And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know the president can have me declared a terrorist and murdered on a whim

I won’t bother with the details of my homecoming, but suffice to say that US customs officials are bullies who see nothing wrong with trying to coerce US citizens into giving up their constitutional rights. Full explanation of what I’m talking about, written by a lawyer, here.

Source: So… You’re A Cartoonist?

My personal take-away from this is the US is a nation of fucking cowards. I’ve been to six continents, including to pre-Arab Spring Tunisia (dictatorship), Thailand (can be imprisoned for insulting the king), and Hong Kong (technically communist now, scary signs everywhere about all the things you didn’t realize were illegal). But nowhere have I been treated with as much suspicion as in the US. (Britain was borderline–the guy at the border crossing thought it was mighty suspicious I knew the name of my hostel but not its address, because I had assumed the taxi drivers would know their way around.)

We are the richest, most powerful country in the world, but we still live in fear. Fear of our own citizens. Fear that if we, say, went to spending three times as much on our military as anybody else, instead of six times as much, the sky would fall. Fear of Iran, which has 1% of our military budget and is surrounded by countries hosting US military bases. Fear that if the president can’t murder people on a whim, The Terrorists Will Win.

Each star is a US military base.

So seriously, fuck the entire US government for seeing the constitution as a minor obstacle to be overcome. I’m not eager to go through the hassles of international travel again any time soon, but next time I leave, I’m going to see what I can do to avoid coming back. If I don’t leave for grad school, Australia looks very nice for as a new long-term home. (In addition to being where Alexander wanted to go, Australia has immigration laws that are very friendly to 20-somethings.)

Update: I pass on this Andrew Sullivan tweet without comment:

  • J. Quinton

    That seems like a major inconvenience for something that would require like a one word response. I’ve traveled out of the US multiple times and I can’t remember being interrogated upon my return to the states.

    “Why were you in Italy? Vacation?”
    “Ok thanks”

    I was even traveling with my Italian gf at the time (she got a bit more hassle because she’s not a US citizen; she was only in the US to do her PhD).

    • Chris Hallquist

      Yeah – I told them where I came from and what I did for a living, but once it became clear they weren’t going to stop there I said, “none of your business.” I also got interrogated on my way home from Columbia: they wanted to know about not just my trip to Columbia, but my previous trip abroad, which led me to telling them about my trip to Europe/Tunisia after college. Then the guy asked me, and I think this is a direct quote, “How do you get money?” Because clearly a young guy who like to travel is suspicious.

      And the worst thing is–and this is part of why I didn’t want to answer any questions this last time around–if I understand the law correctly I may have accidentally committed a felony right there. Because they asked me where I had been before Columbia, and I totally forgot about a brief trip I had taken to Canada. IANAL, but I think technically they can get you for making a false statement to a federal officer even for inadvertent misstatements.

  • Bronze Dog

    With all the paranoid, unprincipled loonies spreading fear, panic, and xenophobia, who needs foreign terrorists anymore? We home grow our own terror, and in greater quantities.

  • Carol

    Good for you!. I got asked to show my driver’s license to buy cough syrup. I said why. They said kids abuse it. I said “Do I look like a kid?” (I’m 60). Refused and left all my items at the counter and left. Went to another store and got cough syrup without having to show proof of age. I won’t let them swipe my license. I don’t know what info they are taking and when I ask them, they don’t know either. So I refuse and go else where. I am offended to be treated like a crimminal in my own country when I try to buy “legal” items.

    • Elvenfoot

      Just so you know, this is becoming common and you should come to expect it. I have had it happen at grocery stores and possibly a couple of other places before. I’ve been given same line of reasoning and been similarly annoyed with the policy. It’s pretty ridiculous.

  • cowalker

    Oh, say can you see, by the Swat team’s bright lights,
    The police as they search without no warrant or good cause?
    What great safety we’ve gained for the loss of our rights!
    Freedom’s dangers were scotched when we changed those bad laws.
    Blessed by TV’s soft glow, to the shopping mall we go,
    Every move watched and tracked, but slightly safer from foe.
    O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the scared and the home of fear’s slaves?

    Oh! thus be it ever, when scared men shall take
    Their bombs and their tanks and the war’s desolation
    To the lands with much oil, with ideals that are fake,
    Praise the greed that hath made and defined our great nation.
    Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
    And we’ll sloganize thus: “In shock and awe be our trust.”
    And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
    O’er the land of the scared and the home of fear’s slaves!

  • J. McCrae

    I am a Canadian citizen living legally in the US with a permanent resident visa (ie ‘Green’ card). I can assure you that crossing the border back into the US is no picnic for non natives.

  • Rain

    When I saw them on TV parading prisoners around with bags over their heads, something I had never ever seen before, and nobody seemed to give a crap, that’s when I knew something was horribly wrong.

  • Collin237

    Has it ever occurred to you that they’re suspicious of you because you work for MIRI? That they know, just like every sane person, that the Singularity is impossible? That they suspect, just as would be expected of any responsible security officer, that MIRI is up to something sneaky?

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