Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I raise my finger beside the golden door

Checkpoint Charlie exists no more, although there is a museum in Berlin dedicated to the memory of that intimidating doorway into and out of Cold War East Berlin. I remember it quite well without having seen the museum. I remember sitting on a wooden bench in a stark little room in a building that somehow reminded me of a country train station from the 1940's. I had dropped my passport into a slot in the wall as per instructions and was trying to control my nervousness by counting out all my pocket money as required. The fellow sitting next to me had his pack of cigarettes delaminated and carefully examined for whatever might be hiding between the layers of packaging - microfilm perhaps. My James Bond inspired bravado had been replaced with a strong desire to find a bathroom. There was none. Back in those days I was proud to be from a country that welcomed visitors as welcomed its own - not like those terrible Commies.

I last traveled to China about a dozen years ago and had been led to expect a similar experience from Chinese customs from people who had been there. "Don't take a good camera - they confiscate video cameras, you know, and they go through everything." I was waved through without inspection.

Coming into the US these days is more of a police state experience than many tourists are willing to submit to. If you're a millionaire from England coming to the art auctions at Sotheby's or a surgeon from Germany or Australia or Japan come to demonstrate a new surgical procedure at Johns Hopkins, you're still seen as a potential terrorist and must be fingerprinted like a criminal. Retinal and biometric facial scans are planned as soon as the equipment is available.

Citizens returning home with adopted babies from Asia are subjected to rudely screamed orders, long waits and humiliation while trying to deal with screaming, hungry ( no formula allowed, you terrorist bastard!) and frightened infants who are of course foreigners and potential terrorists. Often you're photographed before you can leave. Body searches are becoming much more common and no one has any confidence that if some half wit TSA employee finds something that puzzles her, you'll wind up in some secret cell in some secret hell in the CIA Gulag.

I have met people who have given up second homes in the US they have owned for decades simply because of the "Up against the wall you foreign devils" attitude. It's our loss. Of course none of these procedures would have stopped Mohammed Atta and his cronies and they don't do anything for National Security - they're just the typical behavior of paranoid police states like the US and Burma and another indicator of our slide into third world status.

Don't ask me if I'm proud to be an American any more - I might just start crying.


Intellectual Insurgent said...

None of this has to do with your security or mine. It has to do with the financial security of Bush's neocon supporters. And, unfortunately, they will not feel secure until they've decimated the planet.

d.K. said...

Here's something that made me think. It made me think that the U.S. has got to change, and reverse its decline. Maybe you've seen this already.

Capt. Fogg said...

Tyrants like to isolate their people by engendering paranoia - look at how it works in North Korea. It spurs patriotism to make people believe they're under attack and patriotism is very very profitable for the Neocon fascisti.

DK - no I haven't seen that blog but that was a great article. I agree. Patriotism, faith; all those tribal things leaders use to make us into animals. It masquerades as altruism and public spirit, but it's not. People fight wars and do atrocities and horrors they would never think of doing but that it was inspired by patriotism or faith. Patriotism is the greatest enemy truth, compassion, decency and ethics have. It sets one part of humanity over another and dehumanizes victim and persecutor alike.