Observations for American friends
I have quite a number of American readers. I guess because a lot of issues that occupy my mind happen in the US and I blog on this stuff. So I thought today it might be interesting for my American readers to hear what three Australians have to say about the state of the US. All three have privately communicated with me and asked not to be named. I shall respect that.
The first Australian reader sent me a private communication the other day re observations from a trip to the US, six months after 9/11.
“I went to NY exactly 6 months after 9/11, before the finger printing etc.
Even at that time from the moment I joined the UA queue onto the plane in Sydney I noted in my note book about 70 things that were security/9/11 related. And all this in just 6 months. What has been added since? I came home and felt relieved that I didn’t see soldiers with guns in Sydney or even at the airport.
The things in the US were generally non invasive but “there”. eg the
prominent temporary (at that time) ballards in front of key buildings, the fact that the curtains were left open between economy and first class. Local women started wondering why there were so many emergency vehicles passing. Wall St blocked off, checks on bridge traffic etc.
All minor things on their own, but together demonstrating a seige
mentality and lack of trust. An atmosphere of fear and an understated
sense of warning. The difference between what I see as normal and what I see as restrictions and statements of some other condition for a city. Not at all the brave and free US I always thought it was. It was cringing and fearful. And as for the soldiers with guns. Some of those guys are huge. I had always hoped to go to [an annual conference]. When they asked this year why members didn’t attend, I told them. I wonder what they thought when they read my response.”
Okay, you say: this was just after 9/11, so of course there was a climate of fear. But the second private communication comes from a TS reader who has just spent a month in the US. Her first experience was with US immigration. She was using a new passport and left her old passport back home in Oz. For whatever reason, the immigration dude felt she had overstayed her visa following her entry to the US a year or two ago (her old passport had the exit stamp in it). Despite explaining the situation, she was hauled off and spent about 2 hours with a US official, who (as she put it) was the rudest individual she had ever met.
She was on the verge of saying, look I’ll turn around and fly back to Australia, when a second official came in and told her they would let her go. This is a professional woman in her 30s and she felt the whole experience was shattering and a bad start to her holiday.
The third person (a guy) emailed me saying he’d been to the States about 6 months ago and was alarmed by a number of things: a visible increase in homeless people; visible presence of CCTV cams and security measures; he was met with biometric identification equipment at the airport and felt it was very intrusive. He has decided not to go back to the States again.
Now, regular readers would know that despite extensive travel in the US (a country I very much like), I will never step foot in it again because of the circus that is US immigration, biometrics and a general climate of mistrust.
American readers: how do you react to these observations? Agree? Disagree? Couldn’t care less?