I love the stories of American dreams. I love the ideals and history behind it. You could grow up poorer than poor and yet have a chance in a country whose streets were – while not exactly paved with gold – at least paved with something that could let you forget who you once were, where you once came from. It was a country of fresh starts, a country that once allowed people in, refugees, people with nothing, people who couldn’t even speak the language. The idealism isn’t complete – I know the immigrants faced waves of prejudice, I know that there were rough starts, starvations, families torn apart.
When I think of America, I like to think of that America. The one where you had to move fast, you had to work hard but if you did, or if you just got lucky, then your entire situation could improve. You could get the brass ring.
Recently things have been happening that make my mouth hang open. For example, a Congresswoman named Michele Bachmann, whom I’d never heard of (why would I? I don’t live there and we have our own political dramas to deal with up here.) She said Americans are not able to adapt and aren’t flexible to change, which I was surprised at. She then went on to state her opinion that Obama is anti-American. I can’t help but feel that was a term she was using without thinking of the consequences of those actions – witch hunts belong buried back in the 16 and 1700’s, not today. At any rate, does everyone in America think like her? Is the government going to start going after people for being anti-American? Is it happening all over again, where lives and reputations of people are destroyed simply because they follow their beliefs, something which Constitutionally they are allowed to do (or at least used to be)?
The world view of Americans has been slipping for a long while – they are not the country that everyone dreams of belonging to. They are instead reported on as being backwards and have a clinginess to cultural conservatism that echoes very much to those nutty Pilgrims that were escorted off of European shores for being just too hardcore in their beliefs.
The next issue, a raging outcry here about airport security changes. International flights are now prone to more intrusive searches. The body scanners are sadly not new to us, we have them at the larger airports for flights to the USA. When in the US, if heading out on an international flight you may be subjected to fiercer searches than if you were flying domestically, which to my mind doesn’t really compute – the last atrocities committed by terrorists were on domestic flights, flights with a higher percentage of Americans on them. It would seem that coming down on people leaving the US on international flights is like making people pay an exit tax and then subjecting them to a pat down just because. Further I remember that once upon a time people needed a warrant to search you without cause, something has clearly changed in legislation over the past few years.
The debate here has furthered with news of the woman who had to remove her post-cancer prosthetic breast. And the elderly man whose trousers were pulled down to show his knee transplant. It culminated into that proverbial straw that broke my camel’s back with two new stories – a young boy who got strip searched in front of others (despite not setting off the metal detectors) and a screaming and terrified 3 year old girl who was forced to be patted down because she cried when they scanned her teddy bear.
In one forum about the strip-searched little lad someone argued they’re all for what happened if it secures their liberty. So I looked up “liberty” because I wanted to know what was so valuable we’re willing to terrify children. Not to be a cheap blogger here, but I think the definition I found on Merriam Webster is important:
Definition of LIBERTY
1 : the quality or state of being free:
a : the power to do as one pleases
b : freedom from physical restraint
c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e : the power of choice
None of those apply to the actions of subjecting people to searches. So I asked myself, “Is flying a right or is it a privilege?” It’s neither. It’s just a mode of transportation. I was planning a family vacation next year in the good old US of A, but unless the random strip searches and pat downs end, we may not be going. America is the America of my childhood memories, it’s that golden paved happy place to me, not a place where parents may have to explain to their scared three year olds (or 10 year old) why several strangers wearing gloves have the right to touch them when we spend our time trying to teach them the exact opposite.
Security is a serious issue, I am not claiming otherwise. There are people in the world who want to see airplanes fall from the sky, particularly if they’re full of Westerners. I don’t have the answers and I don’t pretend otherwise, but I know that if it involves patting down our children (who are not setting off metal detectors) then we have already lost. If other Americans are running around calling other Americans “anti-American” then has the spirit that USA was based on been forgotten and that through voting (not witch hunts) people who are unhappy can effect change? Has fear driven Americans to lose sight of the bigger picture?
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1933
32nd president of US (1882 – 1945)
PS- if you disagree with me that’s completely ok. I’m not writing this to incite anyone, to be rude or dismissive. Just exercising my right to freedom of speech.