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Then they came for the bloggers. | Nicole Simon's Useful Sounds

Then they came for the bloggers.

20.03.2005 - 17:03 / filled under default

Guilty until proven to be innocent - is it really enough to say "I'm sorry"?

People probably have heard about the problems Jeremy had. This post is not about him, he is just one new story to an already big pile of such stories.

Robert Scoble picks it up, saying:

And, Jeremy, as an American, I'm sorry for my countrymen's behavior. Welcome to America.
This leaves me with the question: Do Americans really think, this is enough?

I have encountered many Americans in the past months, talking about the elections, situation of the country, yada yada. Most of them made very specific comments about their country like "give me a chance to leave, and I will never come back" or "this is not my country anymore". It seems as if Americans do care more about the moral impact on their children because of Nippelgate than they are afraid of sending their childs over to Iraq.

  • I have several friends who said (after the introduction of taking your fingerprints if you like to enter) "Nice to have seen the US in the past, as we will not do so ever again".

  • Comments from several people, coming back after working in the US: We were on fire about working and living in the US, because it was exciting and fun. The country we left, is a complete different one.

  • A couple, just getting married, buried their lifelong dream of making their honeymoon through the US - just because it could not made sure that they can enter *before* flying over and having booked and payed everything.

  • Their travel agent congratulated them on chosing a different country. Their travel agency recommends other destinations than the US.

  • A friend writes her PHD in biology and was told that with her PHD, she does not need to even think about going to the US, even just for a holiday. She is considered to be of potential threat because her PHD is about genetic research. Visiting conferences? Nope.

In the last three years, I have not read one report that entering the US is easy, in any way pleasent or a joyful experience. It is at least annoying, threatening and very often unreasonble things are brought on the table. And at the same time, security is not taken seriously, as many reports do not fail to write.

"Guilty until proven otherwise, but the rules of what more makes you guilty change at random." is not a clever message to sent out to the world. If I am a business traveller, and I can not make sure, whether or not I arive at all, I will schedule my meetings somewhere else.

Do I believe all of the stories are true? Do I believe that every entering person is harrased? No. But to be honest: Do I need to take a chance on that?

It is like a beautiful maiden who makes flirty eyes to you at a dance. But the moment you start smiling at her and lend her a hand to invite her to a dance, she chops of your hand. After seing this happen several times to other people, would you try your luck? Even if you saw her dance many times without a problem? After all, you will only get a dance, but might loose your hand.

What would you do? Right. Other countries have beautiful daughters too. Just stay away from the creepy one.

America in some way still is the center of many things. But the rest of the world started to look so much more appealing the last years. Not because they suddenly are getting better, but because US is chasing us away from its borders.

Which brings me back to Scoble's post - and the other comments I received over time from US citizens. My question to you: Do you really think, it is enough to say »I'm sorry« or »The country is divided, and you will find me on the not creepy side«? I am not asking you to do something for me, but for yourself.

As much as I love the blogosphere, and do believe, blog entries can have an impact, I am not out of touch with reality: Writing about it is not enough. You need to do more than that to get your country back. Or should I say 'not loose more than you already have'?
First They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller
You might say, I should stay quite, as I am not involved. I am involved, because I live on the same planet, as you do. And if the one remaining superpower nation on earth goes back to the middle ages (only with more deadly gadgets), this is of my concern too.

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    comments (5) :

  1. Personally I have decided I will never visit the USA, for any reason, until fingerprinting and other such humiliating treatment of visitors are abolished.

    I am very glad for the internet which allows non-US citizens to deal with US citizens directly without having to seek, on hands and knees, the permission of their appalling government.
    Johan van Rooyen 21.03.2005 - 01:30
  2. Nicole, on the one hand everything you say is true, but on the other hand you paint a very incomplete and one-dinemsional picture.

    If I wanted, I could paint a similar, horrible picture of life in Germany for foreigners, all documented by the media. We have the NPD (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/.. makes them sound like a normal and accepted party), asylum and deportation practices, violence against foreigners, the poor social standing of immigrants... one would wonder why anyone would even want to visit, much less ever want to live here.

    As for Jeremy's case, you might want to read http://weblog.burningbird.net/archives/2.. particularly Shelley's update at the bottom.

    That said, dealing with INS (now DHS) at the border has always been a bad experience, even for US citizens and even before 9/11. It's a frequent topic at our expat Stammtisch, since we all experience it frequently. And in making entering the country a demeaning experience, it's the US itself that loses. People are staying away, and the US is missing out on their tourist dollars, business contacts, and scientific knowledge.

    But when you cross a border, any border, you are in legal no-man's-land until you get past the border check, and it's up to you to know ahead of time what papers you need and what you need to say to get through. Because otherwise, you might be turned away or worse.
    Scott 21.03.2005 - 07:56
  3. Scott, I don't argue you on your painted picture. The other angle would be the visa thing (as the equivilent for the not internal security on airports and the media coverage about the forced prostitute).

    But I find it irritating, that even you as citizen of your own country, seem to find it absolutly normal that even you have this experience; Robert said in one of the comments "has worked for centuries". Yes, border needs to be protected.

    But what does it mean regarding the US? People are told to have a story ready - and if in any case this might be suspicious, for example use a tourist visa and have according plans.

    Another friend of mine uses not drugstore articles in the US but lets colleagues (who fly frequently) bring them to her. More dangerous things like Haarfärbemittel which might attract attention, are given to citizens.

    It sums up to: before you enter to the US you have a game plan and this game plan has to be accompanied by documents proving this plan (not the real one) and everyone involved has to be briefed so they know what they have to say - just in case.

    Because otherwise, you might be turned away or worse. I don't know about you, but this is lying to get entrance into a country for a cause of oh let's say visiting Disney World.

    This is the suggested behaviour - if you do research by your own, for example over the internet and combine exactly those stories.

    The frequent flyers above I mentioned, do I hear a "yes it seems necessary, all worked fine til now" from them? No. I do get an "Oh this time, I was lucky again."

    The underlying expectation is, that the things like Jeremy described can happen any time and be irrational. You say it yourself.

    Let one person have a bad day and you might as well on your direct flight home.

    The difference nowadays is, that we are more connected and we talk more. And we hear more and more of these stories. Might have worked for centuries, but may be not so much any more.

    And on tourist dollars not spend: I will not visit the US for a longer time, my brother said he would like to make vacation there but with this threat at the borders on him, he and his girlfriend won't and another close relative will not put down her fingerprints also, just to have an entrance as a tourist. This covers 100% of my closest family ever interested in visiting the country.

    Has worked for centuries (in some way and if working means 'showing any kind of effect'). Scaring people away will probably work for another century. But at what price.
    Nicole 21.03.2005 - 09:49
  4. No, it is not normal: http://www.papascott.de/archives/2005/03..
    Scott 23.03.2005 - 19:36
  5. Thanks for the articles.
    Nicole Simon 23.03.2005 - 21:25

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I am Nicole Simon, 34 years old and located in Lübeck, Germany. This is my English blog with the Useful Sounds podcast which is now newly located at usefulsounds.com)

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