[Quick shout out to my friends Nate and Emanuelle for being great hosts during my trip and to new awesome friends made: Shelly, Jonathan, Kat (all 3 for some ‘trippy’ times), Iris (for also hosting a weary traveler), Alina, Curtis, Viktoria (all for being awesome beings)]
So I’m back in The Golden State for a short stint before heading off again. I’ve been out and about slummin’ it in the pacific northwest the past month or so. It’s been a refreshing change from the head blockage I’ve had staying in SF. I know many of you along with my friends love SF, but as for me there’s something sour lingering in the air here. I think it has something to do with the high sense of vanity that has seeped into the area these days, but it could just be me. Either way, I know I won’t be staying long. Just passing through.
Anyways, I had an interesting experience crossing the border between the US and Canada. The experience has stuck with me and it reminded me of how much the world has changed since 9/11. If the paranoia that pervades border crossings is any indication, then fear and terror have won and we are living the lie of perceived freedom. Somewhere along the way we all gave up a sense of privacy in order to feel ‘safer’.
I’ve traveled a great deal in my life and in the past decade border crossings have become more disturbing for me to experience. This is especially so coming in and out of the United States. Intrusion of deep inspection has become an accepted norm and how we, as citizens, have let this propagate baffles me. There doesn’t seem to be any outrage to this type of existence, but a defeating acceptance of the situation. If there are any rumblings of revolt, I have not been made privy.
Let me recount to you my past few experiences with crossing the border.
1 – 2008 into Montreal, Canada: I was wearing a white knit beanie and was detained for 1 1/2 hours. I was repeatedly asked the same questions over and over again as if I would trip up at some point to reveal any vicious lies. Bah! I noticed repeated glances to my white beanie and made the connection that they thought I may be muslim. Profiling fail.
2 – 2012 to and from Borneo: Not allowed to wear my hat/belt/shoes/hoodie. I had to remove all belongings from my bag because they thought my travel chopsticks may be a weapon. Was scanned in the new full body freeporn-o-matic. Sooo not a violation of privacy, right?
3 – 2012 to and from Greece: Same as above. Also, not allowed to bring my tea thru security, but my box of blueberries was ok. What?!
4 – 2013 into and back from Canada: Was held at the border crossing for the following string of questions, answers included:
– Where are you going? Vancouver. Er actually Langley for my hotel
– Why are you visiting Vancouver? I’m on a road trip writing a book and visiting different locales for inspiration
– You mean you just chose Vancouver randomly? Yes.
– That’s strange. What is your itinerary? I don’t actually have one. Just going where the wind blows me.
– Where are you from? San Francisco, CA
– That’s a long drive. Tell me your itinerary so far. Ok. California to Portland to Seattle to Vancouver and back to CA.
– That’s a strange trip. Where else are you going? Not sure, but thinking out east across the US.
– Why go back to CA first? (At this point, I’m getting really uncomfortable with the level of privacy intrusion) Because I have a possible music contract job to take care of.
– I thought you were a writer? I’m also a career musician along with being an entrepreneur.
– What’s the name of the hotel you are staying in? Let me look it up on my phone. Best Canada Inn
– What do you do for money? (This was the last straw for me, so I started lying. My answer is irrelevant at this point)
– You’re carrying a lot of stuff in the car. Tell me what everything is. (I gave the rundown on all my belongings)
– Your passport is brand new. That is strange. (I explained I had to renew it recently)
– Did you renew it specifically for this trip? No, I renewed it because it was expiring. I have my old one if you want to see it.
At this point the border officer let me go because I suddenly had proof of additional travel. This was a ridiculous interaction! A similar thing happened on my way back to the US. I had only been gone 3 days and I’ve been a US citizen all of my life, but somehow having a brand spanking new passport is enough for suspicion even crossing back in. What?!
We constantly hear about intrusions such as these, some more horrific. All in the name of safety and anti-terrorism. Are we really any safer than before? With 9/11 we experienced a catastrophic incident to the national psyche and in return we have responded with a suffocating need for more control. What foolishness. It seems to me we are fostering a suspicious, Orwellian state of being: The Patriot Act, overreaching NSA surveillance, CCTV, intrusive TSA policies, overreaching corporate privacy policies, the list goes on. What’s next? Flying miniature drone cameras (think I’m joking)?
The irony in this post is that I harbor suspicion and paranoia of the suspicious and paranoid in power. Another by product of our current surveillance state. Everyone loses in this.
When will we stop being afraid? Death and harm are always around the corner in all forms. How we live against this backdrop will determine the psyche of future generations. Something to reflect on.
– Fearless Rabbit