Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Tale from the US-Canadian Border Crossing

via dkos

He had gone to take some pictures.

WHY DID YOU GO?

Before answering the question I already knew it was going to turn out badly, as I've said before: people who take pictures of things are gradually becoming demonized. If you're not taking pictures of drunken friends in this country, then you may be a terrorist. I sucked it up and explained that I was on the waterfront for a couple of hours, taking some pictures of the Detroit skyline. I expected an inquisitive response, but I was shoveled a pile of insulting gold instead:

COME ON. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT. NOBODY GOES THERE JUST TO TAKE PICTURES. DID YOU VISIT AN ESCORT SERVICE?

I was stupefied. After saying I had only been out of the country for two hours I was being asked if I only went over there to get a prostitute. I had no response and my mouth was probably left a little agape.

IS THAT YOUR CAMERA? GET IT OUT. TURN IT ON. LET ME SEE. CHANGE THE PICTURES. NOW.

Frustrated that my story (or rather, the truth) was checking out, he ordered me inside the immigration/interrogation center while they searched the rest of my car.


Finding that I wasn't a terrorist and noticing that maybe I really was just some kid who wanted to take some pictures on a sunny August evening, I was allowed to proceed into the country, with an interestingly-toned "I'm sorry about all this" from one of the officers at the facility. He was older than the ones who were shouting orders and questions at me. Everyone who shouted at me or talked down to me seemed to be in their upper 20's or lower 30's - people hired in the age since the Transportation Security Agency was absorbed by Homeland Security. The one who said sorry seemed like he was from before that time, back when people like me could take short trips like this and not be "randomly" put through things like this.

As I drove home I felt somehow violated. That's my cell phone. That's my camera. Who has the right to look at them ever, for any reason, aside from me? Well, the answer would of course be Homeland Security - operating in the lawless zone between Canada and the United States, where they could do what they want to whomever they wanted - or at least that's the impression they were giving off. I felt even more sick as I thought: I'm from here. I'm native born. How the hell are actual foreigners treated when they come here? I felt embarrassed for how this country was being represented just by my entry back into it. I was treated almost like a criminal for an hour because I had chosen to leave this country for two hours to take some pictures of this country.

If I were a tourist, I sure as hell wouldn't want to come here and go through that. God help me if I was even the slightest shade of brown or my last name was the slightest of non-Western European sounding. This country is being run like a minimum security prison - you're free to do whatever you want as long as you stay within the borders. If you leave, there simply must be some sort of nefarious reason you did so, and be prepared to answer 20 questions and then some if you have the audacity to leave. Don't answer the questions quick enough and loud enough, get ready for additional rounds.



Some pics.
More pics.

2 comments:

Angry African said...

A bit typical isn't it? The way people in security become so paranoid. Making everyone else the same. Maybe you should take a drunk friend with next time? And shout something like "Tigers rule!"

US Waivers Pardon said...

Generally Americans traveling to Canada have a fairly easy time to cross the border, as long as they have the necessary documentation and all is in order.

US Waiver Form Canada