put your life into context and shows how your parents, grandparents and ancestors from further back faced the same challenges that we do today. Technology may change but basic human traits and tribulations remain the same.

Human beings have a desire to know about their roots. And our children and children’s children will have that same thirst for information.

Conducting genealogical research is much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, without access to records the government compiles. Old newspapers are often a gold mine for information but some citizens blended into the community and never made it into the papers of years ago.

Doing genealogical research is never ending. One bit of information leads to another question and once that is answered, that information leads you in another direction. Over the past decade, I have collected volumes of information from birth, death and marriage records, voter registration lists, assessment records, tax records, annual reports, military records, and naturalization papers.

These records have allowed me to fill in gaps of the lives of family members that otherwise would have gone to the graves of older family members. I know the date of when great-great-grandfather Jacob Henry Betts arrived in the United States. I know his closest friends who stood by him when he became a U.S. citizen in the 1880s.

Due to these records I know the ship that my mother’s grandmother, father and aunt arrived on and when they arrived on Ellis Island. I found out that my grandfather attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. That same grandfather worked for a granite cutting company and volunteered for military service in World War I, and served in France. I know the courses he took and the grades he received while being trained for his overseas duty.

Other records allowed me to find out that my father’s parents owned a general store in Ellsworth.

Now, because of the potential of identity theft, some bureaucrat has come up with the idea of sealing records for 100 years.

What will be next? Should assessment records be sealed to prevent stalkers from knowing how the government assesses your home or business? Will voter registration lists be made off-limits to everyone but a few of the anointed  government officials?

Last year, some legislators wanted to make the salaries of public employees confidential. The argument used by those touting the added secrecy was that this information could lead to harassment of government employees. And there were legislators willing to tell the taxpaying public that it had no right to know how much their city manager or superintendent or other officials were earning at our expense.

That proposal was killed but will likely be brought up again. Advocates for bad legislation have a knack for moving in that straight line in hopes that the public will grow weary and give up on the resistance.

Our society should always err on the side of openness. There may be some drawbacks but that is the small price we pay for living in a free society.

These efforts to keep more and more information away from the dirty masses will continue unless the public speaks out. Isaac was right. Government will move in a straight line for more secrecy unless it meets resistance.

Call or e-mail your local legislators. Let them know we don’t need to be protected from ourselves. The following are the e-mails of local legislators. Give them a call and let’s see if resistance will redirect the government’s path.

cwrector@hotmail.com

dptrahan@midcoast.com

cweston@fairpoint.net

RepEd.Mazurek@legislature.maine.gov

RepChuck.Kruger@legislature.maine.gov

RepHannah.Pingree@legislature.maine.gov

RepWes.Richardson@legislature.maine.gov

joanwelsh08@gmail.com

RepAndrew.O’Brien@legislature.maine.gov

RepLisa.Miller@legislature.maine.gov

wpieh@lincoln.midcoast.com

RepJon.McKane@legislature.maine.gov