Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why it's shocking

I think I've put together a piece of the puzzle about why I find my (re)introduction to the US so jarring every time I come back here. Airports are one of the places where most of us (at least most educated white people from rich backgrounds) are most exposed to the repressive aspects of state apparatuses (uniformed guards who look at our bags and our shoes and our medicines). Take out your computer) and constantly reminded to be afraid of the "terrorists" - through announcements about your bags, and parking and all of that stuff.

Where else would it be okay for uniformed government employees to strip off our shoes and jackets. It's not. It's precisely the kind of government oppression that we cite in other countries as evidence that they are repressive dictatorships. Leaving aside the questions of why "they" need to keep us fearful and what that does to us, why smart people who I respect seem to have drunk the cool aid, how long the history of using some imagined threat to keep us scared, how deeply the what other groups have been used to represent that threat (communists, blacks, drug-dealers, etc), I realized that this is always my first and last impression of the US whenever I travel here.

Sure, I managed to watch the television nightly news and catch a short allergy season report - complete with labcoated experts and biologists pointing at plants - about someone who was scared because she was walking down the street and started sneezing heavily - sandwiched between pharmaceutical company adds - and get my daily dose of fear.

But I can turn that off any time I want to. I can't leave the country - or come back should I want to ever - without the heavy message that I am at risk and that the government is hear to protect me. "They" pepper me with this message of fear every time I walk in or out the door, lest I forget to be afraid while I'm in Bolivia. It's literally the first and last thing I see when I travel to the states and that's' part of the reason it's so jarring.

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