Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Border Comparison

I was very impressed by the friendly nature of the passport control and customs officers at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Even as a non-citizen, the process was both speedy and courteous.

By contrast, when I arrived back in my own country yesterday afternoon, I got the sense that Homeland Security (the name and the agency both strike me as positively Orwellian) views all Americans who travel abroad as a suspect class. Today, I was treated to a "random" inspection, which included a hand search of my luggage and interrogation in an office outside the main customs room at Dulles airport. Fortunately, I was not greatly inconvenienced; it only took about 15 minutes and I did not miss my connecting flight. But it was a rather unpleasant interlude with people who apparently are trained to make their own citizens feel as uncomfortable as possible. I was required to stand against a wall, a couple of feet from where an HSA officer was leafing through my luggage and asking questions, with my hands out of my pockets.

I'm not against border security, mind you. But when you feel more welcome, and less threatened, entering a country other than your own, some kind of recalibration seems in order.

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