Status Quo Ante

enemyis-small.pngAt this point, many have already read Elena Lappin’s stomach-turning tale of being detained and deported for a criminal act of journalism. It seems that the Department of Homeland Security now considers British journalists dangerous. So, to recap: we are detaining journalists, professors, and clergy. War on terror, my ass! *We have declared a war on thinking.*

Why can’t we just go back to the way we were before, except with the addition of hardened cockpit doors. That was an appropriate response. I wrote once before about this: America needs to walk it off. Nothing would show our friends and enemies the strength of the United States better than saying “Damn, that stung; now we’re going to move on.” Or, get this, how about offering scholarships to students from Arab nations? That’s right, invite them in and treat them as guests. Can you imagine how sneaky that would be? Rather than attacking the hardened terrorist — clearly a wily character — we would attack the Arab world’s weakest point, young and impressionable students. We would show them the best America has to offer, and send them back as emissaries, and yes, as spies. Because they would return as friends of America; or if not that, friends of freedom and liberty.

Give visas to journalists (you know, like free democracies do). Heck, give visas to everybody. *What the hell are we doing turning back students from Morocco, Malaysia, and Egypt?* Are we that willing to give up freedom and liberty for all?!

*I want my country back.*

Now, I know what I would do, if I were able. When I came into the US, I would identify myself as an amateur journalist, as a blogger. Unfortunately, immigration largely leaves me alone.

Actually, as an aside, let me make clear that isn’t exactly the case. I live right on the Canadian border, and despite the fact that we give Canadians no special reason to love us, I am always made to feel welcome by Canadian immigration, and made to feel intimidated by US border guards. Why does being a prof make me a suspect? Someone has recently told me that I appear as though I could be Arab — and my name screams not-frum-round-here — but what’s with the hassle? It’s not like I’m accidently importing hand grenades.

OK, so it doesn’t seem fair to ask foreigners to foot the bill for this small act of civil disobedience. Let me see, how about a hypothetical way to raise consciousness about this? How about stickers that say something along the lines of what you see above? Heck you could even make them available at Café Press, or provide a pdf for folks to print.

Hypothetically, again, what if these were posted at national frontiers? Concerned folks could make sure fliers or postcards were left where travelers would find them. Or they could post stickers in helpful locations. I can’t imagine anyone could complain about informing our potential enemies about the newly enforced laws.

Of course, I recommend that we just stop thinking about it. Thinking about the end of liberties in the US is just too depressing, and is fundamentally anti-American. I’m ashamed the thought even crossed my mind.

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  1. J
    Posted 6/12/2004 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I made some errors filling out the I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form so got to keep my botched up version this entry, and I did indeed notice that line – here it is:

    WARNING: You may not accept unauthorized employment; or attend school; or represent the foreign information media during your visit under this program. You are authorized to stay in the US for 90 days or less. (etc.)

    And yes, I wondered whether blogging counts as foreign information media, but given I’ve also signed

    WAIVER OF RIGHTS: I hereby waive any rights of review or appeal of an immigration officer’s determination as to my admissability, or to contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any action in deportation.

    — I don’t think my chances’d be that great. I’d rather assume blogs aren’t foreign information media…

    I like this line in the article: “The irony is that it is only “countries like Iran” (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it.”

    But you know, I want to be let in here again, so I’m doing this comment anonymously.

    Pitiful, isn’t it?

  2. Posted 7/8/2004 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I too fell foul of the ‘I’ visa requirement last year when I tried to visit a trade show. Fortunately, the INS carries out pre-clearance at Dublin so I did not have to suffer the indignity of being clapped in irons. They just didn’t let me on the plane. I have studied the requirements for the ‘I’ visa and one of them is that I must hold a press card. The only organisation in Ireland authorised to issue press cards is the NUJ, of which I was not, but now am, a member. So, in order to be admitted into the US, the US government requires that I be a member of a left-wing organisation that has been critical of US policy and could even be accused of being anti-American. Only in America.

    One other point, however. A US journalist friend has speculated that the special requirement for journalists to have an ‘I’ visa is a sop to organised labour. The idea is to discourage European publications sending their own people to cover news and events and to hire American journalists to do it instead.

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